I sat through two enjoyable Powerpoint presentations by John Fought and Rees Jones here at the Carolina. Two points by Jones were of most interest.
Encouraging was his message to Golf Digest and the panel: categories like Aesthetics, Ambiance and Conditioning threaten to make the rankings "into a rich man's list." Losing those categories while emphasizing how much "continuing interest" (repeat playing fun) of a course would make, in Jones's view, for a better ranking that serves the game better. Naturally I wholeheartedly agree.
Another comment of interest was his disdain for the Golf Magazine panels' love of "collapsing" bunkers and how courses featuring this "fad" were overtaking their list and threatening to ruin it. Collapsing would be your Coore/Crenshaw/Bradley/Doak/Urbina/Hanse/Wagner/Devries etc. style that Rees has always hated, but unfortunately which many golfers are finding more appealing looking compared to cleaner, rounder hazards.
I got a giggle out of his remarks, yet on a similar theme, the panelists who had just played Pinehurst No. 2 were saying privately at the evening dinner (after Jaime Diaz gave a great talk on Tiger entering the design business) were consistently underwhelmed by the course. And in large part, their lack of enthusiasm stems from the course's lack of visual interest, and in particular, the bunkering as well as the mundane wall-to-wall Bermuda look eliminating much of the sandy scrub that once gave the course such a distinctive flavor. I have to say I strongly agree that Pinehurst has lost much of it's unique character and other than its distinctive greens, looks like way too ordinary.
So the morale of this story is simple: visual stuff does matter in making you want to play a course. I think those rugged, wild, inspiring and seemingly natural "collapsing" bunkers are here to stay.
More importantly, Rees posed for a photo with his favorite golf blogger (I've cropped the others in the shot to protect the innocent from any potential photo caption fun!).