Following the rapid development and uptake of on-course playing aids, The R&A and USGA have announced that they will review the use of green-reading materials (read “Joint statement regarding green-reading materials” on 1st May 2017). In this first EIGCA ‘Pulse Check’ we report the reactions of members of the golf course architects’ profession.
Ross McMurray, President of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) said: “Given the impact that the use of playing aids could have on the way golf is played we canvassed our members for their views on how they feel the use of playing aids may affect both the game and golf course design.”
Nearly three-quarters of respondents were concerned about the use of both measurement devices and green-reading materials, especially their impact on the pace of play. The use of green maps, in particular, was viewed as not only slowing play but having a detrimental effect on the way the game is played.
Kari Haug of Kari Haug Planning and Design, and Ken Moodie of Creative Golf Design, both believed the use of these aids reduce the emphasis on skills such as judging distances and reading green slopes. Jonathan Tucker of the STRI added: “it could also lead to a position in which golfers who have advanced technology gain an unfair advantage”.
Members appeared to be much less concerned by the impact that playing aids would have on golf course design with an overwhelming 83% of respondents indicating that they did not believe they needed to change their practice. Alan Walker of Alan Walker Golf Consultancy suggests that architects can still design features that add challenges which are not negated by measuring devices, yet green-reading materials give away the subtleties of the putting surfaces, a key design feature. Christoph Städler of Städler Golf Courses agrees that these aids reduce the amount of illusion and uncertainty which the architect creates, but they do not alter the strategic challenge the golfer faces.
In contrast, a number of members felt that if used correctly playing aids could actually be beneficial,
Christian Lundin of reGolf says: “If players get to see all details added by the architect, the greatness of courses can be appreciated even more”, and Thomas Marzolf of Fazio Design felt that green-reading materials actually provided a great opportunity to show off golf architecture skills.
Finally, there was also recognition from EIGCA members that the game needs to keep up with the times and advances in technology, and welcomed anything which helped more people get involved and enjoy the game. Matt Schiffer of Green Grass Engineering says: “I am in support of any device that allows amateur players to enjoy the game and play it more quickly, perhaps not in tournament play but for everyday play, absolutely”. Christian Lundin believes “We can’t talk about growing the game without allowing modern technology to have an impact.” Gary Johnston of European Golf Design said: “I think these aids have a place in the game, but their use needs to be monitored to ensure they do not negatively impact the way the game is played.”
In conclusion, Ross McMurray commented: “Whilst these results represent a broad range of our member’s opinions it is interesting to note that the most common concerns were around the potential impact of playing aids on the speed of play. It demonstrates that our membership recognise pace of play as an increasingly important issue in today’s game.”
European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) www.eigca.org