Feature Interview with Steve Smyers
Inspiredby watching the great golfers perform in the major championships, Steve Smyersbecame both an avid golfer and a well trained student of the great golf courses of the world. Steve attended the University of Florida on a golf scholarship and played on the golf team from 1971 – 75. He continues to compete in major amateur tournaments in the U.S. and has competed in major amateurs events in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Africa.
Upon graduation from the University of Florida, Steve served as an Associate Architect and in 1984, formed his own firm. Since then he has designed projects around the world. Steve’s wife, Sherrin, is a member of the LPGA Tour and actively competed from 1985 – 97. She is also a guest commentator on The Golf Channel. Steve and Sherrin live in Lakeland, Florida with their two sons, Trent, 11 and Scott, 9.
1. What inspired you to get into the golf architecture business?
I always had a fondness or love for golf and golf course design. I think my real, first fascination came in 1966 when I was 13 and I was watching the British Open Championship on TV. The Championship was being held at Muirfield that year. Jack Nicklaus was the eventual champion. But what I remember the most was the high brown fescue grass, brown fairways, lots of wind and a firm playing surface. All of this absolutely fascinated me!
Then in 1969 I caddied in the U.S. Open for Miller Barber at Champions Golf Course in Houston, Texas. I remember being on the practice range listening to all the players talk about the course and what separated it from all the other courses they competed on. The one comment that has always stuck in my
mind was one made by Lee Trevino. He said a great golf course would require great shot-making and at Champions, in order to play well, you needed to be able to execute a variety of golf shots. He then proceeded to practice every imaginable shot possible. That really stuck with me.
2. How were you awarded the Wolf Run Project? What were your thoughts on the property when you first saw it?
Jack Leer, the owner/developer, and I got to know one another in 1984 at U.S. Mid-Amateur, which was being contested at Atlanta Athletic Club in Atlanta, Georgia. I was just forming my own business at the time and Jack took a liking to me as he and Pete Dye were good friends. He had spent a lot of time with Pete and had a fascination with the profession and with golf course design in general. Jack had spent a lot of time with Pete during his early years as a golf course architect.
The following spring Jack called me and said. ‘The next time you’re in Indianapolis, I’ve got a piece of property that I want you to see. I want to know if you think it is suitable for golf.’ Well, at that point in time I
had never been to Indianapolis, Indiana, in my life! But, as fate would have it, I was going there the next day as my wife Sherrin was a rookie on the LPGA Tour and the Tour was in Indianapolis that week competing.
Jack and I spent three days walking the land and talking about golf and golf courses. The good news was that Jack and I got along real well and he asked me to get involved with the project. The bad news was that I never really saw my wife on that trip! She wasn’t too happy.
Anyway, for the next year Jack and I worked on the project, drawing plans and trying to attract members and investors. Unfortunately, or fortunately, things didn’t quite work out. We had a great piece of property, a great concept, but needed more time. Jack’s option ran out on the land. Though we lost the property, we kept our dream alive. We realized that a lot of progress had been made and that there was a strong demand for a club of this nature. After looking at several other parcels of land, we settled on the one Wolf Run is currently on. What separated this property from the rest was the variety and the landscape. The majority of the site was a flat cornfield but a portion was heavily wooded and within the woods were a bluff and a creek. Our goal was, when the course opened, we wanted it to appear as though it was 100 years old.
I wanted the landscape to be the dominant feature and the course to just lie within the landscape. I told Jack we could use the different ‘environments’ to create the variety and strategy in the course. Jack accepted those ideas and shortly thereafter was able to attract Jack Lupton, who had developed the Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as an investor.
After two years of work and dreams, we broke ground in 1987 and opened the course in June of 1989.
