Less Sand, More Strategy

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Less Sand, More Strategy

Eleventh hole at St. Charles.

In today’s market place we are focused on creating a golf course that appeals to the golfer yet allows for better use of our maintenance budgets.  As a designer I am always looking at how we can make the golf course play better by designing using less.  It gets hard to justify to the client that we need to construct a big bunker complex when just one bunker may do.

For instance, take into account Augusta National Golf Club.  ANGC is one of the best examples of using fewer bunkers to create immense strategy.  You only have seven holes that feature fairway bunkers.  And four of those feature only one bunker.  The placement of those bunkers create the perfect strategy for the golf hole.  Remember that when you see them play the first or eighth holes.

At St. Charles Country Club we are looking at that same effect.  Back in the early ‘80s the course relocated the clubhouse and constructed seven new golf holes.  In that era adding many bunkers was the ‘in’ thing to do.  Therefore we find that we have two or more bunkers in a place where one can perform the same strategy.

As we begin the construction project that is our first goal.  To date we have completed work on five holes and have reduced the sand area from 44,735sf to 20,565sf.  That’s more than 50% less sand.  Not only do they have less sand to maintain, but we also provide a better look to the golf course and create bunkers that have a purpose.  Now they have the opportunity to provide better playing conditions with less effort.  Everyone is happy and continue to look forward to completion of the project.

Starting hole at St. Charles.

A Day at The Masters

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A Day at The Masters

Making a trip to Augusta National and The Masters is always a great experience.  This year I was able to make my third trip around the hallowed grounds.  It is always special and each time I have taken more away from the course’s design.

If you have never been to Augusta National, words can’t describe it.  I sat next to a gentleman from Madison, WI on my way down and he was making his first trip.  The first thing you tell them is you can’t believe the elevation change on the course.  TV does not do this justice.  The elevations going down #2 fairway and #10 tee are amazing.  Combine this will the uphill shots on #8 and #18 and you get a sense of the brilliance behind Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie.

There is also the greens.  Easily the most dominant feature of the course.  Bold slopes that either feed the ball to, or away, from the hole.  That is why it is so rare for a first time player to win at Augusta.  You just need that understanding of where to hit, and where to miss, the greens.

The fall off behind the first green and slopes on the fourteenth are just a few examples.

The slope around the greens are also difficult to explain.   On many greens you can easily find yourself four feet below the putting surface by just being a few feet off the green.  During the practice round you see just as many shots being tried from off the green as on the putting surface.  As I said, you also need to miss the green in the right spot.

The design strategy at Augusta National is simple, yet effective.  You only find 44 bunkers and each one has a purpose.  Even the fairway bunker on #10 can affect a recovery shot out of the trees.  On the first hole you get a sense of strategy you find.  Bunker right off the tee and left at the green is a classic design approach.  Challenge the first bunker to gain an open approach to the green.  Play away and you need to carry the greenside bunker.  Yes, simple and effective.

The classic design strategy as seen from the first tee.

As is most often the case, it always seems The Masters does not start until the back nine on Sunday.  This was evident last year with Jordan Spieth and in 2011 with Rory McIlroy and his closing 43.  You make that turn with the downhill tenth that, while looking simple, challenges you to get down the hill off the tee for the flatter lie and shorter approach.  The sloping green places a premium to stay below the hole.

Eleven starts Amen corner where many Masters are won and lost.  You see defensive approaches on eleven and twelve, where pars are always a good score.  Bold play is needed on thirteen where an eagle can kick start a charge.  Play eleven, twelve, and thirteen under par and you stay in prime position.  A bad swing on any hole can lead to disaster.

If you do find trouble at Amen Corner you have time to make up the strokes.  With the right pin positions fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen all offer birdie chances or eagle chances.  We saw three hole in ones at sixteen last year on the final day.  It is a must to play these holes well.

The tenth (top left), along with Amen Corner eleven and twelve (bottom) and thirteen green (top right).

Seventeen is sneaky tough on the last day.  You have the pressure to make a good swing if you are the leader and the narrow fairway makes that more difficult.  While the green appears mild by Augusta standards, sharp slopes and fall offs come into play.

Finally, eighteen is one of the classic finishing holes in golf.  Need a birdie and you can get it with the Sunday front pin location.  As the leader, the narrow shoot off the tee tightens up.  A drive in the fairway is important, but does not lead to an easy second.  The elevation on the uphill approach is one which you cannot describe.  This makes it easy to pull a shot left or leave it out to the right.  We’ve seen that many times.  With a win in hand it, along with the home hole at St. Andrews, is easily one of the best victory marches in golf.

The elevated view up to the eighteenth green.

If you get a chance to visit Augusta National, do not pass it down.  Whether it is your first or third trip, it is always special.  Getting a refresher on the intricacies of the course will make watching this year’s tournament even more exciting.

Using Drones in Golf Course Design

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Using Drones in Golf Course Design

Ever since drones began to become popular in 2012 we have seen more reports about their use.  When Amazon mentioned they wanted to use them to deliver packages, people got more intrigued.  Today we see drones being used all over the place.  You see them being used for news reports and sporting events.  Soon you won’t be able to go to a park without seeing someone piloting their drone.

Lately I've thought about the possible uses of drones in golf design.  Ever since we saw a blimp view of a course on TV we always wanted to see our own courses from the air.  Golf course superintendents have started to use drones to show their members information about the course you can only see from the air.  Drones have started to become a good tool to help them out.

In the design business we haven’t seen much use to date.  Once DJI, the brand of drone I use, came out with first person view from their drone while in flight I finally made the purchase.  Not only does the use of a drone allow you to get a good perspective on a golf hole, we can now use it to help sell our projects.

I've worked with a few Clubs on completing drone images.  The latest is with Countryside Golf Club in Mundelein, IL.  The course is owned by the Lake County Forest Preserves and I’ve been working with them since 2005.  We recently decided to complete bunkers on a couple of holes as a taste of the changes that could be made.  We have a 1939 aerial of the course to use as a blueprint. As part of this project they asked me to fly some of the holes, as they saw previous videos I completed for St. Charles Country Club.  You will see from the attached video how the changes will come about.  Once completed and sent to the staff the response was overwhelming.  This tool will be a great way for the course to show patrons the opportunities for future improvements, and the seventeenth hole will be one of the next holes completed.

Hopefully you take a look at this video and see how we can use technology to help put these projects together.  Whether you’re looking to complete work on the entire course, or just a select number of holes, putting together the proper selling material can help push the project through. 

Countryside Golf Club

Happy New Year – PGA Tour 2017

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Happy New Year – PGA Tour 2017

I hope everyone had a great holidays and New Year.  I know I am looking forward to 2017, not only from a professional standpoint, but I’m looking forward to the new PGA Tour season as well.  While much of the news will be on Tigers return, a strong group of the world’s top golfers will make for an exciting year.

 

Looking across from the 5th tee to the 6th green on the Plantation Course.

I am particularly excited about the start of the 2017 calendar season with this week’s SBS Tournament of Champions.  I always look forward to watching the tournament each night when it is cold and snowy outside.  This year I have added incentive as I was able to play the Plantation Course last winter while in Maui.  I’ve come across with a deeper appreciation of the golf course and it has turned into one of the top courses I have played.

Coore and Crenshaw did a terrific job of routing this golf course, utilizing exactly what the land gave them.  You have downhill and uphill golf shots, carries over deep ravines, and the use of side hill slopes to shape the holes.  It plays to a par 73 and offers seven holes that are longer than 500 yards.  Combine that with the constant trade winds and you have a course that requires some thinking.

As a designer I learned a lot from playing the course.  The biggest impression I took away is the use of the land in the ground game around the green complexes.  I am no longer taking for granted that you have to have a green site always slope back to the golfer.  When you watch the tournament this year pay extra attention to how the golfers play a shot off the slopes and allow the ground to funnel the ball towards the pin.  This is especially evident on the final two holes where the greens run from front to back.

At 663 yards, the par 5 18th plays 130 feet downhill.

Major Predictions

With the start of the new season I’d like to make my predictions for the Major Championships.  Last year was a tough one to pick as you had four first time winners.  This year I think we will have four past major winners win each tournament.

The Masters – I was first going to look at either Jason Day or Bubba Watson with challenging for the Green Jacket.  Now after the announcement that Jason is switching club manufacturers and Bubba is with a new golf ball, I’m going with Rory McIlroy to win the jacket and capture the career Grand Slam.

The US Open – This year’s tournament is at a new venue, Erin Hills in SE Wisconsin.  I had a chance to play there last summer and this course is long and tough.  I’ll talk more about it as we get closer to the tournament.  The green surrounds are outstanding and I think the winner will be someone with a great short game.  My prediction is that Phil Mickelson will finally capture his National Championship and join Rory and others with the career Grand Slam.

