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Why Quality Courses Matter on the PGA Tour
I openly acknowledge that I might watch the PGA Tour a little differently than many people do.
While I’m interested in the players and personalities, I’m just as interested in the golf courses. I want to see what makes them challenging. I want to see how the best players in the world attack them.
I don’t care nearly as much about who is in the field as I do where the play is happening.
That’s part of the reason why I’m thrilled that we have gotten through the past two weeks. Beginning with this week’s Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte, we are moving into one of the best stretches of golf course course watching of the season.
And while the story of Ben Curtis winning again in San Antonio and Jason Dufner beating Ernie Els in a playoff in New Orleans were both good stories — and the money will certainly spend just as well the cash Bubba won at The Masters — I didn’t watch much. The reason? The TPC San Antonio and TPC Louisiana courses don’t excite me very much.
TPC San Antonio, which is both long and penal, might be the Tour course I would have the absolute least interest in playing. And the TPC Louisiana doesn’t seem to be all that interesting. I’m sure it isn’t horrible, but it isn’t exactly on my bucket list of courses I want to get to.
Earlier this year, Golf World surveyed PGA Tour members and they ranked all 52 courses that host tournaments. That the top three were Augusta National, Harbour Town Golf Links and Riviera isn’t really a shock, but I was pleasantly pleased to see many of the classic courses rank high and some of the new modern courses fall near the bottom.
TPC San Antonio ranked 50th, ahead of only the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club that hosts the WGC Match Play and Liberty National, which will host the Barclays this year in the playoffs.
Some of the anonymous player comments about TPC San Antonio were pretty brutal: “Complete disaster, “the greens need to be blown up,” “there’s no place to miss shots, who thought that would be a good idea.”
The players were somewhat kinder to TPC Louisiana, which ranks No. 45. One player called it underrated. Another said he has grown to like it. But it was panned for being “a little severe in spots off the tee,” and it has “terrible bunkering.”
Four of the next five course on on the Tour schedule are at courses that the players rank in the top 14. Quail Hollow, which is this week’s host and will host the 2017 PGA Championship, is No. 14. TPC Sawgrass, which hosts The Players next week is No. 11. Later this month, the Tour will stop at No. 5 Colonial Country Club and No. 6 Muirfield Village Golf Club.
I will be watching as the golf courses are interesting. I want to see the best players hit shots that I can’t come close to replicating. I want to see how careful they are around greens filled with slope and undulation. I want to see the players have to think their way through 18 holes, rather than simply bombing driver off the tee without risk.
In the same issue of Golf World, Geoff Ogilvy wrote about how better golf courses translates into better golf. Here are two key takes:
“The quality of the courses is so much more important than the powers-that-be seem to think. If we took every tour event to a truly great course, the play would be better. And, in time, golf would be a bigger sport than it is now.”
Also: “Im not sure there are many people in powerful positions who fully appreciate how much more interesting golf is when it is played on a great course — or how much better their leaderboards would be.”
I think that better golf courses means better fields and better fields make for more interesting tournaments. Take a look at San Antonio and New Orleans. Both are good cities with great food, but the fields certainly lacked buzz. I believe that there are a lot of great players on tour — more than just the ones that receive all the hype — but the general public doesn’t agree.
The top players aren’t going to play every week and I don’t think it is a coincidence that many skip the bad courses. Earlier this week, Zach Johnson tweeted about his upcoming schedule. He said he was playing this week in Charlotte and would play The Players, Colonial and the Memorial.
Which event is he skipping? The Byron Nelson. I can’t imagine he will be alone. The TPC Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas (try saying that fast five times) was ranked No. 49 by the players and Golf World.
While that event is the exception over the next month, May should be filled with great TV watching. So book those weekend tee times in the morning and spend your afternoons on the couch. It should be good. It will certainly be better than the past two weeks.
To read more from Jeff, check out his Golf Blog