Tom Fazio at the Summit

October 29, 2007

Beyond the theme of course remodels and how they should be done, the subject of yesterday's blog, one recurring topic at the Golf Digest panelist summit in Pinehurst over the weekend was whether playability is an element of greatness. Alister MacKenzie once praised Pine Valley but said that he did not count as great a course that was not playable for "every conceivable level" of golfer.


Tom Fazio, who acknowledged yesterday that he'd been accused of building courses that are "too easy", echoed MacKenzie's point of view yesterday. Fazio said his favorite course in the world was Pine Valley, but admitted it violated one of his fundamental rules in designing courses:

I personally believe that courses need to be extremely enjoyable for all levels of golfers. I believe you can make a course that's hard for Tiger and easy for beginners....and it all has to do with the placement of hazards.

Fazio's rule for a playable hazard placement:

If I can make a rule for golf, if I was rating a course, I'd say no hazards perpindicular to the line of play. I'd take off points for that.

He described an extreme case: A 400-yard hole with a creek criss-crossing the fairway every 100 yards. Tiger, Fazio said, would hit five wood between the 200 and 300 yard hazards and a short iron into the green. No problem.

But you take that beginner, how many balls will he hit in the creek?

Pine Valley is my No. 1 course. Golf Digest has that right. But I'd never design a course like that. Because it doesn't work for the beginning player.

--Bob Carney

(Photo of Wanamaker Course at PGA Village courtesy of PGA Village)