Bob Carney of Golf Digest supports Phil Mickelson's PGA rant about modern design and makes me wonder if it's time for long-needed change to Golf Digest's influential course ranking criteria. (Full disclosure, I've only been lobbying for this change for, oh, ever.)
Owners or club boards wanted to put their course on the map. Suddenly course and slope rating became the measure of greatness. We've heard people say, "It's got a slope rating of 155!" as if that were a good thing. Ask Pete Dye about it and he'll tell you that if you want to excite golfers about your course, you make it tough, and he's been told by developers to do just that.
But that's from the back tees, and Dye and most architects offer plenty of shorter options. Which is why, we think, the Tee it Forward initiative supported by the USGA and the PGA is so important. Based on Barney Adams contention that if the average golfer were playing "tour-equivalent" tees (based on their distance off the tee) most would be moving up a set.
The popularity of places such as Bandon Dunes, and of more "playable" architecture by the designers like Tom Doak and Ben Crenshaw (with partner Bill Coore), prove that not all of us are masochists. And those designs have done very well on rankings like Golf Digest's, that emphasize shot values over resistance to scoring.
Ah but maybe this would be the right time to drop "Resistance to Scoring" altogether? Or change the wording, call it Resistance To Fun, and deduct the points from the course's overall score?
Meanwhile in this week's Pond Scrum wrap up of the PGA, Huggan and Elling discuss Phil's "point" and conclude as I did that he needs to think through his attacks on certain styles of modern design.
Elling: I have very mixed feelings when hearing Mickelson belittle Jones. It's become rather catty to me. Phil is hugely pro-technology and went on a reasoned rant last year against another favorite target, Dick Rugge of the USGA, about rule changes designed to keep players from inhaling golf courses whole in a single breath. Mickelson fails to acknowledge that with players flying drives 300 yards in the air, changes to courses are a necessity. So while Jones and his ilk might not get it right every time, they have to add teeth to keep scores from becoming laughable. Keegan Bradley birdied two of the last three holes in regulation. Somebody managed to avoid the carnage.
Huggan: You are right. That is where Phil's argument breaks down. Of course, he is being well compensated for his support of turbo-charged balls and clubs. I suspect, deep down, he is just as hacked off as I am. After all, it would be to his advantage if shaping shots returned to the pro game. He is one of the best when it comes to that.