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Jeremy turns 50 at Magical Royal Melbourne!

Jeremy Dale Turns 50On a recent trip to Australia I played at four of the finest courses in the country, Royal Melbourne (special treat on my 50th birthday!), Kingston Heath, Huntingdale and the New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney.

With the exception of Huntingdale, home of the Australian Masters, these courses were designed by the great (British) golf course architect Alister Mackenzie.

No rough, firm conditions

Royal Melbourne GCThese world-class courses have lots of common features and are extremely popular with all levels of golfer.

The fairways are very wide in places and the ground conditions are firm not soft.

There is almost no rough at all around the greens which feature interesting slopes and bunkers that really cut into the greens.

Hazards are not for punishment!

The Spirit of St AndrewsYou had to pay attention and it was not easy but, playing in a very mixed ability group, we hardly lost a ball and everyone enjoyed their game.

This was very much Mackenzie’s aim.

I especially like his idea that the purpose of a hazard is not to punish a bad shot but to make the round more interesting.

He was not an accomplished player himself, in fact before he went to Australia a friend advised him not to let his clients see him play!
This may well have been one of his strengths,since
he understood very well the problems of the handicap golfer and did not just build difficult courses that only the best could play….in his view anyone could do that.

More of his ideas can be found in his excellent book, the Spirit of St Andrews, which would make a great Xmas present for any golfer.

Copy the world’s best courses!

Not every course has such great architecture but clubs can perhaps best present what they do have

by adopting some of Mackenzie’s ideas.

Last summer in England, I played a tree-lined course where the conditions were the complete opposite.

The greens (in one of the driest summers for ages) were so soft and overwatered that each iron shot left a huge pitch mark.

Under the trees (from which a recovery was already difficult enough) there was thick rough so that much time was spent looking for balls and then hacking out instead of being tempted into an interesting recovery shot.

It was not much fun.

Wider fairways are better

Jeremy Smashes Balls of Tall TeesThe Mackenzie courses all had very wide fairways but there was usually a risk reward choice or a perfect spot on one side of the fairway that opened up the green

A narrow fairway gives fewer options for challenging hazards or making angles and can reduce the game to a straight hitting contest. This is fine on some holes in the round but most golfers find it tiresome over 18 holes.

You may remember that Davis Love asked for all the rough to be cut down for the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah. It was controversial at the start of the week but it allowed the players to produce great matches.

Even the USGA have relented on rough when they took the US Open to a restored Pinehurst so perhaps we are seeing the start of a trend away from thick rough as a hazard – something Mackenzie warned was bad for the game.

Courses do not need to become ever more difficult

The World's Best Golf CoursesParticipation in golf has been reported as declining according to many reports like this one earlier this year…

If we are to expect golf to grow again, we cannot present newcomers with ever longer, narrower, more difficult courses and expect them to enjoy it.

No one comes to the golf club to be punished by the course – the game itself will do that perfectly well.

If we want to keep existing golfers interested then it would help if the courses were as sporting and exciting as they can possibly be.

Mackenzie certainly helped them achieve that in Melbourne and Sydney.


Do you agree?
How you would you make your course more interesting to play?
Please comment below – it would be great to have a discussion.

  • Alaister Mackenzie,the greatest golf course designer of his time!Many people do not know that Augusta was copied from his finest piece of work,Royal Melbourne.The only difference was that the greens at Royal were much quicker!Yes,if you can believe that,they were an incredible 15.5 on the stimpmeter!!My finest victory was caddying for Tom Watson there in 1984 when he won the Australian Open on his first ever visit.Also caddied for Norman;Crenshaw;Irwin;Eichelberger and Seve there,which is what I talk about at my after dinner speaking and

    • Wow – Tom Watson! One of my favourite players ever. Great win and you have a great cv.

      My first job in golf was as a caddy in 1984 for John Garner at the Open Championship at St Andrews. Tom nearly won that too but I was glad that Seve beat him!

      Would be great to meet up. Where do you live?

      • Paul Stevens

        Thx Jeremy!Pity that we couldnt have got together when you played NSW in Sydney!Split my time between Oz and UK doing after dinner speaking and am always available if not already

  • Brian Sparks

    Jeremy is absolutely right, we’ve been making golf courses far too difficult for the average golfer and taken the fun out of the game. If you add to that the modern teacher’s tendency to turn the golf swing into a technical Rubik’s Cube then you start to understand why golfers all over the world are losing some motivation to play. Well done for a great newsletter!

    • Thanks for the comment, Brian and glad you agree. Keep up your good work at Manston and see you soon.

  • Philip Sparks

    Some interesting points in this discussion already. I have always believed courses should be set up to challenge better players rather than punish less accomplished players. We shouldn’t forget that many ladies, juniors, shorter hitting men and senior players find a 70 yard carry fairly tough. Golf courses can be set up to be fun, challenging, exciting and still fair for players of all different abilities they don’t merely have to be aimed at the scratch and tour player. It’s a fine balance and requires a designer who can empathise with all players but it can be done. I believe such well designed courses are and should be the future for the game. As an Architect this is exactly what I aim to bring to my clients.

    Philip Sparks

    • Philip, Thanks for your post – your first line says it all. Agree 100%. Difficult is not the same as penal. Would be nice to discuss further……perhaps over a pint!

  • John

    The whole world is, to a lesser or greater degree, in recession. In recession people/golfers cut back on non-essentials, and golf is a non-essential.
    Although one can make courses more fun without being too easy there remains an important issue; no matter how cheap the courses make a round you cannot put a pint in a half-pint pot, i.e. you cannot “force” in more players than can complete a round. Four balls every 8 then 7 minutes and repeat does not work, and remember that playing standards vary; core golfers are not all scratch golfers!
    A course is not like a supermarket, it has a maximum capacity at “peak” times.
    So, by all means make a course more fun so it fills up a bit at off-peak times, but accept that peak is peak and don’t overbook the tee times.
    Too many so called commercial courses overbook their tee times and whence upset existing members and users. That’s a fact.
    So go on, widen the fairway, cut the first and second cuts lower and wider; it makes no difference if the course is fully booked.
    Anyone ever bothered to properly time an average ability 4 ball using the R&A 50 seconds and 40 seconds system? I bet it’s not less than 4 hours.

    • I think narrowing the fairways and growing the rough will eventually mean that course will not be fully booked. Golfers simply won’t enjoy their game and clubs will lose their business.

      Nor should clubs strive to make their clubs cheaper and cheaper to fill them up. Cutting prices is not a long term strategy.

      Making golfers welcome and adding value would be better (e.g.more than 8 mins between each group, as you rightly say – free coffee before your game etc etc).

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