3. How did the reduction of greenside rough and the addition of chipping areas come to pass at Wolf Run?
Growing up and playing high school and junior golf in Texas, automatic irrigation was non-existent. All slopes around the putting surfaces had inconsistent stands of turfgrass. Because of this one would often be forced to play different shots. I remember playing in a junior tournament in Austin with Ben Crenshaw. It was a very windy, cool day and we both used our putters well over 40 times. Whenever any of us missed a green we would either play a bump-and-run with a 5-, 6- or 7-iron or use a putter. Then throughout my college days at the University of Florida, we were forced to play these shots for many of the same reasons.
I remembered Jack Nicklaus in the 1970 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach playing a brilliant bump-and-run from a bare lie through thick rough on the 12th hole during the final round. He went on to win the championship.
Automatic irrigation was not introduced into the top courses in America until around 1970 or so. If I’m not mistaken, Pine Valley and Augusta first installed their automatic systems in 1970. These were the premier courses with the most money. Most courses couldn’t afford extensive irrigation until at least 10 years later.
Jack Leer and I both grew up playing under those conditions and wanted those options. Greenside rough, we felt, was redundant. If the rough is not too long and thick, it is a very easy shot for an accomplished player. Water lacked options and the opportunity to recover. I feel strongly that creativity and shot-making skills are stimulated when chipping areas are introduced and not water hazards and high rough.
Just before we started building Wolf Run I competed in the British Amateur at Prestwick and later that year I traveled with my wife to her native Australia. There we played and studied all the sandbelt courses in Melbourne. Both of these trips reminded me of my youth playing golf paying the penalty for missing the green, sometimes so severe that the ball would hit a slope and run some 30 to 40 yards away from the putting surface. Then you were faced with a very difficult shot, more difficult than if the ball had landed in a greenside bunker. Because of these two trips, my feelings for chipping areas were reinforced and even today are a very integral part of my designs.
4. The bunkering at Wolf Run is highly distinctive, wild look to them. What inspired you to build such rugged bunkers?
The bunkering style evolved really out of a combination of objectives, those objectives being to build and maintain a very cost-effective, demanding and rustic-looking golf course. In order to achieve this, special
attention was focused on picking features of the land – little hillsides, ridges and swales – and building the putting surfaces and bunkers to make those features ‘pop out’ at the golfer. Allowing the fescue grasses and bunkers to interlock gives the course a real connection with the natural landscape and makes the course feel as though it fits into and becomes part of the surrounding landscape.
5. Golf was largely a ground game for the first half of the 20th century and it became an aerial one in the last half of the century. How important is the ground game in your designs?
Firstly, as I stated earlier, automatic irrigation was really not introduced until the early 1970s. As a matter of fact, my first job was to go around Sharpstown Country Club in Houston and turn on the manual irrigation throughout the course. I was in high school at the time (’69 -”71) and most of us on the golf team worked on the course in the summertime. The irrigation only watered down the middle of the fairways, and usually during the summer the edges would get very dry and hard. We would all play a big hook, trying to land the ball just outside the irrigated area, take a few big bounces in the rough and, because of the hook spin the ball would land back onto the fairway, sometimes get an extra 40 to 50 yards off the tee.
Yes, I am a believer in the ground game but I try to be reasonable as well. If the site conditions are right I will implement the concept. But in some areas, hard and fast is really not achievable, such as New Orleans, where the land is situated below sea level and is extremely humid, and receives about 90 inches of rainfall per year. But if I have the right site and conditions, I really try to design for and encourage the use of the ground game. I think that it adds interest and variety to the game. Introducing this element stimulates shot-making and course management. The accomplished player must match the right shot with the situation and then execute that option. The high-handicapper, on the other hand, does not put the ball in the air very well and plays the game along the ground. If the average players can manage themselves properly, they can use the ground to their advantage. Bringing the ground into play is more challenging to the accomplished player, and the higher-handicapper seems to be better able to maneuver themselves around the course.
A good example is Old Memorial in Tampa. Last year they held the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier there and had the highest qualifying score in the country. On the other side of the coin, the handicaps of the members are lower at Old Memorial than at their other clubs.
6. What control do you as an architect have to help insure that firm playing conditions continue to exist well after you leave a project?
This is a very good question. The people who hire me are already in tune with this concept. As an example, I’ll use Ivan Lendl and his partner, David Rosow, for whom I am designing a course in Connecticut. They very much are lovers of this style of play and we spent three years looking for the ideal site so that the wind and bounce would be an integral part of the game and design. On a side note, we are on the second year of permitting and hope to be under construction later this year.
But to answer your question, it is very important that everybody involved share the vision. I work with and educate the entire staff, explaining to them why all the bumps and rolls are where they are and how they interact with the wind and the strategy of the golf. Usually, after a few sessions, they embrace the concept.
Everyone understands the benefits to themselves and to the property. The superintendent understands that he doesn’t have to have lush green all the time. The golf pro understands the benefit from the playability perspective. And the owners and managers embrace the concept because it separates them from the other courses in the area. This is a real marketing tool. The ‘sell’ is not as hard as you might believe or once thought; it’s just more of an education process. The golf writers have done an excellent job in the last 10 years or so getting this concept out to the golfing public. Lorne Rubenstein just wrote an excellent article for The Toronto Globe on this point.
7. What courses impress you with how they have stood up against advances in technology? Are there lessons to be learned from any of the common characteristics of those courses?
There are only a few courses that have really stood up against advances in technology. Golf holes that once were designed to be played with a driver and a mid-iron are now being played by the accomplished players with an iron and pitch shot. The way the old courses are defending themselves are through green speed, firmness and tucking the pins. That doesn’t mean the course is not enjoyable or is not good, but I don’t believe it defines the best player, or provides the total examination.
In order to maintain their original design integrity, a few of the old courses have added length over the years. Because the design was fundamentally sound to begin with, only minor alterations were needed to provide that ultimate examination. A great example is Augusta National. What they did at Augusta was absolutely brilliant, inpart becausethey reintroduced shotmaking by making the players have to move the ball both ways. By lengthening and narrowing the course, they were able to truly identify the best. People will say the design played right into Tiger’s hand and my answer is, ‘Yes, it did, because he is simply the best.’
Other courses that have added length are: Winged Foot, Oakmont, Southern Hills, Merion, St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Royal Melbourne – just to name a few. These are all great classics and, with only slight alterations, can be great tests through the ages.
These and other great courses have several common ingredients: strategy, risk/reward, course management, and mental labor. The great courses will ask the great players to understand the shot at hand. They require the golfer to study the lie, feel the wind, read the ground they are hitting to, and use their imagination. Then they ask the golfer to trust their instincts and execute the shot. Golf courses with these ingredients always stand the test of time.
8. How do you make a course challenging for a man who can carry the ball 290 yards?
I think this is a continuation of the previous question. I still believe that shot-making is the key to test any player. Make them maneuver the ball off the tee and put themselves in the ideal position for the next shot.
Augusta is full of such instances. A great example was the last round of this year’s Masters. Vijah Singh laid up too close on No. 15. He had a short pitchfrom a downhill lie to an elevated green over water. The result was two balls in the water. Tiger, on the other hand, laid well back and had a full shot down to the green. He almost holed it.
Another great example was at the Bob Hope Classic, when Phil Mickelson was in a playoff with David Berganio. Berganio had a 4-iron from a downhill lie over water to the green. He tried to hit a normal stock 4-iron, hit it fat and went into the lake. Afterward he said, ‘The lie got me.’ That’s what I mean: Execute the proper shot for the occasion. That is how we, as designers, can really test the accomplished player. We take the wind, the lay of the land and the contours that we develop so that they either aid you or penalize you. On that note, the higher-handicapper is not penalized as severely as the accomplished player, as he or she can advance their ball and if a slope pushes it 5 yards left or right, it doesn’t punish them too much.
My answer is, let them hit it long, but let’s test their ability to control the ball, improve their game, use their creativity, and provide a strong test of their mental capabilities.
The main thing is shot-making strategy and make that person read the golf course, feel the course and execute the proper shot for the occasion. The best example of a classic course is probably Pine Valley. At Pine Valley, if you don’t match the shot for the occasion it can absolutely reach up and grab you. You can hit a lot of good shots there, but if you don’t hit the right shot for the occasion, you’ve shot a high score.
10. Some golf course architects have been excellent players (Charles Blair Macdonald) and others have been not so excellent (Seth Raynor). You are an ace player. How does that manifest itself in your designs?
Firstly, let me say this. I don’t think you have to be a great player to be a great designer. Design is all about creating a look and feel; it is about developing shapes and patterns and creating flow, rhythm, and balance. It is knowing how to utilize what God has created and about creating in God’s manner. And when you do have to create, you must know how to give a warm, comfortable feeling. But shot-making is a very important part of the game. Just by infatuation and fascination with it, I have gone out and watched the great players from Hogan, whom I watched a lot, to Jimmy Demeritwho was a great shot-maker and I actually learned from him a bit in his days at The Champions in Houston. Lee Trevino is my all-time favorite! Of the modern players – Nick Price, Nick Faldo of course, and Corey Pavin are great shotmakers.
But in order to understand those shots, and have a good feeling, you either have to watch it or you have to do it. I’ve done both. The casual critic doesn’t really pick up on the subtleties in our designs. But the master player, who wants to go out and attack our course, can understand the strategy and the risk-reward, and can understand that when we design, we take into account the wind, and we contour the fairway to match the contour of the green. Because of the years of hitting those shots and experimenting with this, I’ve got a very good feel of how the golf ball will react off a certain lie, with certain wind conditions, and what the options would be. Those factors come into a play as well.
11. Pick a favorite hole that you have designed and explain why it is equally fun for the ‘Tiger Golfer’ and the duff.
I don’t know that I have a favorite hole, but one that immediately comes to mind is the 13th at Old Memorial. It’s a 320-yard par-4, and every fall they host a college tournament there with 30 of the top teams in the country, with five players on each team. You have 150 collegians playing that golf course and, the first year, the 13th hole had the highest stroke average in relation to par on the golf course. It’s a simple, risk-reward hole. You’ll never lose your golf ball on it, but if you do go for itand don’t position it just right, there’s all sorts of little trouble shots that you have to hit around the green. And they’re not even trouble shots, just little shots that you have to hit. If not executed properly, the ball can get away from you and you could make a 5 or 6.
But the higher-handicappers love it. If they play the golf hole to the right side of the fairway, the golf hole comes up wonderfully and they can hit a little pitch on the hole and can more easily make a 4 on that hole than the low-handicapper who hits it down just a little left of the green maybe and has a very difficult shot. If you really play it conservatively, like a higher-handicapper would, the par is an easy score to shoot, and even a birdie from that perspective.
12. What freedom did the severely limited play at Asherwood (less than 20 rounds a week) allow you to pursue in regards to design features?
Asherwood in itself is a unique story. For those people who don’t know, we had a gentleman who is an avid golfer who was 70 years old and wanted to build a golf course on his own property. His marching orders to me were: ‘Listen, I’ve got a lot of friends who come and see me from all around the country and they are very good golfers, so I want this golf course to be challenging for them.’
So our mission was to make the course so this elderly gentleman could get around and play it, but it would be interesting and enjoyable for his friends who are excellent golfers, a lot of them pros. We had 85 acres. The course ends up with 13 greens, 10 fairways, 27 tees that basically comprise a 27-hole golf course. The fascinating thing is that we will use different tees where you can play one hole one particular way to a green location on the right or maybe a green location on the left. So we’re using the same fairway and bunkering in that manner; but on the third nine, you come around and play the golf course from the opposite direction. The challenge of that was to make the bunkering visible from both angles. We wanted to be strategic in both directions and we wanted the putting surfaces to set up for an approach shot from, say, the north and a shot coming in from the south. Some greens even have an approach coming from three directions – north, south and east! So it took a lot of tinkering and a lot of thought, but in the end it came together and is a unique golfing experience.
