Have golf courses become too perfect?

Saturday March 29th, 2008
Angela Stanford shot a tournament-record 62 on Thursday despite hitting only 6 of 14 fairways.
Ross D. Franklin/AP

SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, ARIZ. — "Oh, dear, she's hit it in the rough," a sweet old lady said during the second round of the LPGA Tour's Safeway International.

I wanted to turn around and smack her. Inch-high bermuda/rye that's been trimmed by board-certified barbers and beauticians is not "rough." In fact, you can't get a bad lie on the Prospector Course unless you hit it into the desert. And when I say desert, I mean the neatly-raked gravel surrounding ornamental cacti and other succulents maintained by a staff of anal retentives who out-Monk Monk.

"This golf course is always in the best shape, the best besides the majors," Paula Creamer said on Wednesday. "There's not a blade of grass out of place."

I have two responses to what Creamer said. Number one, Superstition Mountain is in the best shape, period. (At the Mission Hills Tournament Course, site of next week's Kraft Nabisco Championship, eucalyptus leaves often fall to earth beyond the outstretched hands of diving greenkeepers.) Number two, there should be blades of grass out of place. This is golf, not bonsai.

I blame the Augusta National Golf Club, which makes so much money from the Masters that its chairman feels almost duty-bound to give the players a golf course that resembles a bowling green. That puts pressure on other tournament venues to put their money where their mulch is.

Dan Jenkins spotted the trend as early as 1977, when he wrote that Muirfield Village, site of the Memorial, "was in such immaculate condition that people would sooner have dropped cigarette butts on their babies' tummies."

That's fine, up to a point — I'm not arguing that greens should have wild onions growing out of them — but whatever happened to "rub of the green," the idea that bad bounces and bad outcomes are part of the game? Yesterday, in the first round of the Safeway, Angela Stanford shot a tournament-record 62 despite hitting only 6 of 14 fairways. Not to take anything away from her achievement, but when you miss eight fairways you should be pulling thistles out of your hair.

I'd say more, but I have an appointment to get my sideburns trimmed. (Do greenkeepers accept tips?)

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