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« What Happened To Parts Of Phil's Design Diatribe? | Main | The Tigerisms, Photo Gallery Edition »

Phil: "This is a great example again of how modern architecture is killing the participation of the sport because the average guy just can't play it."

Phil Mickelson, talking to writers after the round, made similar remarks to PGA Tour radio. Thankfully, he did not share these with Atlanta Athletic Club member and Member Hall of Fame member Jim Huber's face during his TNT interview!

Q. Talk about the golf course, different than what you played ten years ago?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's totally different. It's great for the PGA. It's terrific. It's in great shape. It's difficult. It's challenging. There's some really hard holes, and there's some birdie holes. And I think it's a great site for the PGA.


But I also think if you look at the four par 3s here, it's a perfect example of how modern architecture is killing the game, because these holes are unplayable for the member. You have water in front and you have a bunker behind, and you give the player no Avenue to run a shot up, and the 7th hole, where there is not any water; there's a big bunker in front and right of the green, instead of helping the player get it on to the green, it goes down into the lower area, as does the left side.

Now, for us out here, it doesn't make a bit of difference, because we are going to fly the ball to the green either way. And that's why I say it's great for the championship.

But it's a good reason why the number of rounds are down on this golf course amongst the membership. And it's a good reason why, in my opinion, this is a great example again of how modern architecture is killing the participation of the sport because the average guy just can't play it.

And a follow up question from Tom, who must have missed the first part?

Q. Can you talk about your views on the golf course, the par 3s here?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Tom, I think this is a great site for the tournament, I really do. It's perfect, because there's some really hard holes and there's some really easy holes for birdies. And I think it's going to be exciting to watch. You're going to see a lot of calamity coming down the stretch and a lot of birdies early and late in the round -- early and middle of the round.

Did and again, it's a wonderful site. But the four holes, the four par 3s, are a wonderful example, and a number of others throughout the course; that is the reason why participation in the sport is going down, because of the modern architecture, that doesn't let the average guy play.

Now, we have no problem playing these holes, but when you put water in front and a bunker in back, and you give the player no vehicle to run a shot up, the member can't play and that's why membership participation on this golf course is down like 25 per cent.

And it's every course throughout -- modern architecture, there are some great ones, but the guy that redid this one, you know, it's great for the championship, but it's not great for the membership.

While I share Phil's view about modern designs like AAC and share his disdain for Rees Jones' no-reward design, it's still unreasonable to blame modern architecture for the game's problems. Modern designs like AAC are a response to the distance the ball is flying. Maybe not a great response, but a response nonetheless. You can't blame the folks for trying to respond, but when the situation is constantly in flux, you are bound to get it wrong.

And Phil is opposed to any kind of regulation of his equipment to keep courses relevant without changing them.

So complaining about such designs without also wanting something done to rein in distance advances is like complaining about credit default swaps, and then fighting any new laws to regulate them.

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Reader Comments (34)

Ok. But why can't the average Joe and AAC member play from the forward tees.? Multiple tee locations are pretty common on modern golf designs, is this so hard to figure out?
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterA3golfer
@ A3golfer: They do. But on the infamous long par-3, the middle of the second forward tee is 175 yards to the middle of the green. Unless the grass is cut to fairway height between the tee and the green there is no option to run the ball onto the green, and anyone with a handicap of 10 or above should have that option from that distance. Besides, given that the course is probably over-watered like all courses in the neighborhood (green is good!), a run up shot would probably stop short with a large glop of mud on it anyway.
Wasn't the course designed back in the 70's, i.e. well before the days of "modern equipment"?
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
And redone twice since then by "the guy that redid this one."
08.11.2011 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Sod the "no reward" thingy. Let the professionals score in the 50s (we'll soon see the ball rolled back then).

