Ask Travelin' Joe

Ask Travelin’ Joe

Joe Passov, a.k.a. Travelin’ Joe, the architecture and course rankings editor for GOLF Magazine, responds to reader comments regarding GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the U.S. and the World.

If you need travel directions, zip him an e-mail at [email protected].

Greg said: Oakmont was rewarded for its recent tree removal program, yet Augusta National wasn’t penalized for its recent misguided tree planting program. That doesn’t make much sense.

Dear Greg,

While trendspotting is good fun when it comes to course design, changes to classic courses should be treated on a case-by-case basis. That’s the fun of architecture and course rankings — there are no absolutes. In Oakmont’s case, the brains behind the club, William and Henry Fownes, never intended it to be a parkland design. The tree-planting took place mainly in the 1960s, in response to a perceived slap by legendary writer Herbert Warren Wind, who called the course “ugly.” By removing the trees, initially a controversial move, it restored Oakmont to its early glory.

In the case of Augusta National, indeed many critics frowned at the aggressive tree-planting. Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie intended their design to embrace the shot values that St. Andrews’ Old Courseprovided, with width, angles and multiple options. By any stretch, adding rows of trees and narrowing the avenues of play goes against the founders’ original intent. Yet, the vast majority of our panelists apparently felt that Augusta National retains its greatness in spite of these changes. The incredible contouring, remarkable risk/reward par-5s, thrilling back nine and unbeatable inland beauty remain in place — elements that help explain the continuing lofty status Augusta National enjoys.

Jason said: I just wanted to say how disappointed I was to see this list come out. I mean how is the average golfer supposed to play 90% of these courses that you say are the best in the country/world when they are mostly private? I think a list comprising courses that the average joe could play would have been much more enjoyable to see, from my point of view anyway. I would love to play all of these courses but how am I ever supposed to do that? Thanks Golf Magazine, where is my Golf Digest?

Dear Jason,

Recognizing greatness in golf course architecture must include all courses, private and public. True, most of our readers will never get to play most of the courses on our Top 100, as they are members only. However, just because I’ll never be able to purchase a Ferrari doesn’t mean I don’t like looking at them and talking about them — and recognizing their greatness.

However, we also acknowledge that we like checking items off a list as much as anybody, with the ultimate goal of playing them all. That’s why we put out a ranking every two years of the Top 100 Courses That You Can Play — a salute to the very best public courses in the U.S.