On that note, this gentleman was getting up in years and he decided it might be nice for him to have a little par-3 short course, where he could take his grandchildren out. So we built him an 18-hole short course last summer. It’s fully grown in and he will be playing golf on it this spring. It’s an interesting scenario: a self-made gentleman who absolutely loves the game brings in people who also love the game. And we provide all the shot-making that one could ask for on that course.
13. Which golf course (that you didn’t design) is a personal favorite that readers may not be familiar with? What do you like so much about it? Do you have a favorite architect of all time?
One of my personal favorites is Charleston Country Club, a Seth Raynor design, set around the same time as Yeamans Hall. Yeamans Hall gets a lot of acclaim and rightfully so, but Charleston Country Club has a certain charm and fascination to me. It’s out on the point, in the bay. The wind blows there quite a bit. Sandy soil, 18 fabulous putting surfaces with all sorts of variety, not one the same. The routing is very rhythmic, takes you on a wonderful journey around the property and always uses the wind from a different direction. The par-3s are absolute stunners – fantastic! I don’t even mind the controversial 11th hole, even though they have redone it this past year. I thought it was pretty fascinating. It was a reverse Redan and through the years got a little tight up top where it was very difficult to go at the green. As a matter of fact, a lot of people in the Championship will lay up and then chip up, but it always attracted a big crowd and was always a point of discussion. But that golf course really, really just fascinated me. Just with the variety and what-not. Time unfortunately has passed it by a little bit for the accomplished player, but for the country club player it is still a pleasure; easy to walk, easy to traverse through and just a wonderful experience. I think that’s a bit of a sleeper golf course.
Of course, that is an old classic course. How can you go against what Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw did at Sand Hills and Tom Doak at Pacific Dunes? Absolutely wonderful golf courses at the cutting edge of their times. As is what Mike DeVries did up at Traverse City (Mich.) with The Kingsley Club. These courses are going to help define a new era in golf course design. We are moving away from the esthetic age, toward the strategic age, which is really a return to the roots of the game.
We have gone through different stages in design and I think the recognition of those three courses will establish a point in time at which golf course design made a transition back to the roots of the game.
Having said that, you asked who is my favorite designer of all time. I think there is something to be learned from everyone. I truly do. You look at the old designers, the Rosses, the Mackenzies, the Tillinghasts, and the guys of that generation. What was so brilliant with them was that they were tuned into the site. And they tried to create a rhythm and flow and to use the bunkering, not only to set up strategy but to make the land POP OUT! This allowed the golfer to read the land and they would do all this in such a manner that it just had a rhythmic and natural feel. There is a lot to learn from how they would route a golf course to create a trip they took you through.
There are a lot of modern day guys as well. You look at guys like Jay Morrish; there is a lot to learn from the shapes and patterns he developed and how pleasing they are. Rees Jones, who is kind of a leader in developing golf courses for modern day competition. Tom Fazio, who is able to take a site and create something from it; of course it takes money but he and his crew are brilliant at doing that.
And what is there not to love about Pete Dye? Pete is innovative, and I think the real thing that you learn from Pete is that in our profession you have to live your life on the edge. If you look back at all the old designers, Tillinghast, Mackenzie, Charles Blair Macdonald all lived their lives on the edge in design. And Pete was probably the leader in our generation.
Every once in a while, you step over that edge and you basically screw up! But if you are on that edge, that’s when you can come up with something unique. That’s why, from our generation, I love to look at the work of guys like Tom Doak, Dana Fry and Bill Coore, whose Hidden Creek is an absolutely brilliant piece of architecture. There is something to learn from everyone!
14.Nick Faldo said the 12th through the 15th at Wolf Run is as hard a four hole stretch as he’s ever seen and yet it’s the tiny greens at the 7th and 16th that give the course much of its appeal. Just how small are those greens? What inspired you to build them?
It’s kind of interesting. I was sitting there when Nick said that. Then he continued that, under pressure, 16 was about as hard a little pitch as he’d ever seen. I said to him, ‘Well, Nick, you don’t really understand how hard No. 11 is because that is as hard a golf hole as you will ever find.’ He followed up with: ‘Well, 17, I can see an easy par there, but 18 is awful difficult.’ So we continued the conversation in that manner, but the 7th and the 16th greens are small. The 7th green is 2,300 square feet and the 16th green is 3,000 square feet.
The 7th is just a 298-yard par-4 and we wanted to make it drivable. Although, last fall we went in and added a tee back some 30 yards. But you do have your options there. You can try to drive it over the creek and onto the green. Or you can lay up, and then face a testy little pitch shot. And that’s what we wanted: a precise chip to a green on which you are hitting from an elevated bailout area down to a putting surface, with the green on the stream, with the prevailing wind blowing from right to left and slightly into and from the right.
The 16th is an interesting little par-3, a short 120-yard pitch down the hill. The putting surface is some 50 feet below the teeing surface and the prevailing wind is cornering from the golfer’s right to left and into you, with the stream immediately to the front and left of the putting surface. We had the U.S. Amateur Qualifier there in the early 1990s and that 16th hole was the highest hole in relation to par for the 212 rounds recorded that day. We had 106 golfers play that course over two rounds. It is an interesting little ‘do-or-die,’ with a bailout area on the right from where it is a very difficult chip and it is very, very difficult to make par.
15. How did Nick Faldo and you work together at Chart Hills in England? And how did you and Nick Price work together on Four Streams GC in Beallsville, Maryland, five years later, in 1997?
When I did Chart Hills, Faldo was ranked No. 1 in the world, and was No. 1 ranked for 57 weeks. He had won two British Open Championships during that time, finished second in another one, and had won the Masters in that period of time. He was extremely focused and committed to his game as he should have been. The thing that I did recognize was how his mind worked. I had known Nick from the late ’70s in his golf over here and had gotten to know him in the ’80s, and it was fascinating to see the evolution of this person as a player. He played golf the way I was brought up playing golf and the way I watched the great players play. That is, he was always thinking about what shot to hit for what occasion, where the wind was, was it a hook shot, was it a cut shot, was it a punch shot, and things like that. That process really stimulated me throughout the design.
When Nick Price and I worked at Four Streams, it was the same type of thing. Nick Price was the No. 1 player in the world when we designed Four Streams and was very focused on his game. Like Faldo, he was a brilliant shot-maker. And always, always thinking about what shot to hit under the right occasion.
16. The oft-photographed holes at Chart Hills indicate a high number of bunkers. Is there such a thing as too many bunkers?
Yes, Ran, you are right. The photographs you see of Chart Hills are mainly the 9th hole. Whenever I travel overseas, no matter what publication I see, almost always it’s that 9th hole at Chart Hills. First, I must say the hole prior to that, the 8th, is a wonderful hole, working slightly into the prevailing wind through a forest of oak trees to a slightly elevated green without one single bunker on it. It has a stream that wanders some 30 yards short of the putting surface. The 8th hole is a wonderful hole but the 9th hole is the most photographed because it is most photographic! It’s got the clubhouse on the hill and the bunkering.
Yes, I think there is such a thing as too many bunkers on a golf course and I will probably be the first to admit that in SOME of my designs we put in a few too many bunkers. But there are two reasons – one,I am a big believer in breaking up what Mackenzie called ‘the line of charm.’ That is the direct line from you to your target. We put our bunkers in so that they hit you basically right in the face, where you see them. I’ve seen a lot of courses built within the last 10 years that probably have more square footage of bunkers – big waste areas but they are off to the side and don’t have the visual or psychological appeal that our bunkers have. We always provide a route around the bunkers. We never shut you down. Also, we are not believers in water on our courses. We shy away from water because we believe the art of recovery is a big part of the game. Also, there is nothing more exciting than hitting a great bunker shot. Whether it is from a fairway or a greenside bunker, it is a very exciting shot to hit.
