I was amused by the contradiction inherent in Wally Uihlein's MY SHOT (Jan. 14). Uihlein, the CEO of Titleist's parent company, trots out the manufacturers' familiar refrain: Advances in equipment should continue unchecked so the game will be more enjoyable for the average golfer, especially now that the golf industry is, as he says, "mired in the same recession as the rest of the U.S." What Uihlein fails to mention is that golf's flagging participation rates are due primarily to cost. It's a simple equation: The farther players hit the ball, the more length and width we need for safe courses. This additional acreage means more development costs and greater maintenance budgets. These expenses are passed on to golfers in the form of higher greens fees.
The position of course architects has been consistently misstated and exaggerated—including Titleist's over-the-top TV ads—so that it seems as if we want the USGA to slow technology just so classic courses won't be rendered obsolete. That's a noble goal, but we're equally interested in protecting the courses the average golfer plays. We all know the pros hit it a mile. Our concern is the technologically enhanced weekend golfers for whom a 280-yard drive is now the rule, not the exception. Problem is, their hooks or slices go proportionally just as far. As architects we're no longer concerned only about protecting the people and the houses that border the fairways. Now we have to worry about the houses across the street from the houses that border the fairway.
An American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) member recently analyzed the effects of increased distance, and the results were disturbing: To combat the hot ball and drivers, architects will have to use at least 10% more land, inflating grow-in and maintenance costs by up to 17%! Hitting the ball farther may be enjoyable, but making golf even more expensive will do irreparable harm to the game.
Pascuzzo is the president of the ASGCA and a partner in Graves & Pascuzzo Ltd., a course-design firm in El Dorado Hills, Calif.