I have been fortunate to play some amazing golf courses this year, including 3 so far ranked among the top public courses in the United States, in both South Carolina’s Lowcountry and the volcanic mountains of Maui.
I’m also proud to say I have thoroughly enjoyed playing some of the best courses in Kentucky, several of which are real gems of modern golf architecture in this area.
One nagging thought I’ve had during several of these rounds is that, with the exception of Hilton Head’s collection of flat, coastal lowlands courses, almost none of these courses have been easily walkable by the average golfer.
None of the Hawaiian courses I played were particularly walking friendly tracts. In fact, the Kapalua Plantation Course is the one PGA Tour stop that allows players the use of a cart, though only to get from the 6th green to the 7th tee.
Around Lexington, none of the relatively new courses (anything built in the late 1980’s or more recently) are particularly walkable. Even Kearney Hill, where the Senior Tour once played annually, is a tough walk, with its collection of elevated tees and greens spread across rolling bluegrass terrain.
Many of Central Kentucky’s great modern courses, like Old Silo, which is one of the best courses in the state, is impossible to walk, not only owing to significant elevation changes, but also attributable to the incredible distances from green to tee.
At the mountain courses I’ve played, StoneCrest and Eagle Ridge, walking simply isn’t an option. You’d have to be a marathoner to complete your rounds in less than 6 hours, and only if you could survive the slogs from green to tee.
However, many of this country’s top new golf courses, the ones we all read about in magazines and see profiled on the Golf Channel, are designed to encourage walking. Several of them are exclusively walking golf courses, and offer the services of a caddie or forecaddie to assist the golfer and enhance his or her experience:
- Erin Hills
- Whistling Straights
- Chambers Bay
Are these new courses just a fad, or has the industry turned a corner towards building and maintaining more walkable golf courses?
I realize I may be in the minority, but if and when golf course construction resumes in earnest in the U.S., it is my sincere hope that more courses are designed with walking the course primarily in mind.
Sure, I realize that courses have an incentive to get players through the course as quickly as possible, to capture revenue from more rounds and keep their customers happy with a quicker pace of play.
Yes, I am fully aware that cart rental fees are a significant source of revenue without which, many courses could not survive. And, of course, I realize, that there are medical and age related cases that without carts, some people could not participate in the game of golf at all.
Nonetheless, I firmly believe that if the golf industry truly wants to grow, encouraging walking is a great place to start. It makes the game less expensive. It requires golfers to get some exercise. And it would make golf courses and golf course operations less expensive to maintain.
But, Dear Readers, this is all just one (bearded) golfer’s opinion, one who at times has been accused of being devoid of perspective, among other things. So, as always, I will be interested to read any feedback and thoughts you have on the subject.
Bluntly, have enough marginal golfers, those, who like me, entered the game riding the crest of the Tiger Woods phenomenon and only knew golf from behind the wheel of cart, been weeded out or converted to walking the course that it can become an important part of the game’s future? I don’t know, but I certainly hope so.