“If there weren’t a bunch of pros who didn’t like it we’d have done a poor job.”
Perhaps Kyle Phillips, designer of the Yas Links which hosted the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this past week, will take some comfort from those words penned by Golf Australia Magazine architecture editor Mike Clayton last week.
Clayton was responding to criticisms of the Royal Queensland layout where the Australian PGA and WPGA Championships had just been played.
Both courses are of a type not encountered frequently by the touring professional and the reaction of the game’s elite to anything different is always interesting.
In the case of Yas Links, Tyrrell Hatton – the fabulously entertaining, outspoken Englishman and defending champion – will be the target of architecture nerds after he took aim at that course’s par-5 18th hole.
Having played the 591-metre beast in an ugly four over for the week courtesy of a double bogey 7 Friday and a quadruple bogey 9 on Saturday, Hatton didn’t hold back.
"The broader point is that commenting on architecture as a Tour player is somewhat a lose/lose proposition." - Rod Morri.
“That I would love for a bomb to drop on it and blow it up to oblivion, to be honest,” was his response when asked his thoughts on the closing three shotter after play Sunday.
Perhaps Hatton’s criticism of the hole was dictated entirely by the way he played it (poorly, as he readily admitted) or perhaps he had a point.
Certainly, he wasn’t the only one of the world’s best to finish the week the wrong side of par for the hole (though whether that should be a criteria in making a judgement of a hole’s worth is a discussion for another day).
The broader point is that commenting on architecture as a Tour player is somewhat a lose/lose proposition.
The default position for most with an interest in course design is to be at least sceptical – if not downright dismissive – of the opinions of those with the most playing ability.
There is good reason for this, and a couple of Hatton’s own quotes make the point.
Too often, professionals have a blind spot to their own poor judgement (“It shouldn’t have a bunker in the middle of the fairway,” Hatton said having found said bunker from the tee) and a sense of entitlement (“If you hit a good drive as a pro you should have at least a chance to go for the green in two ...”)
On the flip side, what he followed that second statement with is a point that makes some sense (and neatly encapsulates the challenge of designing an interesting par -5).
“Otherwise, the hole becomes a par-3 and that’s if you play it well.”
That is an all too familiar criticism I have made myself of the final hole at Mission Hills when the LPGA visit for the year’s first major.
Out of reach in two from the back tee, players simply lay up to an almost identical yardage and play what is effectively a par-3.
There’s not really a point to all this conjecture except to note that while I disagree with Hatton’s basic premise here, I am glad he is one not afraid to speak up.
Playing this game recreationally is frustrating enough but to do it for a living must occasionally border on infuriating.
Hatton has hinted he may not return to the tournament next year if there aren’t changes made to the hole, but one hopes that is only a heat of the moment pronouncement.
For a player who earlier in the week managed the extraordinary feat of hitting a one yard wide fairway as part of a social media stunt, there must surely be a way for him to figure out the closing hole.