Ron Whitten Talks Architecture with Charlie Rose

Ron Whitten explains the 2013-14 ranking of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses to Charlie Rose.

Released on 3/22/2013

Credits

Starring: Ron Whitten

Transcript

00:03
Charlie Rose - Ron Whitten is here.
00:04
He is the architecture editor of Golf Digest,
00:06
which he joined almost a quarter century ago.
00:09
In that time he has written over 350 articles,
00:11
and several books on golf architecture firmly
00:14
establishing himself as the subject's leading authority.
00:17
Every two years he oversees the oldest and,
00:19
by far, the most influential ranking in golf,
00:22
Golf Digest's list of America's 100 greatest courses.
00:26
What make a great golf course?
00:29
Ron - It has to start with the land or
00:31
at least it used to.
00:32
A great golf course always was always put on
00:34
a great piece of rolling property.
00:36
It gave you enough variety so that you had
00:39
uphill, downhill shots.
00:39
You could make some long holes,
00:40
and some short holes.
00:42
You wanted to have your par threes running
00:43
four different directions to play different
00:45
angles with the wind.
00:47
Now days there are some architects that can take
00:48
a dead fat piece of ground and shape it around
00:52
and create that topography.
00:54
So, the answer these days is less about the land
00:58
and more about the budget.
01:00
Charlie - And how much money the architect has to create
01:02
Ron - That's right
01:03
Charlie - his own golf course.
01:05
I also know other golf architects who come to the land
01:09
and say speak to me land.
01:12
I want to build what's here.
01:14
Ron - There are two schools of thought on that.
01:16
There is one called the minimalism.
01:18
Tom Doak, Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw
01:20
Charlie - Exactly.
01:21
That's who I was thinking of.
01:22
Ron - They believe in either using what mother nature
01:25
gave them or if they have to create it,
01:28
moving enough land that looks like mother nature
01:31
provided it and they didn't have anything to
01:33
do with it.
01:34
Charlie - Is Shadow Creek an example of a manufactured
01:36
golf course because of the terrain?
01:37
Ron - Shadow Creek is probably the outstanding example
01:41
of an engineered golf course.
01:43
From dead flat to magnificence.
01:47
They've dug down 60 feet,
01:48
piled up 60 feet,
01:49
have a 120 elevation change.
01:52
They planted
01:53
Charlie - They planted a gazillion trees.
01:54
Ron - They planted a million trees
01:55
with drip irrigation.
01:58
So, they created Vermont in Las Vegas.
02:01
Charlie - One of the things you suggested is like
02:04
a blind hole.
02:05
You cannot see the green.
02:06
What else are the sort of imponderables that
02:09
golf architects choose to play with?
02:12
Ron - You like to play with lines and angles.
02:15
You try to build your hazards diagonally so that
02:18
you bite off as much as you feel,
02:20
as you dare, as you feel comfortable trying to carry.
02:25
It's the easiest thing in the world to build a
02:27
really hard golf course.
02:29
It's much harder to build a course that is strategic.
02:32
That some people will play in certain areas and
02:35
other people will be bolder and play a little
02:38
more risk for the reward.
02:41
That's what every architect tries to do.
02:43
It's just how they,
02:44
they have a million different ways of doing it.
02:46
Charlie - Are all new golf courses longer?
02:49
Ron - Not all of them.
02:50
A majority are because most architects these days feel
02:54
that equipment has gotten out of hand.
02:59
Personally, I disagree.
03:00
I think that's part of the evolution of the game.
03:03
If you read 100 years ago,
03:04
architects back then thought when they went from
03:06
hickory shaft to the steel shaft that it was ruining
03:08
the game because the ball was going too far.
03:10
But, yes, the course is getting longer and,
03:14
again, that means more land.
