ScotAGCA Respond to Huggan's Article

John Huggan hits the nail on the head……………………

In his article in the Scotland on Sunday on 29th April Mr Huggan was baring his teeth in his usual passionate manner. This time about a subject that is very close to the heart of our members at ScotAGCA. The crux of his article is based around the obsession with how far professionals hit the ball these days and the impact this has on ordinary golfers. One of the impacts he explains…………

"……………at least unqualified and invariably ignorant club committees across the land have wasted untold amounts of money building barely visible back tees, inappropriate water hazards and countless badly-placed bunkers."

It will be no great surprise that our ScotAGCA members have been preaching this for years, but not quite with so many adjectives as Mr Huggan! Nonetheless we do agree with his views in terms of a serious problem that has affected our existing golf courses and how this may be affecting our golf club memberships.

In our visits to clubs to discuss issues and attempt to provide advice on how courses should be set up to provide enjoyment and a fair challenge to all levels of golfer, we do hear how committees like our ideas but…. "as long as the course is not shortened", especially if a course is teetering on the so-called "crucial" 6000 yard mark. The vast majority of our courses in Scotland are close to this mark and in many cases the desire to get over the mark has focussed many clubs on pushing back tees. There is clear evidence at many holes where tees have been pushed back that the hole is made much less interesting. Excellent views from the tee are lost and often replaced by a tee shot where the target areas and hazards are blind.

This is not necessarily a current theme. It is clear that original designs have been changed over many years and perhaps a 400 yard par 4 which is now blind of the tee was once, many years ago, a 350 yard par 4 with an excellent view. But any suggestion of returning to that excellent hole is met with an almost "you cannot be serious" response. Indeed architects now tend to refrain from suggesting such an idea as a "serious proposal" on the basis that a club may consider him unworthy of the title Golf Course Architect!

Oddly when we discuss golf course architecture informally with golfers and committee members virtually everyone agrees that many shorter golf holes are more enjoyable and these can also be challenging. There are many examples out there of fantastic short holes that present tough challenges to quality golfers, even the pros. Unfortunately the pros tend to be quoted in the media as suggesting that a hole or finishing stretch is "great" when they often use the words, "tough", "long" and "tight" to describe that they mean. This can convey a message to the golf architecture world that this is what makes a great golf hole.

Mr Huggan makes some good points relating to what we are losing by making holes longer without consideration to the aspects that make a good golf hole. Strategy of play, having to think about the tee shot and how best to negotiate the challenges that lie between tee and green are being superseded by a fear that the distance a ball can be hit will make the shorter hole too easy.

This is where getting the right advice is crucial to the success of our courses. Anyone who takes on the role of golf course architect at a club whether that be the Club Captain, committee member, Greenkeeper, professional or "our best golfer who knows about these things!" may consider that the longer the course is the more that suggests that it is a quality course and therefore the more that members and visitors will enjoy playing. Anyone calling himself a Course Architect can design a 475 yard par 4 hole that is tough to play. That is not where the skill lies. Have a client ask a designer to create a 375 yard hole that is challenging and exciting to play for all levels of player and then we can judge the architect. These are the holes that will tempt players to return and play over and over again.

So when Mr Huggan states….

"Where once architects set out to give players choices and room to involve their imaginations, there is now too often no choice of shot and certainly no incentive to try anything out of the ordinary. Which is just one more reason why people are currently leaving our golf clubs at an alarming rate. When someone other than the player is deciding what shot he/she should hit, the game is a lot less fun."

… we can only agree BUT our ScotAGCA architects reject the suggestion that all architects are to blame for this problem!


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