The Open Championship – This year the tournament returns to Royal Birkdale in western England.  I’m looking at an Englishman to capture the Claret Jug and that will be Gold Medalist Justin Rose.

PGA Championship – The tournament is at Quail Hollow in Charlotte this year and this course has hosted PGA event each year with the Wells Fargo Championship.  McIlroy has won twice there and finished second once.  I’m looking for him to win that one for a double major 2017.

There’s my predictions and I’m looking forward to see how these turn out.  I’ll keep following up with the tour’s courses and the happenings out there.  I’m sure it will be exciting and the Tiger watch will start with his first tournament.  In the meantime, here’s hoping for good weather leading into spring.

2016 Year In Review

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2016 Year In Review

2016 was an interesting year for MJB Golf Design.  After completing a good 2015 with the reconstruction of Arlington Lakes Golf Club and beginning work with a new client, Kansas City Country Club, the momentum carried over into the spring.  Master Plans and bunker projects were the theme of the year with work and budgets prepared for various clients.  Here is a brief recap of the year.

Spring

Spring started with the completion of a Tree Management Plan for Kansas City CC and the start of a bunker project at St. Charles CC.  St. Charles is starting a multi-phase update to the course that includes restoring the bunkers to the feel of the 1926 Tom Bendelow design.  I also began working on plans for updates to Jester Park GC outside of Des Moines.  I’ll touch more on that in a later section.

 

Summer

The summer was full of site visits to various new and old clients.  I visited with Edelweiss Chalet Golf and Country Club in New Glarus, WI.  New Glarus is also home of the New Glarus Brewing Company.  One of the finest beers you will find and ONLY sold in Wisconsin.  It made the trips there quite enjoyable.  At Edelweiss the main project was the softening of the tenth green, which was completed in the fall.

I also traveled over the Garland Resort in north-central Michigan.  Not an easy place to get to, but land there is worth the trip.  I haven’t been to Garland since 2010 when I completed bunkers on one of their four golf courses.  This trip was about getting acquainted with a new general manager and superintendent to discuss possible upcoming work.  That work may include completing a new course for the resort.  Fingers are crossed on that one.

Finally, we opened up Arlington Lakes Golf Club after it was shut down for a 13 month reconstruction.  It opened to great reviews by both the press and the golfers.  As always, the problem with opening up new greens is the wear from the amount of rounds you receive.  Revenues were up 10% in September from pre-renovation numbers.

Fall

The fall picked up with construction season.  A new project started with a restoration of bunkers at the Traditional Course at Countryside Golf Club in Mundelein, IL.  This project included restoring the bunkers to a 1939 aerial photo we found, plus new bunker additions.  We began on two of the holes in order to give a flavor of what to expect.  Next year will jump into looking at the entire course.

I also completed my last visit of the year to Kansas City to recap the work completed and discuss upcoming phases.  This includes more tree work along with discussions of bunker updates and regrassing the putting greens.  This has been a great Club to work with as they make the commitment to move forward.

Winter

Work has stayed busy with various small projects and talking with possible new clients.  It has been busy enough that I find it hard catch up on office work, such as writing this review.  It’s good to stay busy with it being cold and snowy outside.

 

Grow the Game Initiatives

Following behind the addition of junior tees and a 3 and 6 hole loop at Arlington Lakes, I have been working on other courses with alternative projects.  This has included developing plans for various courses including updating the current par 3 course at Jester Park.  These types of projects go a long way in helping beginning golfers learn the game and also allow time strapped golfers a chance to get out to play a quick round.  I’m thinking more of these projects will pop up on the horizon.

Looking ahead to 2017

It is getting harder each year to predict what may be coming up.  It seems like projects you think will happen sometimes don’t, but then a different project comes up.  I’ve learned not to get too up or down when looking ahead.  It does seem like courses are very interested in getting work completed.  They are also very cautious with taking on a single large project.  I think that will be the norm, small projects with an occasional large one each year.  It does keep the work interesting and exciting.

Finally, here’s hoping you all have good weather this winter and we get a good spring to open the new season.  I’m wishing you all a great holiday season and a great 2017!

2016 Majors In Review

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2016 Majors In Review

Once again another summer passes and golf’s major championships are behind us.  A couple weeks earlier thanks to the Olympics.  This year I was excited with the group of courses as I have been to Augusta a couple times and played both Oakmont and Baltusrol.  I always find it much more fun to watch a tournament on TV after you have played the course and know what the golfers face.

