If you’ve been procrastinating on a Halloween costume, this is your last weekend to procrastinate a little more. Then you can procrastinate next week and go as a golfer.
According to an article by Josh Sens on Golf.com, Brandel Chamblee and his design partner Agustín Pizá are proposing to design a tournament venue specifically for women in Harlingen, Texas. Chamblee would like for the course to be to the LPGA Tour what the TPC Sawgrass is to the PGA Tour—a home base that hosts a big annual event. “We are still in the early stages of defining shot values and specifics,” Pizá told Sens. “But we guarantee [the course] will offer a carousel of emotions for the best women golfers in the world.”
This is a good, seemingly well-intentioned idea. Golf course design has not traditionally served women well. Most architects tend to conceptualize holes from the back tees, leaving middle and forward tees with awkward landing zones and angles into greens.
But Chamblee and Pizá’s plan is missing a crucial component: the LPGA Tour’s actual involvement. Chamblee said that commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan was “excited” about the project, but a tour representative told Sens that it was “too early to share a response.” If Chamblee and Pizá see this course as the LPGA’s TPC Sawgrass, they might want to get the tour itself on board soon.
For us, though, the even bigger question mark has to do with design philosophy. Chamblee and Pizá have plenty of sensible ideas (adjusted fairway widths to highlight LPGA accuracy off the tee, total length around 6,200 yards, etc.), but low scores appear to be the priority. “Scoreboards should bleed red to garner the most interest, and the LPGA has applied a tourniquet in the way of courses that are set up too hard,” Chamblee said. “We want approaches that allow the women to get the ball out on the green and spinning, providing the same excitement that the men provide.”
There are a couple of assumptions at work here. One, that low scores are the best way to attract eyeballs. Two, that the men’s game is currently more exciting than the women’s. We wholeheartedly reject both. Why should the LPGA Tour follow the PGA Tour’s formula of aerial attacks, birdies, and “living under par” instead of pursuing its own style? The reason that a course designed for the world’s top women would be exciting is that it could highlight their unique skill sets. The fairways could be firm and sloped to reward accuracy and ball-flight control, and the greens could reward low-trajectory shots instead of always encouraging lofted approaches.
Of course, this is all just a mental exercise until the Harlingen project gets approved. For now, perhaps we should simply applaud Chamblee and Pizá for putting a spotlight on issues of gender in golf course design. We just hope that when it comes to the LPGA Tour, the focus is on letting the women play their games, not on suggesting that they should play more like the men.
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