A Golf Fan's Plea

For what seems to have been a hot topic in the world of professional golf and golf course design for more than a decade, the idea of making golf courses tougher and longer continues with this year's US Open at Pebble Beach. While these changes are almost entirely in response to the new technological and athletic training innovations over the years, many of the world's most heralded courses are being almost completely revamped on what seems to be an annual basis. Frankly, this is something that severely disappoints me.

For example, and as mentioned above, Pebble Beach is home to the 2010 US Open and is also going through some major (pun intended) design changes this season. However, many Tour members are already questioning these changes, particularly Retief Goosen in reference to the restructured 9th and 10th holes:

Even before the first score has been posted, eyebrows were raised over the
freshly minted tees that would add 50 yards to the 9th and 10th holes at Pebble
Beach, creating monster par-fours of more than 500 yards.

Goosen’s eyes widened when he thought about hitting a wood for his
second shot at No. 9, which already measures a healthy 466 yards, or at No. 10,
which measures 446.

“I don’t know,” said Goosen, a former United States Open winner.
“Twenty, but why 50?”

Have to agree with Goose on this one. While the majority of players in the field will be hitting hybrids and long irons into these greens, a significant number will be grabbing for fairway woods. Not exactly my idea of exciting golf, especially when the shorter hitters like Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker (both very accomplished players and fan favorites) are missing the putting surface.

So what is a fitting alternative to dismantling some of the greatest golf courses in the world?

Consider this: get the fans more involved in the tournament process. Let the sites of all four majors (well, OK... with the exception of the Masters) be determined by a fan vote the previous year. You want to see Tiger, Phil, and the rest of your favorite players shoot it out at Pebble Beach? Vote for it. How about Cog Hill? Mark down your choice. St. Andrews or Royal Troon? Mark'em down.

Don't get me wrong; I understand that sponsorships and tournament preparations are huge parts of the process in determining where a professional golf tournament will be held. Hold the fan voting two years prior to the event then. Fans could even vote for an alternative site simultaneously should the poll winner fall short in planning.

The point of this practice would be simply this: fans are asking for it, so the PGA has to deliver the goods. Who cares if the winning score of the PGA Championship is 20-under? Fans voted for it, and because of that fact more people will watch and attend... which means more revenue for the PGA.

Watching some of the most impressive and famous golf courses around the world undergo face lifts and redesign takes something away from the history of the game. Players grow up watching their favorite pros win tournaments on courses that boggled the mind and carried decades of memories and history. Before too long, however, many of the same fairways that Arnie, Jack, Snead, and Hogan once graced and flourished on will be gone.