I've just recently played a course in north Wales which doesn't even have so much as a ditch let alone stream or lake. Strategic bunkering together with plenty of bumps and hollows in the right places provided more than enough of a challenge for we lesser mortals.
I just tuned in (damn work - I love universities when there are no kids here, but that is changing this week!) While I wasn't too shocked that Tiger did poorly, does anyone know why Ryo Ishikawa's scorecard looks like ours on a bad day? +15 was a surprise. Injury? Speaking of, may be the end of Rory this week?
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
You can't fly the ball onto the green at 175? Then maybe you should play a different course.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterA3golfer
Hey, "Ky Laffoon's Ghost " -

I think 10 or better is way off for those who would need help hitting the green on a 175-yard par 3. If you claim a handicap of less than 25 and can't hit a decent-sized green at 175 yards, you're lying' !
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterWill o'the Glen
AAC isn't a public course - it's a private course that has molded itself to major golf tournaments and a test of the best in the world. Naturally this course is not going to be friendly to a 10 handicapper.

The technology debate certainly needs to take place, but this is more a commentary on the need for bifurcation than a commentary on AAC.

Membership is down at AAC because the local economy (which was heavily real estate) collapsed 4 years ago. If times were good, that would be an interesting statistic to dive into to figure out why it's happening. Unfortunately, we know why it's happening and it has nothing to do with how hard the course has become.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTaylor Anderson
Stroke and distance is killing the game.
Speaking of Par 3s, Geoff O. made a quint on the 4th? Did I read that right?
08.11.2011 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
Hey, all I said is that someone should have the option of playing the ball along the ground, i.e., playing for an easy bogey if frankly sought, in the words of the most famous member of the Atlanta Athletic Club. Which, if I am not mistaken, was how a certain top-3 in the US course was designed 80 years ago. And remained perfectly fine for 70 of those years, until the male professional golfer became as Babe Zaharias, that is. Or something.
That's all fine and dandy but sometimes maybe out of 18 holes, one shot needs no options, hit it or you suffer a bad score.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterA3golfer
One shot? american golf courses are covered in water!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Is this really a "Modern Architecture" issue or more so a "Penal Architecture" issue? It's pretty well established that Reese Jones's designs are very penal. I've never played Oakland Hills, but I recall Tom Doak criticizing Reese's work by saying that he simply put deep bunkers down both sides of the fairway so that there was never a bail out, and I remember the pros ripping Cog Hill. I watched a little bit of the coverage online this morning, and caught Tiger's group tee of on #16. That hole looked extremely miss it left and your in the water ( Harrington did that), or you miss it right and your in a bunker.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterKC
Loved the reference to Billy Casper laying up on a tough par 3 four days in a row, making par each day, enroute to a major win in 1959.

"Billy Casper Lag Putt". Learned it as a kid and still use it; very wristy but effective.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered Commenterpasaplayer
First of all, there really is no such thing as a "ground game" at most courses in the South. They are generally wet and bermuda does not allow for much roll anyway. Golf in the South is an air game.

Second, I was out there today and there are many sets of tees on those 3 pars. The tournament tees are waaay back.

Third, one of my saturday group is an 18 (we live ten miles away from AAC) and he gets to play once a month with some doctor buddies....he loves the course. LOVES the course. Not only does he not wish to quit the game because of those 3 pars, why, he wants to join AAC!

Fourth, as was said above, AAC is private and used to cost $75000 to join, it is probably half that today. They have two courses and the other is apparently easier that the Highlands course. There are some pretty smart people there, they have built a course for their members.

The design of one private course has no impact on Golf. Anyone have an idea why Phil would whinge about this? Is this the new Callaway corporate line, that golf is too hard? Is Callaway paying Phil $10M per year to badmouth hard courses?
08.11.2011 | Unregistered Commenter7.0
Phil blames Rees Jones, but the par threes have played over water since the course was built. The redesign has done nothing to affect the difficulty of the par threes from the member tees.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecket
Living in Orlando I have played a couple Reese Jones designed courses and do not find them enjoyable at all. He designed the Waldorf Astoria course here and its not a course I would ever pay to play again. It gets frustrating when every green is either encircled by bunkers or water.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMoose
Watched half an hour. All I knew was that I would run out of balls by the 15th on that course.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterUnder the Chin
If Phil was in Stricker's position, would he be complaining?
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJason
Was Charl Schwartzel looking for another drop like at The Memorial?
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott
Use floaters, Phil.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSammy
Phil also complained loudly about the Torrey Pines redesign, so he is consistent with his criticisms.

