By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south
Kevin Na is not my favourite player on the PGA Tour but I did enjoy his video that circulated around the practice days of the US Open, about the rough and how the Fescue grass was penalising.
Even funnier was Lee Westwood’s caddy, Billy Foster, who was able to disappear in the rough and then slowly swim through it to emerge on to the first cut of rough. This clearly showed how penalising the rough would be at the event and how it could change how the golfers would play the course.
On the Tuesday prior to the start of the tournament, I was surprised to see pictures on golf websites of more than 20 green-keeping staff cutting back the Fescue over a 200 metre stretch down one side of the fairway. I understand they did this on at least three other fairways.
So my questions are: “Was the golf course fairly set up?” and “How will the USGA’s reaction to a winning score of 16-under, affect how they set up the golf course in the future?”
It might have been a different story if the typical seasonal wind had blown or if the golf course was hard and bouncy as it normally would have been at this time of year. Thank goodness the wind didn’t blow too badly over the four days.
Personally, I believe that a team of past US Open champions should be involved in setting up major championship golf courses.
Brooks Koepka played unbelievably well, to shoot a final round of 67 where he hit 86 percent of all the fairways and hit 94 percent of the greens in regulation. The week prior he was ranked 179th in driving accuracy but I am still stunned how the course played out. How do four of the top five players in the world miss the cut? In the third round, Justin Thomas shot an amazing 63 thanks to two amazing three-wood shots that travelled close to 300 yards.
So, what about your course? On my travels earlier this year, I saw many golf courses set up in different ways but it’s important that most club courses need to focus on their own audience.
When I look at dotgolf, I can see that 50 percent of all New Zealand golfers have an average handicap of 19.9 or better. In my opinion, that means that your golf courses should ideally be set up to suit the 25 percent best golfers in your club (those with around a 14 handicap). Less than 10 percent of all golfers play off a 9 or better handicap.
Setting up a golf course suited to the 14 handicapper creates some challenges for the better players but also allows the 30 handicapper get around and enjoy the course. Cutting the rough away to be softer on the right-hand side of the fairway about 180 metres off the club tees is also a great option. This will go a long way to ensure that both the men and women enjoy their golf, especially when they hit those frustrating slices off the tee.
Our golf courses in New Zealand do not need a lot of rough. It’s not a lot of fun for most golfers, whether they’re members or green fee players, and it definitely slows up play having to spend ages trying to find your ball. Ultimately, catering a golf course to the majority of your clientele makes good commercial sense as well as making the course more fun. I have yet to see a green fee player walk off a golf course beaten up, who comes into the clubhouse saying “Wasn’t that fun, I want to do that again!”. Usually, it is “Forget this place, I wont’ be back!”
Now don’t even get me started about playing Saturday club golf off of the back tees in winter.