Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

A review of the 2011 Sun Country Golf Summit

By: Mary Armstrong

Published by: Las Cruces Sun-News 11/18/11


This past weekend I at­tended the 2011 Sun Country Golf Summit at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Albuquerque.  The Summit represented a joint effort of the governing bodies of golf in New Mexico and West Texas and resulted in a gathering of golf leaders across the industry spectrum.

The theme of the meeting was “Golf Under Construc­tion,” in recognition of the re­cent decline in play. PGA of America Secretary Derek Sprague’s keynote speech fo­cused on a recently completed market study entitled Golf 2.0.  Boston Consulting Group was hired by the PGA for the proj­ect. Their work resulted in three core strategies to grow the game: Retain/strengthen the core market; engage the “lapsed” market; and drive new players. The current core mar­ket is about 26.1 million players, down by 10 percent from 2009.  The “lapsed” market includes individuals that at one time de­scribed themselves as golfers.  According to the plan, this la­tent pool of players numbers over 90 million. The “other 84 percent” or non-golfing house­holds are also targeted.

The study included 2,000 broad-based consumer quanti­tative studies, 2,700 surveys of PGA members and employers, and consumer focus groups.  The plan’s objective is to reach 32 million golfers by 2016 and 40 million by 2020.  There are five core Golf 2.0 messages that will be directed to consumers through various media outlets: 1) Golf is a fun family activity; 2) golf is afford­able; 3) golf doesn’t have to mean 18 holes; 4) women and golf; and 5) golf is healthy.

This is a tall order — a very tall order.

First of all, bringing a family to the golf course can easily cost more than $150, which also speaks to golf being affordable.  When was the last time you saw a family at the golf course?

Secondly, the PGA has been trying to “conquer” the women’s market for over 20 years. Will the hiring of Donna Orender, the former CEO of the WNBA, make the differ­ence? I don’t think so. Orender is pushing a social component to women’s golf. That may work fine for retirees and stay­at-home moms, but for the vast majority, the time that the game takes is a greater factor.

Whether you have time for 9 or 18, it’s rare that women can stretch that for a wine tasting event or a make-up demonstra­tion. Really, the “secret” is we need you guys to communicate WITH us. Don’t try and tell us what to do and for goodness sake, don’t talk to us like we’re your 8-year-old niece. When we ask a question, we might not be asking the right question or we might be asking it incor­rectly. Enter into a discussion — just like you would with the guys when you think they might not know what they’re talking about. And just like the guys, get to know your female players. We like to joke around and have fun just like your male players do. We won’t bite. Then there’s the perception that golf courses are congested. Nearly every market group identified in the study that has some exposure to the game feels that courses are too is congested. This just isn’t the case. Even a course such as NMSU’s, which is probably the busiest in town, has as many as two hours or more of tee times left unfilled on their busiest days. In a day with 12 hours of daylight, and 10 minutes be­tween tee times, leaving a two­hour gap at the end so that the players can complete at least nine holes, there are 240 possi­ble slots for a player. So the problem isn’t the availability of a tee time, but perhaps that there is too much waiting while at the course, or even that play­ers feel self-conscious about holding up groups when the course is busy. It is my experi­ence that this CAN be resolved with strict expectations being expressed at the counter and a strong on-course marshaling program.

Regardless of my nitpicks, the PGA has invested a sub­stantial effort and dollars to try and figure this thing out. Peo­ple like Matt Williams, the Di­rector of the Sun Country PGA Chapter and Sun Country Am­ateur Golf Association are committed to carrying out the plan. Matt is a very motivated guy and I think we’ll see progress from him and his con­stituent pros. I try not to com­plain about things without of­fering constructive solutions.

While it’s easy to see that the pros have a tenable stake in seeing the plan implemented, it may not be so easy for us as players. Think about the last time you were on the course where you saw a group of be­ginners or even a family play­ing golf. Did you scowl or growl some complaint when they were unable to keep pace?

Wouldn’t it make things more pleasant instead to offer help or guidance to move them along? Golf courses are disappearing from the nation at an alarming rate. If you think this game is so wonderful, wouldn’t it be more fun to share it? Our reluc­tance to share the sport with those that aren’t as experienced may cost us a future. It’s frus­trating to be behind someone that doesn’t know what they are doing, but helping them along can pay dividends.


Presidents Cup

Will Tiger roar once again? He showed signs of his old self at the Australian Open this past week. If you know golf, you know that anything can hap­pen. He could sweep his matches and he could end up with the big donut. By the time you read this you’ll probably know whether he is digging himself out or burying himself deeper.

One thing is for sure, the ven­ue won’t change and I’m thank­ful for that. Royal Melbourne is a traditional style course de­signed by Alister Mackenzie — of Augusta National’s leg­endary greens fame. But, don’t confuse traditional with dull. In my opinion, the golf course makes the event in the team match play tournaments. A course that has a lot of heroic holes — those that allow a player to gain a distinct advan­tage by playing a daring shot — provides the most dramatic sit­uations in match play.

Geoff Shackelford is perhaps the best writer I know when it comes to critiquing a golf course. When I went to his blog, he has linked to an inter­view of Michael Clayton by Golf Digest’s John Huggan for his critique of the course. Clay­ton says the best holes are at the beginning of the course, so be sure to tune in early — and fortunately, with the time dif­ferential the live telecasts will begin in early evenings or late afternoons here. And by the way, the live telecasts are on the Golf Channel and delayed telecasts the next morning on NBC.

Clayton points out that holes three through six may be the most spectacular four hole stretch in the world. He com­pares them to the 11th through 14th at Augusta. The layout is a composite of the East and West 18’s at Royal Melbourne. This is the third version of the com­posite course, as the 16th (14th in the composite layout) has been added from the East Course as well as some other changes that primarily have to do with the order the holes are played.

Also, Shackelford points to the 11th green as his favorite overall. He says to watch this short par 4 closely for some of the most imaginative and wild shots.

From what I hear as I write this, Webb Simpson will be playing with Bubba Watson. Watch out for that pairing. It seems like the perfect combina­tion of steady and daring to me. By the time you read this we’ll have a better idea of how effec­tive it was.


A golf architect in New Hamp­shire for over 20 years, Arm­strong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides plan­ning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17. word­





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