Mickelson Is Half Right About PGA Championship Set-Up

The natural look: the 8th hole at Narin & Portnoo

No need to deconstruct Phil Mickelson’s motives for criticizing the Atlanta Athletic Club layout as being detrimental to the popularization of golf. And it’s easy to dismiss his concern about it being unplayable for members: With the exception of the criminally insane among them, the members won’t be undergoing a test nearly as severe.


Yet there is something about the PGA Championship set-up tangentially related to static rates of public participation (although there’s also no reason to single it out). The most common term applied to the Highlands Course seems to be “immaculate.” Not only is the grooming preternatural, the water features, with their stone retaining walls, tell you that the course is highly sculpted, the terrain altered.


The acceptance of such conditioning as the game’s default standard has contributed to the golf industry’s current predicament via increased costs for course construction and maintenance. A recent trip to some great seaside links in the northwest of Ireland highlighted the alternative approach.


I know. Not all sites look like the Shannon Estuary or Broadhaven Bay. What’s more, any number of completely “fabricated” courses – Bayonne Golf Club springs to mind – are great layouts. Interestingly, though, even courses like Bayonne most often embrace a minimalist design esthetic.


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