No doubt it takes great skill to achieve but can somebody please explain the fascination with tournament courses cutting their fairways in a chequerboard pattern?
Perhaps it is a matter of personal taste but to the eyes of this writer it not only detracts from the look of a course but negatively impacts the perception of golf.
The latest assault on the senses came at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the weekend where the Sheshan International Golf Club more resembled a giant chess board than a golf course.
Clearly, the ornamental cutting has its fans and in and of itself is hardly anything to get too riled about. But it is also a symptom of a much broader problem in the game: the obsession with course conditioning.
It never ceases to amaze just how many golfers rate the condition in which a course is presented above the design of the actual holes.
All golfers enjoy well-manicured turf but the quality of the playing surfaces should only ever be considered a complement to the more important aspects of a course’s strategy.
Would Royal Melbourne be less of a golf course if the condition was sub-standard? Certainly not, though it may be considered less of a golf experience.
In the same vein, can a poorly designed or strategically uninteresting course be improved by a fancy mowing pattern? Sadly not, no matter how much skill and hard work the course superintendent brings to the task.
“It never ceases to amaze just how many golfers rate the condition in which a course is presented above the design of the actual holes.”
One of the biggest challenges golf faces in the modern era is its image among non-golfers – particularly political decision makers – that it is a game of excess reserved almost exclusively for the elite.
The absurd over-grooming of golf courses for television does nothing to dispel that image and, in fact, likely reinforces it.
Bright green fairways bordered by bunkers filled with pristine white sand winding around large bodies of water are so obviously unnatural as to scream ‘man-made excess’ to any casual observer.
Those of us who play the game at the ironically named ‘grass roots’ level know this is not the reality at the majority of courses but if one’s only exposure to golf was through TV it would be difficult to believe it was any other way.
Professional golf is the showcase of the game and those charged with its administration all too often miss the mark in how it is presented to the outside world.
From the gaudy and frankly tacky $15 million bonus paid to the winner of the FedExCup to the dyed blue waters of Augusta National Golf Club, tournament golf often brings attention for all the wrong reasons.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur tournament is non-professional in name only and everything about the tournament – including the course set up – is as professional as any PGA Tour event.
It is to be hoped that its return to Royal Melbourne next year will show off the golf course – and the game – in a different, better and more sustainable light.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, The Good-Good, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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