My son Jack is 15 years old and my son Henry is 7 years old. This season, I officially became one of those lucky golf geek dads whose kids are golf-crazed. We play most of our golf together at Canal Shores, but we also had outings over the summer at Kingsley Club, Champion Hill, and Arcadia Bluffs.
I took Jack out for his first “real” round of golf at Kingsley, and we were joined by my buddy Howard. He had never been on a big course before, and I thought his eyes might pop out of his head when we stepped onto the first tee. In Jack’s defense, many people who visit are intimidated by Kingsley’s opener, and the 2nd is no picnic either. Jack struggled on the first two holes, and on the 3rd tee, I gave him a pep talk. “Ignore what you see on the ground and hit it in the direction I point,” I advised. He is a quick study and followed the instruction, striping his tee shot.
It was well hit, but on a more aggressive line than intended. We held our breath wondering if it would clear the right fairway bunker. It did, and the feeling of exhilaration was palpable, not just from Jack, but throughout our whole group. In that moment, I realized that my boys were teaching me about golf course architecture.
LESSON #1 – It is fun to hit the ball over obstacles.
Sure, good design provides the opportunity for hazards to be avoided in exchange for strategic advantage, but the truth of our hearts is that we love to knock the ball over things. The corner of a dogleg. A creek or crevasse. A bunker – the bigger and nastier the better. The successful clear provides a thrilling satisfaction. It’s in our DNA.
My wife and little guy Henry joined Jack and me for a walk and twilight golf at Arcadia Bluffs. On each hole, I would create a “Henry Tee” in a special spot 100 or so yards from the green. We found a perfect Henry Tee on the far right of the ridge above the bunkers that cut across the fairway on the 3rd. He gave his hybrid a lash and we watched expectantly as his ball bounded along the fairway toward the green, peeling off at the last moment and coming to rest on the fringe.
LESSON #2 – It is fun to watch the ball roll over interesting ground toward the target.
There is a reason why “fair” is a four letter word, and in my opinion, it has no place on a golf course. The game is gloriously unfair, especially on courses with contour, kept in firm and fast conditions. Hit a good shot, catch a bad bounce. Hit a bad shot, catch a good bounce. There is no justice in the rub of the green, and that is the way I want it. I want to watch my ball tumble along, not knowing exactly where it will end up. Predictable is boring.
I do my best to walk the line between patience and teaching my guys a lesson about moving along on the course. They get more of the former when nobody else is around. After all, I’m loving every moment I get with them, and what’s the rush? At times, when I get impatient, I have a habit of giving them long putts. They don’t like that practice one bit. They want to get the ball in the hole, and I am robbing them of that pleasure.
LESSON #3 – It is fun to get the ball in the hole.
I love wild green surrounds and undulating greens as much as anyone, and yet I wonder sometimes, has that trend gone a little bit too far? If the surrounds are so complex that my chances of ever holing a chip or pitch are diminished to the point of dumb luck, is the architect’s creative expression worth it? If the greens are so severe that every putt over 5 feet is a pure guessing game, is the player cheated of seeing a line clearly and dropping a bomb? I’m no tour caliber putter, but I’m no slouch either. I like to see a putt drop into the hole as much as my boys, and it seems that an architect has some responsibility to at least give players a reasonable chance of success. Restraint is a virtue.
My kids have a way of stripping away complications to help me see what really matters. Like most golf geeks do, I appreciate strategic options and being encouraged to think. I also greatly appreciate the natural beauty of the contrast of colors and textures. Rarely do I encounter quirk and creative flourishes that I don’t dig. But at my core, I am just like my boys and they remind me of the essence of the game. If the architect and greenkeeper give me the opportunity to golf my ball over obstacles, to see my ball run along the ground, and to get my ball in the hole with reasonable effort, I will have fun.
Could great architecture be that simple?
Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf