I’ve been encouraged lately by what seems to be a trend among the game’s most prominent new courses, namely a movement toward greater playability. It seems, in the wake of the recession and with golf’s participation numbers dwindling, course developers have smartened up. Layouts like David Kidd’s Gamble Sands, Tiger Woods’s Bluejack National, and even Gil Hanse’s Olympics Course have pointed the way to a kinder, gentler playground.
I like that because I’m getting closer and closer to being certifiably old. I’m weaker and duller-witted than I was a few years ago, so I no longer crave a rigorous examination of mind and muscle. I think I also speak for most of my Baby Boomer brethren, and since we account for better than half of all dollars spent on the game, it might be a good thing for this course trend to continue.
Indeed, golf’s movers and shakers—those well-meaning if heretofore less than effective folks concerned with growing the game—would be wise to consider catering to codgers rather than kids. The First Tee is fine, but how about the Last Tee? What we truly need right now is courses to grow old on, courses where we graybeards can play our final rounds with grace, dignity, and joy.
To wit, I have the following prescription:
The ideal Codger Course sits beside the sea, partly for the salubrious effects of the salty sea air and partly because this is the ideal setting in which to contemplate one’s imminent mortality.
The climate should be moderate, minimizing our exposure to pneumonia and heat stroke, and the course should be sited outside the path of hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, because those of us with limited playing days left don’t want to miss even one tee time due to damage wrought by Mother Nature.
The turf should be springy: Firm enough to provide lots of roll yet soft enough to cushion the shock to arthritic wrists and osteoporotic elbows during fat impact with a 5-iron.
Finally, since old folks rise early, the course should sit where the summer sun does the same thing. All of which brings to mind Scotland.
This part’s simple: 6,000 yards. Why? Age-shooting. In order for that proud accomplishment to be achieved legitimately, it must occur on a course of at least 6,000 yards. There should be no par fives over 500 yards, no fours over 400, no threes over 175. Grudgingly, I’d allow a set of bomber tees—say, 6,500 yards—to be used for the club championship (which would also be the senior club championship).
One word: flat. Mildly downhill stretches are okay as long as they don’t come with stress-test returns uphill. No forced carries. No pot bunkers. And please, no blind shots—they’re an unfair test of our short-term memory.
Some rough is acceptable but light rough, the kind that produces flyer shots. Each tee should sit no more than 20 yards from the preceding green and should be furnished with a sturdy bench. The greens should be open in front and slope up to the back, allowing a 150-yard 3-wood to bound onto the dance floor without racing over it. There should be no straight putts, because there is only one way to make a straight putt.
Instead of a halfway house, there should be two third-way houses, for more convenient relief of both bladder and pain, the latter provided via pills, alcohol, and (in the states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) marijuana, all offered at steep discounts for seniors. Finally, the last three or four holes should play with the wind at one’s back.
Bottom line, a Codger Course should be comfortably navigable, whether by cart or on foot, in a little over three hours, even by four gimpy, wheezing septuagenarians.
The good news: Such a course should be very easy and inexpensive to build. So let’s have some.