Speech delivered by Forrest Richardson in March 2001 at the Coldwater Golf Club, Avondale, Arizona
Thank you for inviting me. There are many stories about what we’ve created here at Coldwater Golf Club. I look forward to hearing from you about what you like and dislike about the course and I will gladly tell what I liked and disliked about designing it! You can expect to hear this, however: creating a golf course on flat land is one of the most challenging assignments in our business. And, as Bob [the farmer who owner the land before it was transformed into a golf course] can attest, there was very little downhill — and very little uphill for that matter — out here at Coldwater before we began our work. Thanks to Mike Yukon, our project manager, there is now plenty of both.
Quite frankly, I have the greatest job in the world. As if by magic, I am able to speak with you today — and at the very same time and in different parts of the country — without the use of my hands or voice — not even the internet — am able to challenge people, test nerves, demand skill, create loopholes, and play tricks on unsuspecting golfers putting for birdie. Somewhere, someplace, the courses we have designed are dishing out anguish, enabling triumph, offering an opportunity at every shot — and hopefully, if we did our job right — creating a whole lot of fun.
Golf, for those of you who don’t know, is supposed to be fun. As we sit here — and at this very same moment — there is a carrot being dangled to a golfer who has his sights on a par-5 in two (maybe it’s the 13 at Coyote Lakes) — down the road there is a beautiful view across several fairways to a distant mountain — and still further away there is a bet on the line at a short little par-3 — you know, the kind of hole that is “an easy par” (perhaps that is occurring just a few hundred feet north of us?) — in Hawaii, where my mentor Jack Snyder created six courses, guests at the Wailea resort are about to hear a crackling voice over the loudspeaker calling the first foursome of the day to the first tee — maybe it’s a couple on their honeymoon… but more likely a businessman from Malaysia. And then, this evening, when sprinklers are getting ready to begin their cycles, an energetic dog and his boy will chase Frisbees across a deserted fairway. Maybe the 6th down at the Pointe at South Mountain — and before sunset, a lady named Ilene will throw carrots to the javalinas who always find their way to the rough just east of No. 17. What joy — what frustration — and without even lifting a finger. Most definitely, I have a great job…
Having studied golf course architecture in England and Scotland, one of my all-time favorite discussions centers around our view of golf here in America — most American golfers have no idea what they are missing. Allow me just a few minutes to share some thoughts.
There is a modern belief that all “championship courses” must have a par of 72, contain four par-5s and four par-3s, and be not less than around 7,000 yards in length. This is a crazy notion — it’s as crazy as maintaining that all loaves of bread should be the same size and shape. The game of golf was meant to embrace the very essence of
individuality, uniqueness and intrigue — how can you have that and at the same time demand standards?
The misused word “championship” is, perhaps, at the root of much of this evil. A “championship course” is quite literally one on which a championship has been played — no more and no less — and I’m sorry to report that the definition does not include the Avondale Rotary Club’s Fall Best Ball Scramble!
Every course in the world — and every hole on every course — is unique in it’s own way. To standardize the game of golf into a set of “rules” and limits must make Old Tom Morris roll in his grave — and at we Americans he very well may be rolling with laughter…for a while back golf architects over here were daring and did not care so much about standards…
. The Old Course at St. Andrews was as few as twelve holes and as much as 22 up until around 1870…before then was no standard — a golf course was simply laid out to suit the land — maybe 8 holes, maybe 22, 16, whatever.
. Why is it that we strive to fit in four par-3s and four par-5s? St. Andrews only has two of each.
. At Royal Lythum and St. Annes the first hole is a par-3. No one does that any more.
. At Dr. Alister MacKenzie’s Pasatiempo in Norther California the 18th is a demanding par-3. Today a developer would see that as “weird” and not allow it. But at Pasatiempo it is a gifted hole that settles matches and plays like no other finishing hole in golf.
. At Pebble Beach there are trees right in the middle of the 18th fairway. How appalling! Fairways are supposed to be wide open and flanked by bunkers and neat edges of manicured turf.
. At Riveria there is a sand trap in the middle of a green. What was going on back then!
My point is this (and I borrow some thoughts by Don Knott, a creative golf course architect and past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects) —- golf was originally meant as an obstacle course where the players chose their own path and played over natural terrain. It was the player — not the course — that decided how to get from point A to point B. Today, courses are looking too much like bowling alleys with defined landing areas and neatly placed hazards. Golf courses are looking much too much like the one down the street – or across town – or that one in California. When done properly, golf is the most fun and exciting game imaginable. But is needs the unexpected, the unpredictable, and the challenge. It needs to live more up to the standards of having no real standards. I say, relax the standards, let’s keep golf fun.