03:15
It's it's more expense.
03:18
Charlie - Where's Pinehurst number two think of my home
03:20
state?
03:21
Ron - Pinehurst is in the top 30 now.
03:22
It was restored by Coore Crenshaw recently,
03:26
adding those bands of exposed sand instead of ruff.
03:33
Reestablishing some of the angles that we talked about.
03:37
It takes time though for our panelist to get out
03:39
and play and evaluate the course.
03:40
So, it hasn't moved up yet but I expect that over the
03:43
next ranking or two it will move back up.
03:45
It used to be, of course, in the top ten.
03:46
Charlie - Right.
03:47
What's the best new course?
03:48
Ron - Gosh.
03:50
You put me on the spot here because I,
03:53
there aren't that many courses being built.
03:55
I just came from Stream Song in Florida where
03:57
Coore Crenshaw and Tom Doak did side by side
04:00
courses on an old sand quarry or phosphate
04:03
mine quarry.
04:04
And did very, very unusual links style courses
04:09
which are very unusual for Florida.
04:11
Charlie - But, I read about a lot of new
04:12
courses in Oregon.
04:14
Ron - Obviously, the five courses now at Bandon
04:17
Dunes Resort are all,
04:19
four of them are on our 100 greatest public,
04:20
three of them,
04:21
sorry,
04:22
four of them are on our 100 greatest public
04:23
and they have a new one,
04:27
a fifth course which is a 13 hole, par three.
04:31
That's probably the best par three course you are
04:33
going to see in a long time.
04:34
Charlie - Is there reigning golf architect champion?
04:39
Ron - That's very subjective.
04:41
Obviously, Doak and Coore Crenshaw,
04:45
as we have discussed here today,
04:46
are the hot names right now.
04:48
Charlie - Fazio is still building.
04:49
Ron - Fazio still probably number one in terms of
04:52
budgets and clients and prestige.
04:55
He has the most courses of active architects on
04:57
the 100 greatest.
04:58
Gil Hance is doing the Rio 2016 course for
05:02
the Olympics.
05:03
That's certainly high visibility.
05:05
Martin Howtree just did Trump International
05:07
in Scotland and has just announced that he is
05:10
doing a second course there.
05:11
Charlie - Players who become golf course architects.
05:15
Tiger Woods designs courses and designed one in
05:17
North Carolina, I know.
05:19
Obviously, Jack has been famous for it.
05:21
Arnold has been famous for it.
05:23
Ron - Crenshaw, Norman
05:25
Charlie - Crenshaw, Norman
05:26
Ron - Tom Watson.
05:27
You can go on and on.
05:29
Some of them it's simply another way to supplement
05:33
their income but there are some that are very dedicated.
05:35
Charlie - to the game
05:36
Ron - Tom Weiskopf basically gave up competitive
05:39
golf to become a golf architect and he is a very
05:41
talented architect who has done a lot of
05:43
Charlie - Because he just loved it
05:44
Ron - He loved it.
05:45
It was more creative and he found that,
05:48
as he told me, when he was playing the tour he had
05:50
blinders on.
05:51
He only focused on what he was trying to do.
05:53
He played all these great courses and has no
05:55
recollection of them because he was so focused.
05:58
Now he's, he feels much more creative then he ever
06:01
did as a player.
06:03
Ben Crenshaw, of course, isn't setting the world on fire
06:07
in the senior tour these days or the champion's tour
06:09
but he is, with Bill Coore, doing some of the best
06:13
courses out there.
06:14
Charlie - But then that's because they take the
06:16
land as it is.
06:18
Ron - But, he also takes the time to study.
06:20
He studied other courses.
06:21
He is one of the few pros that I know that would play
06:23
other courses simply for the curiosity instead of
06:27
being paid to play there.
06:28
He has studied it all his life.
06:30
That's not to say anything negative about Palmer or
06:35
Nicklaus, who have developed real careers,
06:38
second careers as architects especially with
06:40
residential development courses and they have hired a
