Based on Bill Amick’s article “More affordable golf
courses in the twenty-first century” in the book, Golf
Architecture, compiled and edited by Paul Daley.
Golf can be fun and it can be fascinating.
It should also be affordable. Affordability,
however, is relative and when applied to golf is more than just a pocketbook
matter. It also means having enough
time to play and an individual being able to cope with the challenges of the
game. Aspects of affordability are
strongly influenced by the golf courses played.
In the years ahead, will more or fewer people wanting to play golf be
able and feel encouraged to do so?
Fees at some courses today bar individuals, couples and
families from taking up golf, sticking with it or playing as often as they would
like. How long it takes to complete
a round can push away time-pinched workers and parents.
Also discouraged can be the impatient.
For beginners and even those who’ve been playing awhile, the game is
tough for gaining competency. Many
beginners and even highly dedicated golfers quit, especially if the golf holes
seem overly demanding to them. This
is the intimidation factor of golf. Occasional
pars are more motivating than mostly triple bogeys.
Golfers who have the time, a sufficient level of skill and enough money
believe golf is great. And to them
it is. But in the 21st
century will the current circumstance of such demands continue to turn away
large numbers of potential players?
One obstruction to beginners sticking to the game is the
dominance of “championship” courses with a par of around 72.
These are the courses seen on TV for professional tournaments, pictured
in publications and ranked as the top courses.
They require 150 to 180 acres (60 to 72 hectares) that must forever be
fertilized, spayed, mowed, aerated and all the rest in their maintenance.
And enough water is necessary each season for irrigating the main grassed
portions. Most of these courses are
meticulously manicured, not especially for enhancing their playing quality, but
for the sake of appearance. Property
taxes are paid annually on all that land and improvements.
The bottom line is obvious: a lot of money is required for creating and
keeping these big courses, money raised from its players.
This is fine for those who can afford that expense, the time for a round
and the fortunate ones with the talent to handle the challenge of these
traditional par-72 courses.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in the future there were
enough other types of golf courses which do not present those affordability
hurdles faced with par-72 courses? As
a golf course architect I constantly look for ways of designing more affordable
courses, yet still providing most of the benefits of those expensive layouts.
Like one model for all car buyers, one kind of golf course cannot be
expected right for all golfers and situations.
Other than the upscale par-72 course, below I outline several golf course
models. Each would save on the
initial construction cost leading toward lower playing fees.
Each model would reduce playing time for rounds and be designed to better
match the limited skill level of a greater number of golfers than the fancy
courses do. Some of these models
are familiar and some are brand new. On
all but one today’s playing equipment would be used. The final one mentioned requires fewer clubs, a different
ball that has been on the market since 1985 and some modification of the rules
due to the equipment. Because of
their real cost-saving advantages, in the future I believe these models should
receive consideration in the development of our new courses.
THE PUBLIC COURSE MODEL
The majority of courses opened in the 1990s and continuing
into the very early 21st century have been par-72 types less
affordable to many golfers and potential golfers. A way to make a new course less expensive is simple,
because many public courses have been this type for a couple of centuries.
These courses are not so trendy and spectacular-looking.
They are relatively short, easy to play, plainly constructed and not so
intensively maintained. They have
lower green fees, are faster to play unless crowded and not so discouraging to
golfers lacking high playing skills. These
18 hole courses can truly be termed more affordable.
THE NINE-HOLE MODEL
Much the same can be said about nine-hole courses with a
total par of around 36. Lots of
these exist in rural areas and near small towns.
A widespread prejudice is that a nine-hole course is not a legitimate
golf course to be built in urban and suburban areas even though available land
in those locations is usually scarce and expensive. Naturally these are where most of the population lives.
Nine-hole courses could help more people there find an acceptable home
course. Properly positioned pairs
of tee markers and two cups per green with separately colored flags for each
nine adds interest to a second round at these courses.
THE SMALLER SECOND COURSE MODEL
A smaller golf course along side a par-72 course is an
established concept and the two courses can compliment each other nicely.