With that in mind let’s recap what we saw this year:

The Masters

As with every year, the golf season up north seems to begin with The Masters.  Something about seeing Augusta National on TV gets you ready for the upcoming season.  This year’s tournament started out in exciting fashion.   Last year’s winner, Jordan Spieth began where he left off 2015.  An opening round 66 gave him a two shot lead.

Spieth built the lead to five in the second round but faltered on the back nine, something we will see again.  He held a one shot lead over Rory McIlroy, setting up a Saturday round with two of the best in the world.

McIlroy faltered in the third round and shot 77 to fall out of contention.  Spieth did not fare much better with a 73, but still maintained a one shot lead over Smylie Kaufman.  It was a record setting seven straight rounds with the lead for Spieth.  58 year old Bernhard Langer, a two time champion was just two back and the powerhouse trio of Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and young Englishman Danny Willett were three back going into Sunday.

Spieth started out brilliantly on Sunday and showed the poise he had in winning the year before.  By the time he reached the tee on the tenth he held a five shot lead over Willett, who figured he was playing for second place.  But as we have heard so many times, The Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday.

Spieth bogeyed ten and eleven, yet still held the lead on the twelfth tee.  That’s when things unraveled for him.  Two shots into Rae’s Creek and a quadruple bogey dropped him out of the lead.  Willett birdied 13, 14, and 16 before finishing with two pars.

Meanwhile, Spieth recovered from the 7 at twelve and birdied 13 and 15.  He needed two birdies on the last three and that didn’t happen.  Willett became the first European since 1999 and Englishman since 1996 to capture The Masters.

While most will remember this Masters with Spieth’s collapse, we must look at Willett’s bogey free 67 in the final round.  While others were losing their cool, Willett kept his on the back nine.  He finished in style and is a deserving champion.  I don’t think this will be the last Major we see him win.

The US Open

The US Open returned to Oakmont for the ninth time, the most of any course.  This is a fitting venue and is my favorite inland course that I have played in the States.  Oakmont is beautiful and difficult.  After the removal of nearly every tree you can see sixteen holes from the clubhouse.  Thick rough, over 200 bunkers, and fast greens make this a great test of golf.

Leading into the first round the course was playing firm and fast, exactly how the USGA wanted it.  But when the tournament began, the first round was suspended three times and called off before the afternoon rounds could begin.  Three inches of rain overnight and the firm conditions were lost to a soft golf course.  This wasn’t the only time weather played a factor in the 2016 Majors.

It took until late Saturday morning for the field to settle out and the start of the third round.  Dustin Johnson, last year’s runner-up, held a one shot lead over unknown Andrew Landry, playing in his first major.  In fact, in the top ten Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, and Lee Westwood were the best known players and Furyk the only Major winner.

Still trying to play catch up to the weather the third round was called by darkness with Johnson still having five holes to play.  Play resumed on Sunday morning and Shane Lowry played his last four holes in two under and took a four shot lead over Johnson and Landry to start the final round.

Lowry and Landry were paired in the final group and the pressure of trying to win the US Open had its effect.  Lowry finished with a 76 and Landry shot 78.  Many were in contention going to the back nine with Johnson playing steady golf and holding the lead.  Problem was, nobody knew how big of a lead.

It came up on the twelfth tee that the USGA was looking at whether Johnson caused his ball to move back on the fifth green.  They said that it would be reviewed after the round, so he never knew how big the lead was, nor others to how far behind.  This created difficulty in knowing how aggressive to play.

Johnson took all of that out of play with a brilliant 69 to win by four.  After the USGA said he incurred a penalty it became a three shot victory.  This penalty controversy overshadowed the tournament.  People began to say it took away golfers policing themselves on the golf course and brought TV rulings more into play.  This was a shame as Johnson is a fan favorite champion.  As with Willett, I think we will see more of these Major wins for him.

The Open Championship

The Open returned to Royal Troon, a favorite in the Open rotation.  It is a great links course that featured two nines that play completely different.  You have a front nine that is getable by the field where you need to get some birdies.  You then hang on through the back nine.  The famous par 3 eighth, “Postage Stamp” hole, looms in the middle of the round.

This year’s tournament started out on a high note.  2013 champion Phil Mickelson opened with a 63, tying low round ever shot in a Major.  Mickelson lipped out on the final hole for 62, a putt that seemed to be in the hole within inches.  He held a three shot lead after the round.

Phil shot 69 in the second round and lead Henrik Stenson by one entering the weekend.  Keegan Bradley and Soren Kjeldsen were three back and defending champion Zach Johnson was still in contention.

