Ed Sherman looks at Oakmont's tree removal and the efforts of courses in the Chicago era to undo years of green committee meddling.
Meanwhile Matthew Futterman in the New Jersey Star-Ledger also takes on the issue with a New Jersey focus and gets some epic quotes out of Rees Jones.
From Winged Foot to Wykagyl, Oak Hill to Oakmont, the trees are coming down, and the results are courses with open parkland-style views, where it is far easier to grow thick, healthy rough, and the tracks more closely resemble the original designs that made them classic more than a century ago.Would those be at the courses undoing your dad's work?
At Winged Foot in Westchester, site of last year's U.S. Open, nearly 2,000 trees are gone. Oak Hill near Rochester, N.Y., site of the 1995 Ryder Cup, took out more than 1,000, including one planted in honor of former Ryder Cup player Miller Barber. The Jack Nicklaus tree survived.
Wykagyl, the New Rochelle, N.Y., club hosting this year's HSBC Women's World Match Play, took out 1,200. Pauley doesn't have an exact number for Plainfield, but he has taken out 250 during his two-year tenure there, and hundreds more came out before he arrived.
The tree-cutting debate enters the spotlight this week as the U.S. Open returns for the eighth time to Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh -- a course where thousands of trees have been removed in the past two decades.
Advocates say the classic courses are once again becoming the places they are meant to be.
"There are no trees on the golf courses in Ireland and Scotland," said noted golf course architect Stephen Kay, who designed courses at Blue Heron Pines near Atlantic City and Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong and is an advocate of the tree-clearing movement. "They could plant them. Why don't they?"
Not everyone is a fan of the tree-chopping movement, though. Montclair's Rees Jones, the so-called "Open Doctor" for his work renovating Bethpage Black and other top courses, called it a "huge mistake" except in the case of a few select courses.
"Trees are a part of golf, as we saw last year on the final hole of the Open, where Phil Mickelson lost because he hit his last drive into the trees," Jones said. "This is a very dangerous trend."
Dangerous? No, dangerous is a member of the Jones family meddling with a classic course!
David Fay, executive director of the United States Golf Association, said he favors cutting back certain trees on certain courses, but not everywhere.
"It depends on the course," Fay said. "In the cases of both Plainfield and Oakmont, I am a big fan of what the two clubs have done. Ditto Winged Foot."
And this is beautiful...
Jones said Donald Ross, who designed Plainfield in 1921, intended for his courses to have trees. He worries that all the tree-cutting will render the wide-open courses too easy for the world's top golfers, who can now bomb drives 350 yards without worrying about hitting the so-called bunkers in the sky.
"At Augusta they are planting trees, just for this reason," Jones pointed out.