By Robert Trent Jones Jr. /
The planets are aligned; the moon is very full; the year of the Rooster is upon us; change is in the air. What do these celestial events portend for the golf world?
The old guard is retiring. Tim Finchem and George O’Grady have passed their leadership to their respective professional tours. The health of the game is measured by the number of eye balls watching expert players in person or on TV. Golf courses are being decommissioned at military bases (Alaska) and for water storage (Shanghai), high speed rail (Singapore) or housing (Florida). As supporters of the game of golf, we are distressed to hear that the Olympic course in Rio could not being maintained as a legacy venue as promised to the IOC. It would be counter to the true spirit of the game and the Olympic Movement to let it revert to nature.
Topgolf is replacing top 100 courses as attractions. Topgolf is as popular as bowling once was – a quick game and social pub, something that may be good for growing interest in the game of golf.
Wonderful courses are deferring normal maintenance as a cost cutting measure. The sport of golf has become bifurcated from the business of golf. The sport still is just that: a sport of a lifetime. But the courses which are lasting the test of time are not only some of the classics of the 1920’s. Technology has improved playing techniques. The courses at resorts host sunset games with cocktails. Wedding are conducted at the most beautiful venues of the courses (eg. Princeville Makai, Kauai). People travel to play in frightful weather and call it an adventure in the U.K. and Ireland. Urban golf or suburban courses are also sporting parks which oxygenate the air and host flora and fauna.
Now more than ever, it is time to respect, update and renovate these treasures of our communities; otherwise more homes will overcome our lifestyle. So play our 500 year old sport any place that pleases you and your friends. Also, get a club into the hands of your children and grandchildren and young people. They will know what to do with it. Hit the ball, go find it, hit it again and enjoy the great outdoors together. RTJ