High winds impacted the third round and it was announced that the R&A opted not to mow the greens so they could play the round without issues of the ball moving when addressed.  It was difficult for players to adjust to this with Stenson tying for low round of the day with a 68.  That was enough for a one shot lead over Phil and set up a two man race as they were five clear of the rest of the field.

The final round ended up being one of the best duals in golf, equalizing the “Dual in the Sun” between Nicklaus and Watson in the 1977 Open.  The lead changed hands or were tied many times on the front nine with Stenson recording five birdies and Mickelson a birdie and eagle.  After Stenson bogeyed the 11th they were tied.  Starting on the 14th hole Stenson recorded three straight birdies and built a two shot lead.  Stenson closed with a birdie on eighteen for another record tying 63 and his 20-under total of 264 the lowest in Major history.  He became the first Scandinavian man to win a Major.

PGA Championship

Historic Baltusrol Golf Club was hosting its ninth Major championship and first since Phil Mickelson won the PGA there in 2005.  One interesting thing about the Lower Course is it plays to a par 70 and you don’t play a par 5 until you finish with two straight on 17 and 18.  The eighteenth is the site of Jack Nicklaus’ famous 1-iron in the 1967 US Open.

Weather played a factor is this championship as well.  Rain and lightning caused many delays.  These weather delays, combined with two weeks between the previous Major, made it hard to get excited for this championship.

Jimmy Walker opened with a 65 and a one shot lead to start the tournament.  He followed that with a 66 and was tied at the halfway mark with Robert Streb, who shot 63.  This was the third 63 in Majors this year.  World #1 Jason Day was two back in his defense of the championship.

The third round was nearly a total wash-out as only 37 players finished the round and the leaders never teed off.  With the forecast, many wondered why the PGA did not start play with threesomes off two tees.  With that they probably could have gotten the round in on that day.  The thought was that the TV networks were running the show.  That backfired as they had nothing to show on Saturday afternoon except the rerun of last year’s tournament.

Golfers teed off at 7am on Sunday to get in the final 36 holes.  This long day of golf proved not to be very exciting.  The wet course played fairly easy from tee to green.  Most struggled on the greens due to the amount of traffic for the day.  During the final round 12 of the 18 holes did not record a score higher than bogey.  Meaning nobody could make a charge, nor did any golfer falter.

It came down to Walker and Day on the last couple holes.  Walker held a two shot lead most of the back nine and when he made birdie at 17 took a three shot lead.  At the same moment Day hit his second shot on 18 to about 12 feet and made the putt for eagle to cut the lead to one.  Walker played the final hole safe and sank a 3 footer for par and his first Major championship.

All in all this year’s Majors were anticlimactic.  Instead of Willett winning, people talked about Spieth’s collapse.  Instead of DJ’s first Major after many near misses, it was talk of the USGA rules decision.  Talk all weekend at the PGA was the weather and the fantastic job the crew did just to get the course playable.  It was The Open that produced the most excitement with two great players battling it out with terrific golf.

Next year’s lineup will make for interesting, if not exciting golf.  We always have The Masters and the history that tournament brings.  The US Open will be at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.  I just played that course and while it is fairly open off the tee.  The approaches to the greens will be very difficult as the greens have many roll-offs and some pin placements will be hard to get to.  The bunkering is difficult and they could stretch the course out to 8,000 yards.  It should be some exciting golf if the weather cooperates.

The Open returns to Royal Birkdale for the tenth time.  It last hosted in 2008 when Padraig Harrington defended his title for back-to-back championships.  Finally, the PGA goes to Quail Hollow in North Carolina.  It will be its first Major championship, but the pros have seen this course before.  It currently hosts the Wells Fargo Championship played every spring on the PGA Tour.  With a well-known course it could prove to be exciting as well.  Rory McIlroy has won there twice so he could be the favorite.

Is American Golf too American?

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Is American Golf too American?

Another year of The Open Championship and I can always say that I love watching this tournament.  When you watch golf being played on links land, you just get a special feeling of that is how golf is meant to be played.  Maybe it’s because I’ve had the opportunity to play links golf.  I just find the game over there much more exciting.

You have to be very creative to play good links golf.  As we saw on the telecast, the conditions are constantly changing.  More angles come into play as you try to play away from hazards and judge the wind conditions.  We don’t usually see that here in the States.  This got me thinking that maybe golf here has gone beyond its roots.

Your first comment may be that we don’t have the similar land forms that we find on links golf.  There are few, such as Bandon Dunes, but most of our golf is played inland.  However, I have played the inland, or heathland courses of England.  You still get a special feeling when you play these courses.  Golf is just different over there and I’ve often thought that we are trying to do too much with our courses.  Here are a few examples of where things differ.