I will be curious when he sees (renovated) Pinehurst, Chambers Bay and Erin Hills. These allow a variety of approach shots, and should fall in his category of playable courses for the masses.

And I happen to agree with Phil in one respect - Torrey is not fun at all, except for the view and the weather.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
On one of those often tired Golf Channel shows Paul Goydos guested and said something to the effect that the more cut and dried the layout the easier it is for the tour pro. Options and decisions was what make the game difficult for the pro. I'm not sure how one's decision-making can be taxed by a 260-yd par 3. Then, once the Show leaves town, every guest wants to play from the Big Boy Tee and play bogs down and fun goes out the cart. Architecture does make a difference in how the game is perceived and received by those who do not play, those who want to play and those who want to play better. Dumbing down the game by building one-dimensional layouts does no good to the state of the game.

Many of us who frequent this sight believe that equipment, in particular the modern golf ball, is the great demon. Yet, far too often the equipment manufacturers and the architects (often at the insistence of the developers) sing the same tune. We have to do what we do because the ball/course is getting longer. The relationship between the two has made American golf utterly dysfunctional. An army of Tom Doaks could scarcely make a difference, unless given the public soapbox. But to the best of my knowledge, neither Ballyneal nor its like is not being considered as a venue for a major championship.

Which brings us to the PGA of America. If Play it Forward is a true priority, why do they go to long and penal courses and setups? Why not use the opportunity of the championship to illustrate its worth as an initiative? Let these guys play AAC at 7,000 yards or less. Let the pros shoot low numbers. Come the last 9 on Sunday it's still a major that carries major pressure. If some yahoo comes in in 29 to steal the title, so be it. It's the PGA, the major of the oddball winner, anyway. But perhaps a statement might be made that could have a lasting positive effect.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered Commenterellis
Hey RickABQ, Ryo has won 9 times in what's the problem?
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
Del -

Not much, but unfortunately he's playing in Atlanta1 I finally read he had 6 balls in the water today - something I think many of us can identify with...
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
Not that I disagree with the premise Phil was attempting to make as it relates to the typical amateur player. But.....

the biggest reason for the nosedive in the interest of the game isn't because the game is too difficult. It's because the people who used to have decent-paying jobs no longer have decent paying jobs and can't pay their mortgage on time, let alone shell out money they don't have to devote 7 hours of a day for what amounts to an unsustainable hobby.

At some point it was going to come down to consumers having to make hard decisions. We've been there for a number of years, but the reality is finally starting to sink in. When you're left with the option of putting fuel in the car and praying that it suffices for a week or playing a round of golf - it's not a difficult decision to make.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterPA PLAYA
The AAC Highlands course is nothing but a slog. I have no desire to ever play it again and I definitely part company with Klein on this one.

Just another case of a club f______ up their course in pursuit of a major.
08.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Fager
Most people play the wrong tees. It's an ego thing.
If you move up a few tees the game is so much more enjoyable.
If you can't reach a four par with an iron for your second shot, you are playing the wrong tees.
08.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterFan
I just thought it was weird that Phil was talking about the members when he should be focused on winning the PGA. The psychology behind his comments tells me that there is no chance Phil will win this week because he must think the course is too tough for him (despite his comments to the contrary about the challenge for the pros). Talk about the problems with design at another time as they are valid.
08.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Pandora's box was opened many years ago when metal woods started appearing on TOUR...Golf could have gone the route of MLB and decreed only wooden woods may be used.

We are now seeing the fruits of that non-decision IMO.

And in spite of my feeling towards Phil warming these this case, his statements are a bit hypocritical since he's complaining about the course(s) being so stretched out for majors (about 0.01% of the total world golfing population) while at the same time, he campaigns for higher and higher teched out clubs. Anybody else notice that?
08.12.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
The man makes $10 million a year to campaign for those high tech clubs. Can you blame him?
08.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDevon
Then he needs to shut up. You can't have it both ways.
08.12.2011 | Registered CommenterGeoff

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