"When golfers have options, they also have the potential to make mistakes."

img20060524_2.jpgSam Weinman on the restored Wykagyl, home to this week's HSBC Match Play:
Among the intriguing elements of the match-play event's arrival is it comes on the heels of an extensive renovation to the club - one that has changed not just the aesthetic of the storied course, but how it will play.

By almost every account, those changes are particularly conducive to match play, where golfers have to constantly choose between a conservative or aggressive line. And after the renovations last year by the celebrated design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the difference between the two has been brought into sharper focus.

"The biggest difference is there's a lot more strategy involved," said Ben Hoffhine, Wykagyl's head pro. "And in match play, it's a lot more apparent because how you play is dictated by what your opponent does."

Said Chuck Del Priore, one of the club's top players and a member of its greens committee: "A lot of the weaker players will say the course got easier, and the better players think so, too. But what they're also finding is they're getting themselves in more trouble."

That a golf course can simultaneously be more accessible and more challenging is a reflection of the sheer volume of options players are now presented with. Trees have been cut down. Greens and fairways have been expanded. Once a string of 18 wooded holes in which target lines were quite obvious - i.e. just hit it between the trees - the sheer openness of holes means players this week will have new ways to attack them. Which also means they'll have new ways to mess them up.

"It used to be like a one-way street, but now you have tons of different options and lines," Hoffhine said. "And when golfers have options, they also have the potential to make mistakes."