But I think you do ask a very important question. One of the keys to great architecture is getting the proper rhythm and balance to fit the site and the hole. Everything has to be in context with one another; the shapes and the patterns have to all relate to the topography and the vegetation and the wind and the sunlight. I am making a conscious effort to get all the elements in what we do with our shapes and our patterns to fit in the form.
17. What pleased you the most about your final design at Cypress Lakes in Australia? Are you actively pursuing additional work in Australia?
Cypress Lakes was a very interesting project and a very interesting time in my life. We had just had our first son born, my wife had taken some time off the ladies tour and they were just starting up a tournament in Australia in which my wife competed and had actually led the order of merit there one year. We were traveling with our little one. Australia was going through a very difficult time with its economy and the golf course was built. It took a long time to build it. We kind of piecemealed as our client was able to find money. Through the complexities and difficulty in getting it done, I think it turned out well. It’s an absolutely wonderful setting and I think it was a real neat time in my life. We have been fortunate to have been able to work all over the world. We’ve built in the Philippines, England. Zimbabwe, and Africa, and yes, I would like to do some more work in Australia. Right now I’ve got two boys who are 9 and 11 and it’s a critical time in their lives, so for the next couple of years I’d like to stick close to my kids and be Dad for a while. Right now we are doing a project that is just 10 minutes from the house and one in Atlanta.
18. Tell us about the construction process at your Kokopelli course, in Marion, Illinois.
We onlymoved 34,000 yards of dirtand 6,000 of that was to fill the 3rd fairway so it would drain. The other 28,000 cubic yards was excavated from bunkers, swales and hollows in order to develop the tees and greens complexes.
The whole key to accomplish this was the routing. By utilizing the existing ground plane to develop the strategy and the placement of the putting surfaces, either on the top of or into a hillside, on the edge of a stream or lake, or at the bottom of a valley. The features were developed the old-fashioned way. The surrounds of the tees and greens were cut and carefully sculpted and the greens and tees were then filled. It is truly an at grade golf course.
This was done for a number of reasons – first, the site was ideally suited for this type of design and two, the market would not support a high dollar golf course. That is what I am especially proud of, that I created a truly great test of golf, held the cost down and people can now experience this facility for only $29. I think this is a great way to help promote the game of golf.
19.Speaking of the game, anything in particular that you would like to see changed?
Basically, I think the game is very healthy. It is a great sport with great camaraderie and it’s very relaxing. I think we do have a few shortcomings.
The equipment manufacturers have come on very strongly and led the masses to believe that by hitting the golf ball farther we will therefore enjoy the game more. Well, I disagree with that! If we all hit the golf ball 10 or 15 or 20 yards farther, we all want to hit it farther in relation to our competitors or our buddies. If my buddy hit it 20 yards farther and I hit it 20 yards farther, that doesn’t do either of us any good. All it does is make our golf courses obsolete, and it makes us play golf on bigger areas and increase the cost of golf. So, that’s one major thing we need to all understand: Hitting the golf ball farther does not make us enjoy the game better. And I don’t think we necessarily need to make it easier for everyone. No matter how easy or how difficult it is, the enjoyment of the game comes from being out with your friends, interacting with the landscape, enjoying the fresh air and exercise, and enjoying the true spirit of the game.
The other thing that troubles me a bit is the cost of playing golf. I love the game and I probably have ventured to as many golf properties around the world as anybody, and have paid a lot of money to do so. But it disturbs me when I hear of a $200 green fee to play a golf course and you have to stay on the cart paths and report at a certain time or do a certain thing.
I also think we have to get back to the simpler things in golf, where the flow of the course is more important than driving one-quarter of a mile from one green to the next tee so that we can get a big, dramatic look at a golf hole. I think we need to get back to more pleasant journeys around the golf course, with a short distance from green to tee, where golf is more in its natural state, where people can pay $20 or $30 and play a true championship-caliber, enjoyable course. If we could return to that, plus overcome the image of needing to hit the golf ball farther to enjoy the game more, I think the sport would be in a very healthy, prosperous state.