The debate about course rankings continues among the more learned and informed minds in the golfing industry and probably even more so among the less informed armchair experts found in the locker rooms and 19th holes around the world. Courses are rated according to a variety of categories, including shot values, design aesthetics, memorability and conditioning, to name but a few. Some courses just age gracefully with a timeless beauty and it is this appeal that sometimes contributes to elevating their status. Royal County Down is a recent example – now holding pole position after dethroning Pine Valley.
Augusta, on the other hand, has had more surgery than Mickey Rourke, and perhaps, even more lifts than a naked hitchhiker. However, when one visits Augusta during the week of The Masters, there is no price on the experience which is quite simply a ‘mind melt’. Unfortunately, even arriving at the nearby Augusta Regional Airport in your Gulfstream V and flashing a Visa Black won’t get you on for 18 there. One could be pardoned for attempting to buy a piece of this platinum blonde though. Her appeal goes way beyond the extraordinary and all the doctoring to Alister MacKenzie’s original masterpiece can be forgiven. Let’s just hope they don’t take it too far and start bleaching the putting cups.
Being a photographer of courses as one of my preferred genres, the base from which I serve my opinion is not broad enough for it to encompass all of the categories with authority. My opinion comes more from a visual/aesthetic and design perspective. I once asked two wine farmers what they felt was the best red wine and their answer was brilliant…”the red wine that you like – is a good wine.” This answer won’t cut it in the golf course rankings world. Grading timeless appeal, beauty, resistance to scoring etc. requires deeper analysis. Some may argue that a more equitable system might be to rank courses by way of a tier-based model, rather than from 1 – 100.
Being a photographer of courses as one of my preferred genres, the base from which I serve my opinion is not broad enough for it to encompass all of the categories with authority.
Does a 65-year old course-ranking panelist, whose lag is not confined to his golf swing, have any business rating a monster such as Augusta? Perhaps he does, given the more mature membership at many of the older golfing establishments. Conversely, letting an average golfer loose at Augusta may also be akin to fighting a marlin with a fly rod. Playing ‘oot-a-yer-shocks’ at Loch Lomond, combined with a special invite in the enjoyable company of a colourful 4-ball may just sway a panelist’s opinion over a below-average round at Carnoustie with a dour playing partner. Failing a stern test of golf can also leave one quite dejected. For some, rejection from the most beautiful of women can make them seem ugly – as Jim Morrison alluded to, when he sang, “Woman seem wicked, when you’re unwanted”, from the cut, People are Strange.
It’s like trying to make sense of Time’s top 100 movies. Should On the Waterfront place ahead of Amadeus…? To some silver-screen aficionados it should, but not so, in my opinion!! But then, does my opinion weigh as heavily as a respected and accomplished movie critic with some 30 years in the industry? In truth, beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder, and any academic approach to ranking golf courses, no matter how logical, will always be contentious.
“In truth, beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder, and any academic approach to ranking golf courses, no matter how logical, will always be contentious.”
In one of the most compelling acting scenes in movie history, F. Murray Abraham, playing the tortured Salieri in Amadeus, describes Mozart’s genius, – “Misplace one note and there would be diminishment. Misplace one phrase and the structure would fall.” Can the same can be said of the original designs and genius of Dr MacKenzie?
“Misplace one note and there would be diminishment. Misplace one phrase and the structure would fall.”
If courses are ranked according to tier status – Diamond (Top 10), Platinum (11-20) and so on, it may provide a more balanced assessment. Or, perhaps, the notion of an undisputed champion simply appeals to the innate desires of the human psyche.
In South Africa for example, I’m not convinced we can place The Links ahead of Leopard Creek or the GPCC and St Francis Links. They are all outstanding layouts with their own unique characteristics. Certainly, in my opinion, they all deserve Diamond status.
We don’t want a socialist model doused with complacency triumphing individual spirit. One may argue that a capitalistic ranking system rewards merit, while a ‘socialist style’, tier-based system rewards mediocrity. That can be true for many models, none more so than in education, however, the very nature of the ranking categories may be too complex for such a sweeping comparison.
This is bound to stoke debate and both arguments have merit. Opinions…??