Chris BaldwinThis Week at Oct. 12, 2005

In pursuing pro tournament dreams,
courses forget us average golfers

It's the American way to want things bigger, better and bolder, to go for victory at all times (except perhaps in the Ryder Cup Matches.) So it's no surprise that every golf course in America desperately wants to host a pro tournament.

And not just any pro tournament: a major championship.

This is why Donald Trump uses The Apprentice to showcase his Trump National Golf Club to a national TV audience. This is why former USGA President Sandy Tatum and every other Harding Park campaigner pretend no criticism of their $16 million renovated San Francisco muni exists.

Even courses that reluctantly resign themselves to hosting second-tier events obsess over that one week of the year and gear up the grounds crew like it's the World Series. I played the venerable La Costa in the San Diego area just before the Match Play Championship and it was in great shape. With rough thicker than a Michelle Wie fanatic's head, it utterly frustrated as it put a smile on your face.

The problem comes when courses become so fixated on the pros that they lose sight of the average hackers. You know, their real customers.

Far too many courses look at holding a pro tournament as an easy path to full tee sheets. How the course looks or plays when Joe Schmo shows up at the bag drop is of little importance. As long as it looks fantastic when the TV cameras are there!

This is why when Harding Park regulars talk about the inconsistencies of the greens, it makes you wonder. Was that $16 million spent for the benefit of local golfers or just for the city bigwigs who get a kick out of seeing a San Francisco course on TV?

The pro tournament obsession carries an even bigger impact on golf course design. Every new course has to be well over 7,000 yards these days because ... well, because what if Tiger Woods ever shows up?

A 6,400 yard course is now considered as puny as Popeye without the spinach. When in reality that's more than enough to challenge even the top 5 percent of recreational golfers.

"I think average golfers would have more fun on a shorter course, but they'll never play them to find out," said Barrie McWha, the general manager at Vancouver Island's Pheasant Glen Golf Resort. "They want the monster courses."

Forgive McWha for making sense. He's Canadian. In America, it's still all about chasing the big tournaments with the biggest courses, 20-handicappers be still.

Trump recently boasted on TV, "Trump is Trump. What can I tell you?" But Trump is just part of the crowd in this tournament dirt race.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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