08 Oct 2020 | Professional golf |
Tweak courses to save them, says Ogilvy
by Martin Blake
Major champion and golf architect Geoff Ogilvy says clever course set-ups are all that will save the famous, old golf courses of the world from the marauding modern professionals like Bryson DeChambeau.
Admitting that DeChambeau’s stunning victory at the US Open at Winged Foot had changed his perspective – he has been a longtime critic of how far the ball flies – Ogilvy said he was a fan of the long-hitting American.
But the 2006 US Open champion (at Winged Foot) said golf authorities were getting it wrong with set-ups.
“It changed my perspective a little bit,” the thoughtful Ogilvy told Golf Australia’s Inside The Ropes podcast this week.
“I mean, I’m a massive Bryson fan in that anyone who puts the effort and time and thought into it that he does, and it actually works … I mean, there are a lot of people who’ve tried and kind of done it his style, scientifically breaking it down, Golf Machine type of people. And they’re all camped at some range somewhere, and we’ve never heard their name, you know?
“Mac O’Grady got the closest in that headspace, and he won a couple of tournaments, but he never did what Bryson’s doing. The fact he’s done that and he’s playing well, you have to have your hat off to it. But it was a very big exposure of ‘are we setting up golf courses the best way?’ If that’s the best way to have a good score at Winged Foot, I don’t like that aspect of it. Just drive it as far as you can and if it goes in the rough, that’s fine, I’ll just hit it on to the green with my wedge.
“If that’s the way golf goes, I think that’s the message. I don’t blame the technology on this. Everyone’s just maximising what you’ve got. I blame the set-ups. I think you shouldn’t be able to get away with that style. At Royal Melbourne or Woodlands or something like that, Bryson would have to play a completely different game and he would evolve into a different goffer because position is important when you don’t have the long rough, and a bit of firmness.
"It was interesting on a number of fronts, actually. Yeah, I’m a Bryson fan, actually. I mean, anyone who can think that much about golf and not be completely crazy when they play it is amazing. But the style he’s playing, if that’s the best way in the future, if they react with longer courses and narrower courses and longer rough, I think people will do it more.
“If they creatively think about how they set up courses to make it more important to be in a good position on short grass rather than be in a long position in long grass, I think Bryson would evolve into that golfer. There’s a lot of lessons out of it, but it was interesting to watch.”
Ogilvy used the example of the way Royal Melbourne’s composite course was presented for the Presidents Cup in 2019, with firm, fast greens, as an example of how golf authorities needed to think. He was a vice-captain for the International team at that event, but he belives what happened at Winged Foot – heavy rough meant to penalise inaccuracy – is not the answer.
“It’s a simple formula. I missed it too, but it’s there and it’s very obvious,” he said. “With golf, the longer you make it, the longer that people are going to want to hit it, and the longer that they’re going to try to hit it. Royal Melbourne is not long enough anymore, but it doesn’t matter. The right position is still the right position.
“Yeah, they’re coming in with a nine iron when it used to be a six iron and all that. People can fight about that, but whatever, things evolve. The right position on six west (the par-four sixth at the west course) is still the right position on six west. You’re never going to hit a driver there, because you’ll drive it through the fairway and make a 10. Great greens and great courses will stand up to scrutiny, set up well.
“Because Tiger (Woods) stood out as the best player at the Presidents Cup by a long way, and that was with experience and plotting it around and hitting the smart shots below the hole, and being a sensible golfer and only being aggressive where the course sort of let you be aggressive.
“That’s a more beautiful game to watch, I think, than the style Bryson played at Winged Foot, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think what he did was unbelievably amazing, and I’m impressed. It’s creative set-up.’’
Ogilvy said if old courses were set up the right way, the best players would play them differently. “We’ve just got to look at the set-ups we present and let the set-ups and the courses we present would evolve professional golf and elite golf, and the rest of golf follows. That style, that direction. Beautiful golf gets played around beautiful golf courses. Winged Foot’s a beautiful golf course, but they restrict the set-up a lot, so you might as well hit it as far as you can because it’s very narrow with long rough.”
Ogilvy has his own architecture company, OCM, and has had a strong interest in design for most of his golfing life. He said in 2017 that golf needed to act on ball technology, using his much-quoted baseball analogy with that sport’s flirtation with aluminium bats. “It completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy. That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters. We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’
Hear the interview on Inside The Ropes here
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