By Richard Mandell*
Ryder Cup: Can Lessons in Affordable Golf be Learned From Celtic Manor?
The following is the first of a series of rants that touch on the affordability of golf for the end user. It is also an effort to highlight a very special event on November 8, 2010 – the very first Symposium on Affordable Golf – to be held in Southern Pines, North Carolina. This event is open to all without cost. To learn more about the Symposium on Affordable Golf, please visit www.symposiumonaffordablgolf.com
A few weeks ago I remarked how I love watching the four majors above all tournaments. I neglected to remember that the best day of golf on TV is Sunday of the Ryder Cup. The individual matches that make up those final twelve points in pursuit of the Ryder Cup are some of the most exciting and dramatic sporting events around. If all tournament golf was this good, Disney would own Golf Channel, not ESPN.
So how can a golf event played every twenty-four months involving twenty-four of the most elite golfers on the planet possibly have any connection to affordable golf? Well it isn’t in a golf course tailor-made, literally, for one event that’s good for the game. It also isn’t in the maintenance practices that defined Celtic Manor for the Ryder Cup. Even though course maintenance practices in the British Isles are less “invasive” and involved than here in the States, the management of Celtic Manor reeked of American over-maintenance.
What makes the Ryder Cup such a great event is the hand to hand combat known as match play. It is the essence of what the origins of competitive golf were all about. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than a match with another person and the drama that ensues as a result of almost every shot.
It is match play where strategy really comes to the forefront based not just on your opponent’s moves but the responses of both participants to the challenges each golf hole may present based on their specific talents. These guys are playing not only for their respective teams, but they also get reminders of what drew them to the game earlier in their lives. That is why they act like kids at this event more than anywhere else. No money is on the line in terms of purses; instead it is pride in beating the other guy(s).
The love of playing the game is what I get out of watching the Ryder Cup and that is the lesson that we can take to the business of golf. Over the years, the industry has gotten sidetracked away from the love of the game, instead focusing on perfect conditions, media hype of new courses, and the visual wow factor. All these elements cost money and have pushed affordability out the door at all levels. Singles at the Ryder Cup strips away all the extraneous things and puts the focus on golf, nothing else. Let me provide a few examples.
When the focus is on your opponent and how best to handle the golf course based upon the situation at hand, the pressures of individual scores melt away and the time needed for a round of golf melts away as well. If you lose the hole, you pick up and move to the next one. How does this relate to affordable golf? For the golfer, it means less time to play a round of golf. Our ancestors played golf eighteen holes in three hours or less on a regular basis. There should be little reason why we can’t too. For the operator, less time per round means more rounds to sell and less pressure to chase high greens fees.
We are also more apt to accept real playing conditions, not the perfection that has become standard demand.
It is understandable that when you are playing against the golf course (stroke play), you may tend to demand that the golf course be in proper order. But when you are playing another person (match play), there is comfort and acceptance in the fact that both players have to deal with a thin lie or a brown spot (not that a blemish here or there really affects the game anyway).
When match play is the format, the golfer is less apt to focus on the extraneous elements of a golf course that cost so much to build and maintain. Instead, the focus is on those features that can determine the fate of the match – the tilt of the fairway off the tee, a ripple of ground that may need to be carried in order to reach the second landing area of a par five, maybe a hollow to go over with a chip from off the green. When the focus is on just the game itself, maybe we don’t need service at such a level in the clubhouse that operators have way too much invested in payroll. When the focus is on playing for the love of hitting a great shot, maybe we can live without wall to wall irrigation or cart paths.
The lesson to be learned from the Ryder Cup is purely based on this love of the game and of pure, unadulterated competition. Ignore the fact the course was built for one event. Ignore the over conditioning of the golf course. Ignore the hospitality tents and the TV compounds. Those are things that are not in the everyday golfing world. Striving for those goals (or similar) has led to the game being out of touch with the golfers. Instead, let us look at how much fun the competition was and make the love of the game- not the fringe elements- the impetus for operating an affordable golf course.
Originally posted by RichardMandell
on 19 Oct 2010.
All contributors: RichardMandell
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