Tiger's Impact

Tiger's Impact

Everyone knows what happened on Masters Sunday in 1986.  I was in my home watching the man I worked with win his sixth green jacket in spectacular fashion.  The most significant effect of 1986 was the several hundred thousand MacGregor Response putters that were sold after the tournament.  Tiger’s Sunday play this year in 2019 was more surgical than spectacular but the impact should be more wide spread than Jack’s win. 

The State of the Game

For ten years now many professionals in the golf business have been looking to diversify as a buffer to a stagnant golf industry.   Looking everywhere for more legs to add to the stool while trying to stay engaged in the core work that they are passionate about but for which there appeared to be shrinking demand.  Had golf just been overbuilt or had society changed and left golf behind?  Probably a bit of both.  The competition that was created was fierce and many golf facilities, golf companies and golf consultants did not make it.  The golf participation statistics had many questioning whether golf was a dying sport.  In fact, it had many questioning whether it made sense to be in the golf business at all.  The sell off of both private and public golf facilities has fueled a remarkable surge in the growth and development of golf course management and ownership companies.

The noteworthy thing about the downturn in golf is that from this negative we may have learned some things that will help us revitalize the golf business.  This troubling period has forced us to re-examine every aspect of the golf business and discover new ways to nurture this centuries old game back to health and in an exciting new direction.  But we had to answer some questions of which these are just a few.

How do we better introduce kids to the game?  
The short course with holes ranging from 30 to 125 yards is one that everyone can play and afford.  There is a great one at Pecan Hollow Golf Course.  www.pecanhollowgc.com

How do we get millennials interested in golf? 
To better fit their lifestyle introduce shorter golf play options (6, 9 and 12 holes), simpler rules, music in carts and technology into the mix.

How do we encourage women to play golf! 
It is important for them to have the right equipment and golf courses designed for learning the game without the intimidating atmosphere.  There is a fun par 30 nine hole golf course and onsite club fitting at Watters Creek.  watterscreekgolf.com/

How do we make golf practice more fun and interactive?  The best way is to provide larger practice ranges and short game areas with multiple options, angles and distinct targets.  Midland Country Club is a great example of a practice facility with something for everyone.  www.midlandcc.com/

How do we reduce the cost of maintenance and the use of water?  We can easily stop mowing from fence line to fence line and begin increasing non-maintained area without slowing down or negatively affecting play.

It's not that these amenities and strategies were not being created or addressed before 2008, but certainly we are less focused on the ROI potential of innovative golf strategies and more on providing the golf customer what they want.  There was a press release shared on the PGA of America website yesterday, which happened to be National Golf Day.  WE ARE GOLF, a coalition of the game’s leading associations and industry partners unveiled its new U.S. Golf Economy Report at the National Press Club in Washington, D. C.  The study, conducted by TEConomy partners, reported a 22% rise in activity directly driven by golf in 2016 compared to 2011.  Let's hope this is a sign that we are making an impact and that we are beginning to provide for an express lane into the game of golf.  It is a great game and can provide a lifetime of fun and friendships!


Golf Insights are written by Steve Wolfard. Steve is the chief principal designer and partner at Wolfard Golf Design. He focuses on architecture, routing, construction, agronomics and how these elements impact both the playability of the game he has loved his entire life and the business of the golf courses he has worked or collaborated on. Wolfard brings a personal and balanced approach to his clients that is built on trust as their project partner.    To learn how Steve can help your next project contact him directly at:  swolfard@wgolfd.com 

The Challenge of Course Set Up

The hand wringing over course setup at PGA tour venues always seems to hit a peak during U.S. Open week. During the U.S. Open, the USGA has a reputation of pushing the course setup limit and they did nothing to disparage that reputation last week at Shinnecock Hills. Many amateurs might enjoy watching the best players in the world struggle to make par, however Saturday afternoon was not good theater. Course conditions crossed the line Saturday from difficult to unfair.  
 
There are a couple of take away thoughts here. One is the length that a golf designer pushes the strategic difficulty of a golf course to challenge the best players does not always marry with elements of course setup or maintenance practices. There were a couple of 66s posted Saturday, albeit in the morning before the wind dried the greens and some of the pin locations became unreachable. Shinnecock has long been recognized as one of the best golf courses in the world and is designed to play hard and fast. When Coore and Crenshaw removed many of the trees in the recent restoration they exposed the course to the wind as per the original William Flynn design. It wasn’t the golf courses design elements that were unfair; it was the agronomic and strategic setup. Still, challenging these guys sometimes requires a course setup that pushes the limit.

