As a very short man has told me many times, “Only one-tenth of one percent of golfers give a crap about golf course architecture. Not everyone’s a nut like you.”
He’s right. I know I have a problem. Where some people would walk a mile for a Camel (cigarette, not the animal), I’d walk a mile into the woods, again, to find green complexes from a deceased golf course that was mundane when it existed.
I also know that it is unfair to expect a significant number of golf writers to understand course design and so when they rave about the latest Tom Fazio design that has all the strategy of 40-yard sprint, I let it go.
There are times, however, when something needs to be said. A story on the the 50th anniversary of the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in the May 2013 issue of U.S. Airways Magazine is one of those articles.
In it, the author writes of the Gold Course, the 1963 Robert Trent Jones design: “Today the course still stands as one of the best examples of traditional golf-course architecture in the world.”
Robert Trent Jones could write eloquently about traditional architecture but when it came to putting his bulldozers where his pen was he failed spectacularly, producing modern golf courses that were heavy on penalty and light on strategy. Strategy is the most important component of all the great traditional designs.
Take a gander at the illustrated flyover of the holes and stop when you find strategy off the tee, other than the tactic of hitting the ball long and in the middle of the fairway. Every fairway bunker is in the rough. There are no cross or diagonal hazards.
Nearly every non-par-3 green is bottlenecked by bunkers in front, preventing all but the most perfect of run-up shots, at least on the holes where rough doesn’t cut off that play altogether. Most of the putting surfaces of those same holes are built up above the natural grade and have a sharp incline leading to the green top.
The four par-3s are all downhill requiring a shot over water and three over sand.
There is nothing traditional about any of it.