Readers Revolt Decry US Courses

By George WhiteSeptember 18, 2003, 4:00 pm
OK, you have spoken. From east, west, north and south, you pinpoint ' accurately, I believe - what is the underlying problem of American golf. It is American greed.
The answer to the question of why we are rapidly being surpassed by the world in the Solheim and Ryder Cups is ' Where do the young people play? American developers and course owners are so anxious to turn a buck (or 100) that they charge exorbitant rates to play. If they cant squeeze a small fortune out of the course, they dont build it.
Here are a few of your comments:
If you want answers to why small countries can beat a nation of 200 million, you need only to look at America itself. Face it - golf is an elite sport. Though you have 250 million residents, only 50 million can afford to play golf at an elite level. Assuming, say,. one in 20 girls actually develops a passion for golf. The talent pool is much smaller. Only the well-off get formal training. Not everyone can send their child to the Leadbetter Academy at $40,000 a year.

Take Sweden as an example. A report I saw on TGC: They have memberships well under $4,000. They have programs to make golf affordable for ALL children. Sweden will be a golf power in women's golf. South Korea is a power. Australia is also doing amazing things as well.

It's time to look within.'
Phillip Chin
As a father of a 5-year-old girl who enjoys the game, I can attest that opportunities are few unless you live in a golf mecca, i.e., Florida or certain urban areas or you have a parent in the golf business - preferably a pro.
I live in a town of 200,000 and all that we have are summer golf camps which are generally half-day group instruction for one week. No leagues, no school golf until high school. In that kind of environment, how can a champion arise, how can you even be expected to compete with kids who were raised at the Leadbetter Academy?
Our town has numerous opportunities for kids to be involved in a plethora of sports: football, basketball, soccer, baseball, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball all offer far more opportunity to develop skill in our community than does golf. Until golf is more universally promoted and encouraged, I'm afraid that the future of American golf will be limited to a select few who have the opportunity to develop the skills necessary. Until then, expect, Europe, Asia, and Australia to continue to gain and/or pass us by on the international golf scene.
Mark Swoboda
Come on, George, the reason why Americans don't do well in golf is because the selection process is based on economics. In Sweden, you can join a golf club for a very small fee. Our system penalizes or eliminates so much talent because of economics.
In baseball, football, track, basketball, there are no economic barriers. But in fencing, ice-skating, golf, gymnastics, equestrian, polo, etc., it's all about finances.
Incidentally, how can you possibly get the best athletes in the world from such a small population that the economically well-off represent? I get embarrassed every time I watch golf, whether it's the men or the women. If it wasnt for Tiger Woods, we would not have many American winners in golf. Its unfortunate, but we need to look at ourselves and question our common sense.
John Knight
If you want to know why American golf has become less competitive, it's because in the last 30 years golf has become economically less accessible to middle class American kids and, even if kids can afford to play, these idiotic new Pete Dye style courses are too hard to learn on.
On the other hand, kids in Europe get much more access and encouragement. Once their kids go through their vastly superior junior programs, they come here to play college golf.
Although equipment has become less expensive after inflation since 1970, greens fees in the U.S. have gone out of sight. When I was a kid in Detroit in the 1960s I could play 18 holes at four different Donald Ross courses for $2.50. There was another good course also at $2.50. (My dad was a factory worker and my mom was a waitress. I paid my own greens fees by working for minimum wage in a hospital dietary department.) Even at 400 percent inflation, that would translate to $12.50 today. Where can kids play courses like that for $12.50 now?
Even for upper middle class families, belonging to a club has become such a financial burden that parents say 'no thanks' unless the father is a golf junkie. Many of these clubs waste money on opulent clubhouses and four-star dining rooms and forget that the purpose of the club is the enjoyment of knocking a ball into a hole with a stick.
The result of all of this is that Americans will increasingly field teams consisting of only their richest kids while the Euros will field teams consisting of their most talented kids.
If Americans want to field competitive international teams they need to look at what the Euros are doing in their junior programs. Juniors need economical access, instruction and encouragement. We need to change our ways of looking after junior players.'
John Gillis
What can I add, except a hearty Amen! The situation is not getting any better, people. I, too, am fed up with $100-200 golf courses. I find it despicable that kids are not welcome at some time of the day, say 4 p.m.
However, developers think that this is still the thing to do, build posh pleasure palaces so the few members can sit behind their big picture windows and stare out at the rest of us poor geeks. Isnt this era about to end, the J. Bairds FitzTipton age when you have the ultra-rich and then you have everyone else?
Give me a $20 course and I dont care that there are few bunkers or small greens or the view isnt picture-perfect. The kid I see there just might be a future LPGA star.
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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?