US Open Course Review 2018. It’s important to walk the course.

US Open Course Review 2018. It’s important to walk the course.

The second takeaway when reflecting on championship caliber tournament preparation is how much the course setup can affect the opinions of the participants about the golf course and it’s design. An architect designs a golf course typically with a myriad of ways to play it.  It is the intent of the architect that the course setup explores all the options of the golf course. I have experienced this with the Byron Nelson Championship when it was held at TPC Four Seasons in Irving, Texas. Upon our urging, the PGA Tour staff used some of the options we incorporated into the renovation of the golf course in their tournament setup, but on many days, they did not adjust the golf course setup to better enhance the playability, particularly when there was wind. The setup negatively affected the performance of the players and their attitude toward the golf course as much or more than the actual design. I believe the architect would be a valuable resource when determining course setup.
 
Variety is an extremely important golf course design component - maybe the most important. However, if the persons in charge of setup, either for a tournament or just daily play, do not pay attention, the golf course could garner a reputation it does not deserve.

CLICK IMAGE TO SEE PHIL Tap it, Hit it, Tap it again!

CLICK IMAGE TO SEE PHIL Tap it, Hit it, Tap it again!


Golf Insights are written by Steve Wolfard. Steve is the chief principal designer and partner at Wolfard Golf Design. He focuses on architecture, routing, construction, agronomics and how these elements impact both the playability of the game he has loved his entire life and the business of the golf courses he has worked or collaborated on. Wolfard brings a personal and balanced approach to his clients that is built on trust as their project partner.    To learn how Steve can help your next project contact him directly at:  swolfard@wgolfd.com 

Balance in Golf Design: Part I

The common denominator in successful projects?

The focus of this two part series is to address the concept of balance in golf course design.  Not the balance that should be an intricate part of routing, strategy or hazard location, but the balance necessary within a design team.  As a former superintendent and now designer, I have worn multiple design team hats and have seen my share of balanced and unbalanced projects.  For the superintendent who will ultimately be responsible for maintaining the golf course, this issue is incredibly important.  Maybe even the difference between success and failure.  There has been a great deal of attention directed as to the influence that golf design has on the ability of superintendents to successfully maintain their golf courses.  Entire books could be written on the design and maintenance of each single component of a golf course, but let's consider the general issue of the balance required between golf design and golf maintenance.  

Not to disparage the magic that can happen in the field, but the most important phase of the design process for renovation/restoration or new course design is the planning phase.  This phase involves the development of the Master Plan or the Design Development Plan and includes most of the decisions that establish the “road map” for successfully meeting the goals and objectives of the project.  I learned early on in my Golden Bear years that it is important during this phase that a balanced team is put in place to make these decisions.  We have all been a part of or have knowledge of projects where the superintendent, engineer, irrigation designer or golf architect is left out of the early planning and the project becomes slanted or unbalanced as a result.  

Midland Bunkering Crew

The focus of the planning phase is to clarify and then satisfy the objectives that the golf developer, the club or the municipality have for their golf course.  The focus is not what decisions can the team make to satisfy the architects’ ego or what needs to happen to make the superintendent’s job as easy as possible.  If the developer has a goal to build a golf course that will be distinctive and unique, then certain maintenance concessions and/or commitments may be required to accomplish this.  If a municipality has a goal to upgrade their golf course in comparison to the competition, the historical mentality of their approach to golf course maintenance may have to be adjusted.  The point is, that the role of the individual superintendent and the superintendent industry should be to provide information and comment but not to dictate all the parameters that could handcuff the creativity of the design team.  Limiting the design creativity for maintenance simplicity, can result in golf courses that are uninspiring to look at and boring to play resulting in a lack of repeat business.  Conversely, a golf course that is too expensive to maintain versus revenue is also a loser. Anyone who plays the game has a love/hate relationship with bunkers.  Golf course superintendents probably fall on hate end of the ledger.  In Part II we will discuss how superintendents can be a part of the bunker design process.


Golf Insights are written by Steve Wolfard. Steve is the chief principal designer and partner at Wolfard Golf Design. He focuses on architecture, routing, construction, agronomics and how these elements impact both the playability of the game he has loved his entire life and the business of the golf courses he has worked or collaborated on. Wolfard brings a personal and balanced approach to his clients that is built on trust as their project partner.    To learn how Steve can help your next project contact him directly at:  swolfard@wgolfd.com