• Richard Mandell

The People Have Spoken

The people have spoken! They don’t mind walking to the opposite side of the golf hole from the cart path in order to tee off! Thanks, I needed that in a big way. That was just another one of those things that have been chafing at me for years. If you are too lazy to walk a measly twenty paces or so to play the golf hole from the correct angle, then play ping-pong! “But NOOOO, golfers won’t want to walk too far from their precious cart. “We can’t do that!”


I was the guest speaker a few weeks ago at a joint dinner of the South Carolina Raters Panel and the Carolinas Golf Writers Association in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. These are two groups golf architects would certainly benefit from knowing yet I knew my topic may ruffle a few feathers. The name of my talk was titled, “When Aesthetics Dominates Strategy Design Becomes Decoration” and the gist of the discussion was that there is more to the ‘wow’ factor of golf course design and that ‘wow’ factor usually is not ever-lasting. As a result, if there is no basic strategic value to a golf course (or hole) then there is no place for that course in any “best of” lists.


Bottom line is that the golf course ratings game has played a big part in hurting the golf business. Many developers set their sights on being successful because their golf courses may be part of a “Top 100” and what evolved over the past few decades amounted to a sort of arms race among golf courses. It costs a lot of money to participate in an arms race (as Reagan and Gorbachev can certainly attest to) and those costs usually are covered by the golfers (or taxpayers, right?). In addition to the high cost of golf passed on to the golfer, many of the wants and desires of the golfer seemed to have been pushed aside in place of what garners high rankings.


At the conclusion of my presentation I was afforded the opportunity to answer questions from the audience. One particular question posed by a woman referenced golf architect’s desire to always place tees next to cart paths at all costs. I, apparently in the minority among designers, do not subscribe to that philosophy and told her I vehemently opposed such measures. I also shared with her that I was always under the impression that was a demand from the golfer.


Well, apparently, the golfers in this room vehemently opposed such a convenience as well. In fact, I asked for a show of hands of people who would rather have their tee boxes conveniently placed next to the cart path for the shortest possible walk and only three people raised their hands. I then asked the crowd if they preferred their tee boxes located based on the design of the hole, regardless of any requisite walk from the cart path. Everyone else (almost eighty) voiced their support for the latter.


Well, I had quite a conundrum on my hands at that point. See, I have been saying that very thing for years only to hear countless developers and greens chairmen cite short walks when I proposed tee boxes on opposite sides of the cart path. Yet in this room of critics and reporters, who were also golfers, there was a far majority of naysayers to the contrary. This was great news to me as I saw common ground among us in favor of design over convenience.


It seems more often than not that a tee box should be placed opposite the cart path for a variety of reasons. These range from not blocking the view of the golf hole from tees behind to topographical challenges to strategy. In addition, a ribbon of concrete crossing a golf hole is tantamount to graffiti in my mind and I will avoid it at all costs, especially if it means a golfer may have to walk a few extra feet.


Usually the ones fighting this opposite-side battle cite slow-play as an issue. Technically it may take a bit longer but let’s face it – there are many other causes to slow play from course routing to course set-up. I felt vindicated on a stance I long thought was a short-sighted copout by many for no apparent reason other than laziness.


So now that I am on this self-esteem roll, I started thinking about what other little myths about design or course set-up that the industry believes in yet the golfers don’t exist are out there? Let me hear from you on this subject. What things irk you that architects do? How about things operators do that you are convinced are a waste of time? Either you can respond here at the Washington Times Communities or e-mail me at richardmandell@golf-architecture.com. I look forward to helping break apart these “rules of convenience” over design.


About Richard: Richard Mandell runs Richard Mandell Golf Architecture in Pinehurst, North Carolina (www.golf-architecture.com). Educated as a Landscape Architect at the University of Georgia (he is licensed in both North and South Carolina), Richard has close to two decades’ experience in designing new golf courses and renovating existing ones. Richard may also be the only golf architect in the world who is a certified arborist. He co-hosts a weekly golf radio talk show in Pinehurst and continues to teach a class on Golf Architecture at North Carolina State University which he started in 1997. Mr. Mandell also wrote the award-winning book, Pinehurst ~ Home of American Golf - The Evolution of a Legend (International Network of Golf Book of the Year – 2007).


Richard Mandell has been a Golf Content Creator for the Washington Times Communities since October 20, 2008

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