Green Speeds

The first thing that came to me on the differences is when they mentioned that they did not cut or roll the greens for Saturday’s round.  I wonder if they would ever do that for a tournament here.  I recall the US Open at Shinnecock Hills in 2004.  The USGA starved the greens of water and got them to a speed that was unattainable.

In that tournament, Phil Mickelson three-putted from 4ft. Tiger Woods said, “This is our national championship and Shinnecock Hills is a great golf course, but they lost control of it. This is not supposed to be how golf is played.”  I thought maybe they had learned something until this year when rain caused them to double or triple cut and double roll greens to get a certain speed.  We saw what happened with Dustin Johnson at those speeds.

At Troon the R&A let the weather dictate how the course played.  They made the decision on Saturday not to risk having an issue on the greens and kept them slower.  Did this impact scoring?  Not at all.  Players were forced to adjust and most did, but they did not shoot the low round of the week that day.  All the players said that the course played great and nobody complained about the greens.  You might say that the course played easy as 20-under won and another was at 17-under.  That was only two of 156 golfers.  Next lowest score was 6-under.  That just shows that two guys played great golf for the week.  It was much more exciting to watch them battle to make birdies then struggle to make pars.  If the course setup is supposed to determine the best golfer, that happened.  Stenson and Mickelson were the class of the field and Stenson proved to be the best in the end.

Bunkers

Another thing to marvel at is how the bunkers played and set up the golf course.  In the UK, bunkers are hazards!  Players calculate their game plan to avoid them at all cost.  You would hear the announcers say that you need avoid them or you will have to pitch out without reaching the green.  Fairway bunkers were basically a stroke penalty.

You also saw many players, especially on the Postage Stamp hole, have to play sideways or away from the pin.  If they tried to play a bold shot, sometimes they ended up back in the bunker.  Players did not complain about this, they knew that is the how the game is played on this course.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve consulted with a course and they say they can’t get to the green from a certain bunker.  They expect to have a chance with every shot.  Give them a bad lie or poor stance in the bunker and it is the fault of the design or maintenance.  We have lost the art of the bunker being a hazard, something I may address in another blog.

Do we try to get everything too perfect?

Expectations of course conditions in the US is high when it comes to golf.  A lot of that has to do with the expense of the sport.  If you pay $100 for a round of golf, you expect perfect.  It amazes me that some of these same people don’t fix ball marks or rake bunkers.  Yet everything needs to be perfect.  Golfers in the UK still believe in the “Rub of the Green”.  Get a bad lie in the bunker and they learn how to play it.

Golfers here want perfect sand, fast greens, and acceptable rough where they can advance the ball to the green.  For the most part, our golf courses supply that type of course.  This is all a result of our golf course superintendents.

Superintendents today are the most educated we have ever seen.  They continue to take classes to learn about new innovations and use these in the most environmentally sensitive way.  Technology has advanced to supply them with excellent mowers, state of the art irrigation, and grasses that resist diseases.  If a member, committee, or patron asks about doing something on the course, they either find a way to do it or explain why it can’t be done.  Our superintendents are pushed to provide us with outstanding conditions, most often in difficult growing environments.  In some ways they are their own enemy by always supplying what is demanded.  I don’t envy them on a 90 degree summer day in Chicago.

Will there ever be change?

Will we ever lower our expectations of golf course conditions?  Not as long as golf is shown on TV.  Professional golf offers great exposure for the game.  Each weekend we see 12-15 hours of live golf on TV.  That is more exposure then the NFL.  However, it doesn’t help golf when we see ten or more mowers rolling down a fairway and a hundred volunteers raking bunkers and mowing greens.  For one week a year, these courses are in the best shape possible.  Local golfers see this and expect the same with a ten man crew.

Superintendents are getting better at explaining when expectations get beyond budgetary reasons.  More explanation is needed and it would be nice if the Golf Channel, or broadcast TV, would take 5-10 minutes each week to show how many people it takes to achieve these conditions.  Then they could relay that this is for this one week and your local course should not expect this every day.

Golf today is about sustainability.  The more sustainable we can make our golf courses, the better we can make the sport.  Even a slight adjustment in expectations will go a long way.  Let’s appreciate smooth greens over fast greens, don’t worry if you see a weed, and accept that bunkers are hazards.  Golf has been around for over 500 years.  It is our job to set it up for another 500.