21 August 2006

The Golf Course as Oppoenent

Most consider golf a sport. To me the notion of sport indicates that some opponent has the ability to impede the direct progress of the player in the game or action of the sport.

I think the most fun and desirable designs put the golf course squarely in this role. Contrarily, when maintenance or design takes away the golf course's sporting chance to fight back I find the course dull and banal. This is the equivalent to the hunter fencing in his prey before the shot, or worse, tying it up.

For the purpose of advancing good design and the concept of golf as a sport, it is imperative that at some point the golf world embraces the notion that on a certain day, the golfer may be placed in an impossible situation by simply teeing the ball up on a particular hole. This fact is not unfair or undesirable, it is sporting.

Too often, the essence of fairness and fun are bastardized into meaning possible and easy.

How often are the sporting advantages that the golf course possess rendered useless or non-existant by setups that fail to utilize the full design of a green or hole?

How often do maintenance practices preclude that contours too severe should be eliminated, taking away a fundamental challenge the original design intended?

This was most recently exemplified at Medinah this past weekend, where a similar result could have been garnered by parametrizing a scoring system based on ball striking on a driving range, and then holding a seeded match play putting contest based on the results of that score.

We saw what happens when a golf course loses it's sporting chance. Bunkers became havens for recovery, angles of attack became nonsense with the only real penalty for firing right at a flag being a short side miss into gnarly rough. A challenge, which again, could have been simulated off the golf course.

Golf is losing its sporting way with setups and championships like this. It's high time to take stock of our values, and just what skill sets make up a "championship golfer."

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