A couple things made this question pop into my mind. Why does a golf course have to be difficult to be considered good? I’m headed to play Commonwealth National in Horsham, PA today, and it’s a very nice Arnold Palmer design, but it is easy to get the score headed North in a hurry. You have to be hitting it well, and it’s the kind of place that can put you into a slump all by itself. The difficulty of the layout produces a lot of good players, but at the same time, I can’t imagine a typical player has any fun there on a regular basis. Somewhere along the line losing a dozen golf balls became part of the game, almost a badge of honor that one had played a good golf course.
Certainly for a course to be championship worthy it has to be difficult. The older, classic American courses are diffcult due to natural changes in terrain, and natural hazards. If you play a course like this you will have trouble in the bunkers, be overwhelmed by the rough, and probably shoot a million, but you’re not going to lose a hundy spot worth of golf balls. There’s no penalty shot allowance. And, that’s where some of the newer courses make their reputation. With all the good natural terrain and hazards used up for older courses, housing developments, whatever…designers are forced to make tracks out of less desirable pieces of land. What we get is the modern monster. Places carved through swamps, quarries, wetlands, and even the occasional landfill….if all that fails they just take a flat piece of land, and mound the horse-bleep out of it, and plant fescue everywhere.
Without much to defend itself we get an array of hazards. Environmentally protected areas, waist high grass or brush all over the place, sand dunes leading into oblivion. You miss the fairway at one of these places, and it’s time to reload. It’s not punch out and try to salvage a bogey, it’s re-tee and brace yourself for a smooth triple. Play by the rules, and you could have 12-15 penalty shots. These places are another contributor to the rampant cheating in golf, and I don’t blame people for not wanting to be hitting 3,5,7 off every tee. It’s insane. Not only does it inflate scores, but it grinds pace of play to a halt. You spend an hour golfing, and four and half looking for slap nut’s ball.
So, what I’m really proposing an upscale, well appointed, easy golf course. Give me wide fairways, moderately paced greens, a uniform first cut of rough that is completely playable. Visually striking, but shallow faced bunkers, docile greens. Where is this place? Perfectly conditioned, all the amenities, the service, the practice facility, but you don’t shoot 135 every time out. It’s a good time not looking for golf balls all day. It feels good to shoot a good score every once in a while, and so you know that you shot it at a course that isn’t terribly difficult….who cares? Mix in a birdie from time to time. This notion of self punnishment by playing golf courses that are too hard, from tees that are too long, just baffles me.
Find your level, you’ll have more fun.