A year in architecture – 2018 newsmakers (Part 3 of 3)
by M. James Ward
The 2018 calendar is drawing to a close and looking back there were a number of key newsmakers clearly providing a significant impact on the architectural side of things. In some cases the headliners of 2018 will carry forward into 2019. The golf world is quickly evolving on a range of fronts and the new year ahead will certainly carry both opportunities and challenges.
New rules for the road
After much debate and plenty of feedback throughout 2018 the Rules of Golf will have major changes in the new year ahead. Given the incomprehensible breakdown in numerous high profile events over the last few years, the USGA & R&A opted to cleanse the pedantic clutter of the Rules of Golf that for too long was more akin to a verbose legal dictionary. The new rules provide a clearer sense of direction for players to better comprehend their rights and responsibilities.
Among the major changes will be allowing players to leave the flagstick in the hole even when on the putting green. Lost ball searches can only last three minutes now instead of five. Balls to be dropped will be carried out from knee height. The out-of-bounds rule can be amended by clubs to avoid stroke-and-distance penalty. This provision will not be carried out during elite competitions. If one's ball moves accidentally on the green you can replace it with no penalty. Players can substitute a new ball in all drop situations. One of the major changes will permit players to smooth irregularities including spike marks.
Simplicity has never been a common thread with the Rules of Golf and over the years the amount of various details has caused situations to happen where players did not fully realize the implications of their actions.
To the credit of the USGA and R&A the two major associations realized something of a major sort was needed because various snafus were showing how discombobulated matters were becoming.
For regular players the streamlined amendments will clearly be an improvement from what existed previously.
One major element that bears watching is just how much time professionals spend on ensuring putting greens are smooth prior to their putts. Without real effort on this front the pace of play for such rounds could very well exceed what is happening now. Such an unintended consequence could easily pass down to recreational play and stretch out the total time needed to complete a full round.
Nonetheless, on the whole, the changes are a plus and most welcomed.
The Keiser Kingdom
When architecture is often discussed the focus quite naturally goes to the respective courses and the people responsible in designing them. But, when Bandon Dunes opened in May 1999, many leading authoritative figures in the golf industry were chuckling that owner Mike Keiser would secure a land site immediately next to the Pacific Ocean and hire a relatively unknown Scotsman named David McLay Kidd for the task.
Fast track to 2018 and whatever chuckles were present then are no longer happening. Keiser has demonstrated a clear desire to create courses that embody the character from the land they occupy and do so by engaging talented architects who can create holes with a direct connection to architectural elements embodied from the classical courses of Scotland and Ireland.
Prior to Bandon, Keiser initially created his own 9-hole private facility called The Dunes Club, located just across the Illinois Stateline in Michigan. Keiser has long been a proponent of golf which favors a meaningful connection with both aerial and ground game options woven together. In addition, Keiser has steadfastly eschewed the involvement of power carts, promoting the benefits of walking and how the game is ultimately enjoyed more because of it. Go to any of the facilities he's involved with and the only way you'll be using a power cart is with a doctor's note.
The 72-year-old native of East Aurora, NY moved to the Chicago area to create his own business – recycled greeting cards – with a college chum. After selling his business Keiser opted to get into the golf industry. Two years after Bandon Dunes opened, a second course, Pacific Dunes, debuted. The Tom Doak design received rave reviews and the Keiser golf game plan was now in full swing – no pun intended. Several other courses would follow at Bandon Dunes and each of the 18-hole layouts is ranked among the top 15 public courses in America. No other multi-course operation comes remotely close to what Bandon has achieved in such a short time.
Keiser's reach extended beyond the borders of the USA with follow-up successes in Tasmania with the opening in December 2004 of Barnbougle Dunes – again by Doak, but this time in collaboration with Mike Clayton. Six years later a second course spawned, Lost Farm – the handiwork of the talented twosome of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. Both layouts are routinely rated among the top ten courses in Australia.
The wave of success went north of the American border on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Once again Keiser was a lead figure in bringing to life both Cabot Links by Rod Whitman in 2011 and its counterpart Cabot Cliffs by Crenshaw and Coore which opened shortly thereafter. Both of these layouts, located next to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, are consistently mentioned as being among the top ten courses in all of Canada.
Keiser added a development in north central Wisconsin to his American portfolio. The first of these efforts called Sand Valley opened – again with a Crenshaw and Coore connection. The naturalness of the property features sand waste areas with holes that work through the site. A follow-up effort called Mammoth Dunes was unveiled in 2018. Once again Keiser reunited with Kidd and the reviews have been impressive. A 3rd course is eventually going to be designed – this time with Doak at the helm.
There's little doubt that Keiser has provided a clear and unmistakable voice in what he believes is the kind of golf that real golfers crave. His sense of judgement and the wherewithal to over deliver has been utterly remarkable, given the overall golf market looks to be facing lean times in the years ahead. In short, Mike Keiser is clearly playing a song that core golfers are dancing up a storm to and enjoying.
Irish eyes are smiling
It was not too long ago when the words “Irish Open” would likely have not received much attention and likely a shrug of the shoulders save for those who call The Emerald Isle home. The event was struggling to keep its existence going in a positive manner. Although the championship dates back to 1927 and has been won three times each by such distinguished players as Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, the event was seen more in terms of what it accomplished in the past rather than what the future might provide. Fortunately, the likes of Rory McIlroy opted to lend his considerable support in resurrecting an event, now part of a three-event swing along with the Scottish Open culminating with The Open Championship.
While the sponsorship name is a mouthful – Dubai Duty Free Irish Open by the Rory Foundation – the net result has been a shining light on a golf product that's truly among the world's finest.
McIlroy's involvement opened the door for world-renowned players to compete in the event and matters were no doubt helped considerably when Rory won the 2016 tournament at The K Club.
The 2018 event was played away from Dublin and the championship showed the world the magnificence of the Wild Atlantic Way with a visit to the renowned Ballyliffin Golf Club. While Ballyliffin served nobly as host it was the considerable spotlight that showcased the range of Irish golf gems that make up the northwest corner of the country.
The 2019 event will be played at another of Ireland's grand clubs – Lahinch. Moving the championship to different parts of the country has clearly boosted the tournament's attendance and stature. Amazingly, Lahinch will be hosting the event for the first time and the professionals who encounter this delicious links will be exposed to such stellar holes as the Dell and Klondyke. Lahinch is a glorious entertaining links that will receive global attention when staging the event.
But the fanfare of Irish golf will attain an even greater level when The Open Championship returns to Royal Portrush for an encore visit – the first having happened in 1951. How successful will the championship be? For starters, if you have not already booked your ticket, your only chance to see the event will be from television. All tickets are sold out.
The emergence of Portrush as a host to golf's oldest major championship came about because of the convergence of a number of factors and it helped matters that such proponents of the course – Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and McIlroy – all won major championship in such a short period of time in 2010-11.
The Dunluce Course has been modified and strengthened in spots for The Open but the architectural genius is vintage Harry S. Colt. The tumbling dunes land showcases fingers of closely cropped grass with a slew of bunkers artfully positioned to catch any ill-conceived shot executions. While the vagary of Irish weather is well known, it is unmistakably clear that Irish eyes are indeed smiling on what's to come.