Sunday, October 28, 2012

Skiing's Lesson for Golf's Governing Bodies

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has done the unthinkable...changed an equipment policy in the face of controversy. Maybe the USGA, PGA Tour and the R&A can learn something from the FIS.

To put this in simple terms, the FIS changed their Giant Slalom ski specifications, taking them back 20 or 25 years in technology. Does this sound like something the powers of golf should pay attention to? Now, the FIS did this to help reduce injuries and whether or not it's going to do that remains to be seen.  But the FIS did what they thought was right, period end of story, despite the fact that the world class competitive skiers and manufacturers in general may not have been pleased with the decision.

I suspect that the FIS could care less what equipment and technologies non competitive skiers use to pursue improvement in their sport. And the USGA and R&A shouldn't spend any time worrying about what technologies that the 99.99% of golfers utilize to increase their enjoyment of the game.

Golf and the challenges that technology have placed upon our sport aren't safety issues but they have caused the vast majority of our storied golf venues to become virtually obsolete and outdated for championship golf. Something needs to be done with the golf ball and the USGA and R&A need to show some intestinal fortitude and begin to protect the game at its highest level.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Golf's Ground Game versus Minimalist Aesthetics

Ground Attack Encouraged
A Suny Zokol Golf Design Master Plan Rendering

Faux links playability has taken over pop golf design culture. When you see some wild looking golf course with fescue waving in the air, you just believe that you will be getting a links experience. A true links experience is one that not only accepts the ground game but often calls for or even demands it to gain an advantage, while penalizing the air attack with some degree of regularity.

A Suny Zokol Golf Design Master Plan calling for the Aerial Attack

And it's always been interesting to me that a minimalist and or links looking golf course is generally assumed to be firm and fast and receptive to the ground game, purely on how it looks. Minimalist golf and the ground game are not necessarily mutually inclusive. There are many examples of great looking rugged golf courses that show all of the signs of being links like in playability but the design has greens perched up in the air and running approach shots simply cannot be played...these greens still require an aerial or conventional approach. Mind you, these course may be great but are they as receptive to the ground game as they could be or should be if they are purported to be links?

Every time you raise another green up to that dramatic site as you route the course you become less accommodating to the ground game. I don't think that we should avoid all elevated or "up" green sites but we shouldn't default to the easy drama every time either.

So the next time you play a purported links course, think about the courses receptiveness to running ground shots. Is it links golf or is it faux links?

Renderings by Maren Suny