The Pellucid Perspective - December 2013 - (Page 16)

THE LAST WORD Too tough to chew I The current push to speed pace of play actually has a positive impact on golf's difficulty factor in many cases. recently returned from a week on the North Shore of Oahu where the recently expanded clans were celebrating the wedding of our son Matt and his lovely bride Lisa. Dirty work, I know, particularly for those of you in the East and Midwest who are busy shoveling snow, sitting in airports, etc., but it was a family obligation and someone had to do it. Fortunately for me, on many levels no doubt, Matt had already had his bachelor party by the time we arrived, which will serve as the leadin to this column. For the occasion, he and three obviously masochistic buddies played a round at the infamous Ko'Olau Golf Course in a rain forest just off the Pali Highway before joining some more sensible friends in the clubhouse to toast their survival, and the end of Matt's tenure as a single man. For those who haven't heard of it, Ko'olau's claim to fame is its marketing headline dubbing it "the hardest golf course in America." Now I'm not sure that's the case, but having played it a number of years ago, I can attest that it's at least in the conversation. The slope from the tips is a frightening 158, with a course rating of 74.4. Being in a rain forest, there is no rough to speak of - wayward shots merely disappear into a jungle of gnarly vines that make ice plant seem like plush carpet. For those who still have golf balls left at that point, the 18th hole is a devilish double-dogleg par-4 in the 480-yard range, with a yawning ravine crossing the fairway approximately where a well-struck second shot would land, or a 5th or 6th shot, depending upon how many of the 20-some fairway bunkers and waste areas or lost balls have preceded its progress to that point. There is, or was when I played it, a plaque on the 18th tee that reads "Where Dick Nugent (the architect) meets Ted Nugent (the rocker/hunter)!" Somehow it's difficult for me to imagine that many bedraggled golfers proceed straight from the 18th green, where they have just recorded an "other," likely requiring double digits, to the clubhouse to book another round the next day. Just doesn't strike me as the taste you'd want to leave in your customer's mouth, but maybe that's just me. Redhawk Golf Course, in the Temecula area northeast of San Diego, ran a series of radio spots a few years ago based around the challenge of "Are you tough enough for Redhawk?" or something along those lines. The course is certainly tough enough at 140 slope from the tips, and can be downright diabolical if the wind is howling, but I remember thinking when I heard the ads that my game's answer to their question was a definite "No!" Since none of the current staff at the course seems 16 The Pellucid PersPecTive to recall that particular marketing campaign, I suspect it had a brief and likely unsuccessful run. By contrast, my "home course" of Encinitas Ranch in San Diego's northern coastal area is known in some circles as "Easy Ranch," mainly because there are few trees and it's relatively wide open, particularly on the right side of most holes. The "easy" tag is a relative concept, but whatever it conveys works - the municipally owned course does 60,000 rounds a year, despite weekend greens fees between $75 and $100. Certainly some difficult courses will attract their fair share of traffic, either because of their iconic, "bucket list" status (Bethpage Black, PGA West Stadium Course, Bandon Dunes, Whistling Straits and others) or their scenic surroundings (Torrey Pines South, Pebble Beach, etc.) or a combination of both. Actually, in reading some comments about Ko'olau on a local golf site, a number of people cited the scenic beauty of the course's surroundings, which seemed to mitigate the fact that they'd lost a dozen balls. For those courses without those advantages, however, their owners and operators would be wise to remember that the game's difficulty generally ranks behind only time and money in consumer responses as to why they don't play, or don't play more often. The current push to speed pace of play actually has a positive impact on golf 's difficulty factor in many cases. Course operators are beginning to realize that tall strands of fescue rough, artfully designed fairway bunkers and forced carries may provide visual contrast and fairway definition, but they also can slow pace of play to a crawl. "Sunday" pin positions and stimpmeter readings in low double digits may please low handicappers, but for most folks, they just mean a few more strokes and another few minutes on each green. The other prevailing theme at most recent golf industry conferences is that in order to attract and retain the Gen X, Gen Y and Millennial crowd, the game has to be made more "fun." Now, I don't know about everyone, but I have a lot more fun when I shoot 80 than when I shoot 90 (or more). I've never lost a dozen balls in a round, but that has much less to do with skill than the fact that if that dubious goal was in sight, I'd have long since retired to the bar and set up the next weekend's tee time at a more forgiving track. Easy Ranch, here I come, and if that causes some to label me as not a real golfer, so be it. As someone recently told me, life is too short to drink bad wine. I feel the same way about impossibly difficult golf courses. -Jim Dunlap December 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - December 2013

The Pellucid Perspective - December 2013
Back to the future for golf course owners
Winds of change blowing in tee time sales world
An “Island” of creative thinking in player development
Europe follows US lead
November golf weather impact: Mother Nature gives golf the “cold shoulder”
Boston, MA: Red Sox nation plays golf too
OB Sports chosen to operate Tucson muni courses
Too tough to chew

The Pellucid Perspective - December 2013