This arrangement has been done more frequently in Europe than in the U.S.
The smaller course are labeled an executive, par-3 or pitch and putt
course. They can have 18, nine or
fewer holes. Pebble Beach has a
pitch and putt named the Peter Hay Course.
Augusta National has its nine-hole Par-3 and Pine Valley a Short Course.
These three indicate the appeal of a brother or sister course alongside a
famous course. In these instances
saving money was probably not a motivating factor in the smaller course.
In Scotland some high-profile courses have a wee links, including
Turnberry, Gleneagles and North Berwick. The
latter opened its Children’s Course in 1888.
At those and others in the birthplace of golf, reduced playing difficulty
allowing for quicker rounds and taking a limited amount of land may have been
the main reasons for those adding such courses.
Second courses can be looked upon as what beginner’s slopes or trails
are for starting skiers. According
to the National Golf Foundation, shorter courses in all kinds of situations are
so popular in Florida that they comprise close to 19% of that State’s more
than 1,260 total courses.
An accompanying course puts less demands on its users than
does the bigger course. This
instantly liked by beginners, families with children not ready for a longer
course and a number of other short hitters.
The concept is also attractive when utilized as a facility for
experienced golfers wanting to practice their short game, while waiting for a
tee time on the longer course, for golf teachers giving on-course instruction,
persons with a disability and for anyone who wants to walk but is not allowed to
on the main course. A smaller
course simply provides a variety of golfers an alternative and at a relatively
low cost by a course owner or developer. A
second course is often put on unused land and maintained with little extra
equipment and personnel. Usually no
additional buildings or parking area are required.
A second course is something like adding an extra room or porch to a
house. At a membership club an
accompanying course could even be open to the public for its extra revenue or as
a service to the surrounding community.
THE COMPACT COURSE MODEL
Many touring men pros regularly boom their tee shots over
300 yards (275 meters), which to them has turned traditional par 4 holes into a
drive and short iron approach shot. With
modern high-tech balls and clubs they typically reach nearly all par 5 holes in
two, sometimes using a middle-iron for their second shot.
Par 5s take the most land, are costliest and most inefficient in playing
time of the three kinds of holes. Today
to these players putting the former challenge back into par-72 courses would
require much longer holes than in the past, probably amounting to a total of
more than 8,000 yards (over 7300 meters). Doing
that would mean more land, further increasing their construction and maintenance
costs, plus increasing the playing time of a round even more. These are not in the interest of golf for any level of
player. The golf ball could be
reduced in length somewhat, restoring our classic courses to their original
difficulty and thus eliminating the need for new courses to be ever longer.
However, the ruling bodies of golf do not seem inclined to do this in the
Courses of a different configuration or composition of
holes could match up the current ability of the top performers along with that
of low, middle and high handicap amateurs, without having to change any
equipment, rules or procedures. Holes
could fit the distance for each golfer’s length and all golfers would use
approximately the same clubs on each hole.
This would be accomplished by a mix of holes and multiple tees placed to
accommodate the vast difference in hitting distance of golfers.
Then at the beginning of their round each golfer would only need to
select the markers suited to their game.
Other than tradition, there is nothing sacred or magical
about the composition of holes that produces a round with a par of around 72
from 18 holes. A “compact”
course model would have a suitable mix of par 4 and par 3 holes, while also
reducing the number of holes. Not
only do par 5 holes each take far more land, but they are the hardest at
locating tees to be equitable to all kinds of golfers.
Compact courses could be put on smaller parcels of land, have fewer
expensive greens to construct and maintain, with smaller fairway areas and be
faster to play. A driver could
still be hit six times during a round. Compact
courses could actually give a more uniform distribution of clubs used by all
golfers, instead of simply paying lip service to this cliché.
Significantly less time would be consumed by a round, shortened even more
because there would be no stopping at a “turn” for refreshments.
