Jack and Arnie on Augusta; Geoff Cornish speaks

According to a story on the Golf Channel last night, both Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are critical of the changes to Augusta National that have been instituted in the past year. Both said the alterations have dramatically changed the golf course. The remarks are interesting because they seem to run contrary to the Augusta party line, which says the golf course has “returned to the shot values developed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie.”
Nicklaus isn’t buying any of it:

“I think they’ve ruined it from a tournament standpoint,” Nicklaus says. “Augusta has meant a ton to me in my lifetime. It’s a big, big part of my life, and I love it. That’s why I hate to see them change it.”

Palmer is similarly harsh:

“I love the place, just love everything that happens there,” Palmer says. “But now, I’m not so sure. It’s changed dramatically from the course I knew the last 50 years.”

Nicklaus also takes the time to rip into consulting architect Tom Fazio:
Nicklaus says some changes, which were supervised by consulting golf architect Tom Fazio, looked as if they were done “by somebody who doesn’t know how to play golf.”

Many in the golf industry are critical of Fazio’s role as a consulting architect to some of the world’s best golf courses, especially since he has publicly spoken of having little interest in the history of many of the courses he works with. Few have had many positive things to say about Augusta’s latest changes, though the club has taken a direct approach by inviting a number of big name golf writers to investigate the changes. I assume they think an invite to Augusta will thrill even the most jaded scribe into providing a positive review.
Apparently Palmer and Nicklaus aren’t as easily impressed.

While Augusta has had more facelifts than Diana Ross over the past few years, the final tweaks have left some questioning why Hootie and the boys feel the need to alter the course on an annual basis.
Score’s Bob Weeks blogged yesterday that more changes could be undertaken as Augusta National snaps up real estate on the course’s periphery.

Canadian golf writer and golf designer, Jeff Mingay, writes a piece on Florida golf in Mingay talks about the courses used on the PGA Tour in FLA, and seems to have a general disdain for the flat, water filled tracks that dominate. That said, he takes a shot at Dick Wilson/Ed Seay/Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club, which I actually think is a pretty good golf course. I think Jeff takes his Augusta comparison a touch too far — I see little in common, even these days, between Augusta and Bay Hill. But you can decide for yourself….

I had the opportunity to speak yesterday with Geoff Cornish, once assistant to Stanley Thompson, and one of golf’s most distinguished historians. We had a fascinating conversation about the links between Thompson and Golden Age architects of the same period. Specifically, I’ve been doing some research trying to develop a theory that Ian Andrew and I have about the development of Thompson’s distinctive bunker style. Cornish was a great help. His memory is sharp as a tack, though he is well into his 90s, and Cornish continues his notorious walking schedule — five miles every day. An amazing man who has lived through amazing times.

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Jeff Lancaster

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Jack seems to have a chip on his shoulder these days – particularly with courses designed by other architects, and equipments – i.e. golf balls.

    He can learn a few things from the King re how to become a statesman of the game and age gracefully.

    Perhaps he still can not shake the stigma that he is ‘the young fat kid who dared to challenged Palmer in his prime’ who constantly lived under the shadow.

  • I’m glad to hear you had the chance to talk to Geoff Cornish. It’s hard to imagine the changes he’s seen in the golf course design business over the years. His insights into the business are invaluable.

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