06:43
lot of associates who have done of great projects.
06:48
Tiger Woods is still struggling to get that first
06:51
course finished and open
06:52
Charlie - This is the North Carolina course
06:53
Ron - Well and they just announced one in Mexico too
06:57
and it's a tough business right now because there is
07:01
not much of a market for golf courses and there is not
07:04
much activity going on right now.
07:06
Charlie - Links courses are on the rise?
07:08
Ron - I would say links courses are on the rise because
07:10
sustainability is on the rise.
07:13
We're going to face over the next 20, 25 years
07:16
water shortages and golf courses are going to suffer.
07:19
You are not gonna have the green lush conditions that
07:21
we've had in America for the last 50 years.
07:24
We're going to have to be a little more rugged,
07:26
little more dry around the edges.
07:28
Charlie - How else are they changing?
07:30
I mean, how is the game changing the course?
07:32
Ron - Well, there are certain architects who are
07:35
trying to bring the game back down to earth and
07:37
that has to do with that dry firm conditions and
07:39
we at Golf Digest redefined our conditioning category
07:42
to talk about how firm fast rolling our fairways,
07:45
how firm yet receptive are the greens.
07:47
Dudn't have anything to do with the color of the grass.
07:49
And yet manufactures are building clubs and balls
07:53
designed to get the ball in the air and stay in the
07:56
air for as long as you can.
07:58
Charlie - Yeah.
07:58
Ron - So it there is sort of a tug of war as to
08:00
which will win out.
08:02
Now, that's not to say that they are totally
08:07
incompatible but it's a different sort of business
08:10
now trying to design a course when you have such a
08:13
disparity in the distance that golfers hit.
08:16
I mean, I'm a 100 yards or more behind Tiger Woods
08:20
so that means 90 or 100 yards difference
08:22
Charlie - So, what he's at 350 you're at 250
08:25
Ron - No, he's at more like 300 and I'm at 200.
08:26
[Laughing] Charlie - [Laughing]
08:27
Ron - That means tee boxes have to be 90 yards apart
08:32
to get us in the same position in the fairway.
08:34
Charlie - Saw Augusta National,
08:36
they changed the course.
08:37
Ron - Augusta National has changed the course since
08:40
the very beginning.
08:41
Charlie - Every year they
08:42
Ron - Every year they make improvements.
08:44
Charlie - Improvements?
08:44
Ron - Impprovements.
08:46
Charlie - So they'll be looking at what happened at
08:48
in losing the ranking to Pine Val and saying
08:51
we got to make this
08:52
Ron - Oh, I don't know.
08:53
Augusta National is Augusta National.
08:56
I don't know that they,
08:57
I'm sure they take pride in the fact that they
09:00
were number one and they are a little
09:00
frustrated that they're number two
09:01
but when you see the course
09:03
Charlie - Did you hear from them?
09:04
Ron - Not yet.
09:05
I doubt that we will but when you see the scores
09:06
they are dead even with Pine Valley.
09:10
It's, as I wrote, I had the feeling that one
09:13
panelist sneezed as he was typing in his
09:16
scores and that's the result.
09:18
That's the difference.
09:19
It's, you know, I think over the next,
09:22
we do this every two years,
09:24
I think over the next decade it'll be a
09:27
battle every time.
09:29
Which is number one?
09:30
Pine Valley or Augusta National?
09:32
Charlie - One more time,
09:33
Pine Valley is number one because?
09:35
Ron - Because it had point zero zero three
09:38
better score than Augusta National.
09:40
Charlie - It took four decimal points to
09:42
declare Pine Valley the number one over
09:44
Augusta National.
09:45
Ron - That's right.
09:46
Charlie - Ron Whitten, thank you.
09:47
Ron - Thank you, Charlie.
09:48
Charlie - Great to have you, pleasure.
09:49
Ron - Good to meet you.
09:50
Charlie - Thank you for joining us.
09:51
See you next time.
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