Lush Target Golf

Golfers as TV personalities: A revolution in British golf happened around the 1970s, led by Arnold Palmer.  Money came pouring into the professional game with television increasingly being influential in the promotion of the sport.

Money determines location of new courses: Whereas previously in the British Isles, tournaments were predominantly played on the ‘fine’ courses, a new breed of ‘lush target golf’ was developed along with the building of new ‘big’ par 72 courses on ground chosen primarily for commercial reasons, near large conurbations, rather than for its grasses. (unfortunately some ‘fine’ courses followed this ‘softening of greens’ trend)

Predictability is king:

It is understandable that many professionals want to play on courses that are predictable.  It is easier if the surfaces of the fairways are flat.  They don’t want an unlucky bounce from a quirky bump often found on ‘fine’ courses.

Target golf is easier:

‘Lush target’ fairways and greens are fertilised and heavily watered.  The ball stops dead without having to bounce onto the green through the apron.  The GPS on the buggie tells them a shot is, say, 82 yards and they know which lob wedge to use.  The unpredictability involved in having to fashion a different type of shot than the high one that flies the exact yardage and stops on target is removed.

These conditions are also superficially liked by some golfers who want easier golf with the ball sitting up and stopping quickly without having to learn how to impart backspin.

TV promotes Power and putting touch: These types of ‘bulldozered’ courses are designed as a priority to test the power from the tee and the putting touch of the professional.

Both are aspects of golf most easily portrayed by television from static cameras with the advantage that advertising hoardings can be placed in the background and photographing costs are lower.

‘Signature’ holes:

The marketing gurus of television like the spectacle of lush, green, immaculate fairways, the drama of big lakes and a golf architecture that might be called the ‘new penal’ school of design with ‘signature’ holes.

The high priest of this golf is The US Masters at Augusta National. It sells brilliant television but nobody plays Augusta for four months in the winter and they have the money to renew the course every year.

The week-long bonanza around a professional tournament moves on, sometimes leaving behind problem greens that have been scalped to produce the speed of putt we all like to see but creating longer term greenkeeping problems.

I last played ‘The Burma Road’, Wentworth in 1966. It was tough and very fine.  I am told it’s greens had degenerated and became almost 100% Poa annua (meadow grass) through overwatering, fertilising and mowing the greens too low and they no longer gave the quality of surface required for the Pro Tour. They have had to be dug-up and relaid. A costly exercise and not one the ordinary club can afford.  Is this the inevitable result of deep pockets funded by television? They can afford to have a high cost maintenance regime throwing fertiliser, pesticides and water at the course with the inevitable consequence of driving out the fine grasses and encouraging the Poa annua. It will be interesting to see how long the new ‘colonial bent’ grasses survive in Wentworth’s West course greens.

Lush target golf is costly:

It is not as environmentally friendly as ‘Fine’ golf.  Nor is it a commercially viable option for the vast majority of courses.  Nevertheless, it creates pressure, from less discriminating golfers who, influenced by watching television, want greenkeepers to present their home courses in a similar way.  This in turn creates a spiral of problems for courses that have heavy traffic and need to be played all year round.

The key issue:

There are many aspects that differentiate ‘Fine’ from ‘lush target’ golf but the fundamental and most important is that ‘Fine’ golf is played on predominantly bents and fine fescue grasses (slow-growing, deep-rooting, wiry, fine-bladed grasses) whereas ‘lush target’ golf cultivates Poa annua (fast-growing, shallow-rooting, meadow grass).

We want to hear your views.  Please do leave a comment below.

Reader Comments

On April 10th, 2012 Miles Moffat Said:

Having just viewed The Masters, I agree Augusta is a joke. But it is mercifully a one-off and saved by some very clever course design. It makes for exciting television but not a patch on the Open.
We, in UK, are so lucky to have so many fast running links courses and many like my club, Walton Heath, where in summer it is an inland links(‘B.Darwin’).
I believe most club members are sypathetic to the modern green keeping policy described. It is up to the golf clubs to help by publishing monthly reports from the Head Greenkeeper as to the work programme and the reasons for it. Most criticisms are usually founded on ignorance.
Best wishes, Miles

How right you are and there is a quite simple method that golf clubs can use to communicate with their members and it is to allow their head greeenkeeper/course manager to have a FAQ page on the club’s website.
See our editorial page on this on the left-hand navigation under ‘what is fineGolf’.
Many thanks, Lorne