The entire reduction could better fit the concentration span and energy
limits of many weekend golfers. If
anyone wanted more golf per day, they would go play another 12-hole round.
As for all courses, principles of good design should be followed in
routing and designing the individual holes of compact courses.
A scorecard of a hypothetical compact course is shown
below. For simplicity’s sake only
three sets of tee markers are given here. For
an actual course other sets of markers would provide for a greater range of
golfers. Markers ‘A” are based
on golfers who hit their driver approximately 250 yards (229 meters), ‘B’
225 yards (206 meters) and ‘C’ 175 yards (160 meters).
ILLUSTRATIVE COMPACT COURSE SCORECARD
Yards given first. (Meters
Club(s) Typically Required
3 104 (95)
4 403 (369)
3 186 (170)
4 470 (430)
3 141 (129)
(350) 298 (272)
3 231 (211)
4 328 (300)
3 209 (191)
2 Iron/7 Fairwaymetal
4 380 (347)
3 164 (150) 147
4 448 (410) 403 (369) 313 (286)
Driver+3 Iron/9 Fairwaymetal
42 3,489 (3191)
3,139 (2871) 2,442 (2233)
THE CAYMAN BALL COURSE MODEL
“Cayman” courses are played with the distance-limited
Cayman ball. Beginners and
not-so-skilled golfers find the Cayman ball easier to get airborne, overcoming a
common problem experienced by many novices. The Cayman ball still requires most
of what else is involved in playing effectively with a golf ball and has
satisfactory flight characteristics except into a strong wind.
Not only is cayman golf a neat way for someone to learn what golf is
about, but existing golfers can find personal and competitive pleasure playing
it. Golfers must remember that all
other participants are similarly restricted in their distance and the ball will
not give exactly the same feel as they are accustomed to.
It has been proven by experienced golfers that playing the Cayman ball
does not ruin their regular golf game, so that excuse against trying it is not
valid. Golf always requires
constant adjustments and judgments.
Because of its lightness, the Cayman ball is safe to both
nearby people and property as contrasted to errant shots with the heavier and
faster-flying golf ball. Because of
this and the limited-flight of the Cayman ball, cayman holes can be not only
shorter and narrower but closer together than conventional golf holes.
Combined these make cayman courses tiny in comparison to conventional
golf courses. Since everything is
scaled down, cayman courses are also considerably easier to fit on odd-shaped
properties or unusual contours. Greatly
reduced land requirement, construction cost and area to be maintained are
affordable advantages of this enjoyable golf-like game also played on grass.
The following chart show something of what a cayman course scorecard
could look like.
ILLUSTRATIVE CAYMAN COURSE SCORECARD
Yards given first.
(Meters in parentheses.)
Club(s) Typically Required
4 232 (212)
3 114 (104)
4 268 (245)
3 103 (94)
4 202 (185)
4 254 (232)
3 128 (117)
110 (101) 3 Fairwaymetal
4 243 (222) 229 (209) 209 (191)
(1827) 1,878 (1719)
to the Cayman ball’s lightness, Cayman courses can be built close to
hotels, apartments and houses.|
AFFORDABLE ALTERNATIVE COURSES FOR TOMORROW
Not everyone can afford the sit-down time, menu prices and
has cultivated a taste for noted French cuisine. Not even connoisseurs want to dine in a fine restaurant every
meal. Neither does one size golf
course fit all golfers. The
traditional par-72 course will remain the standard membership, upscale daily fee
and resort model in the foreseeable future.
However, other models do exist to better satisfy the true needs of lots
of golfers. That market includes
young people without a large amount of money for recreation, families wanting to
play golf with their children, anyone of any age just coming into the game,
active retirees on a limited income, busy folks short of time but still desiring
healthful outdoor recreation, league players, occasional golfers on vacation or
in an event at a convention and students learning golf in school. There will be a bunch of golfer candidates who for whatever
reason aren’t comfortable at costly par-72 courses. Alternative models can furnish many golfers plenty of
enjoyment in the years to come!