Volume 3, Issue 6 – May 2013
Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town -
The USGA has taken their share of criticism lately, but I’d like to use my soap box to salute them for the inspired decision to bring the U.S. Open Championship back to Merion Golf Club’s East Course in Ardmore, PA. I couldn’t even wait until the Dashboard’s June issue to get this off my polo-shirted chest.
Since the TOUR’s distance explosion has effectively straightened many of the world’s doglegs and turned previously unreachable 550 yard par-5 holes into 9-iron second-shots, 7,000 yard courses have been labeled “obsolete” by many pundits and commentators. I find that POV to be patently ridiculous, insulting and downright stupid.
Why should anyone label one of the planet’s greatest courses “obsolete” based upon the talent and power of a few thousand of the world’s roughly 50 million golfers? They shouldn’t. “Obsolete!” Are you kidding me? Why should I give a rat’s keister if somebody thinks a professional golfer might not be sufficiently challenged by the length of any golf course? Will golf be damaged if the winning score were 15-under par? Uh… no.
Simply putting clubface on ball on any golf shot provides a monumental challenge to most of us amateurs… and we’re okay with that. NGF research has clearly shown that for committed golfers, golf’s challenge is its #1 most attractive feature. Bobby Jones is famous for highlighting the chasm between the golf we all play, and “championship” golf… and I imagine that he would have been a huge proponent of having “championship” golf back at Merion, without reservation.
Golf should never be about the elite few… they’re not the ones who drive our business or provide the pleasure we get out of playing. Watching the world’s best can be great theater and we can all aspire to bomb it 300+ yards, hit towering crisp irons and buttery wedges like they do… but playing at the game’s greatest places… to me, that’s a more worthwhile and achievable aspiration. Places like Merion occupy a special place in our heads… a rare experience there is savored and remembered in our heads and hearts forever.
Two of the most important and historic events in golf history took place on Merion’s 126 acres. Ben Hogan’s epic 1950 U.S. Open Championship victory (Hy Peskin’s iconic Hogan 1-iron photo on the 18th fairway is burned into the psyche of most Crazy Town residents) and Bobby Jones’ 1930 Grand Slam was clinched on the beautiful 11th. What professional or recreational golfer wouldn’t give their left pinky-toe to walk in those shadows? Obsolete? I don’t want to hear it.
The USGA is such a generous benefactor of the game, that they’re willing to sacrifice millions of dollars in sponsorship, ticket, merchandise, corporate hospitality and other revenue, in order for recreational golfers and golf fans to enjoy Hugh Wilson’s historic layout and decide its most important championship there. Even better, the integrity of the layout was not compromised for the sake of this one week and the 156 players who will compete for the trophy.
I’m delighted that the USGA once again put the game, above all… so in this instance, we can all share in Merion’s glory.
If you hear that “obsolete” word uttered (and I promise you will hear it from TV commentators hidden in the form of provocative questioning regarding the course), just try to avoid getting the little “twitch” that I’m sure I’ll be suffering from. My apologies for the rant. I feel so much better now.
Cheers from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)