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Golf : Designers Become Bitter When Better Equipment Means Better Scores

October 25, 1987|Thomas Bonk

Our golf courses are in real trouble, according to someone who should know, since he designed many of them.

Golf course architect Robert Trent Jones says they're in danger of becoming obsolete unless the U.S. Golf Assn. does something about improvements in technology that seem to have moved equipment ahead of courses.

Jones, 81, who has built more than 450 courses, singled out high-tech golf balls as a major reason for the demise he is predicting. "If something isn't done about the new golf ball soon, I may have to go back and move the fairway bunkers and tees on every course," he said.

In an interview in the November issue of Golf magazine, Jones was asked if the current low scoring is mostly the result of better play or improved technology.

"Part of it is due to the course conditioning," Jones said. "Today's professionals play on carpets and the putting is much truer and easier. But equipment is the biggest difference."

Jones said that architects have always had to compete against improved balls and clubs, but the new technology is forcing the older courses to be constantly updated.

"The USGA needs to do something about all this before all of today's courses become obsolete. They've already got an overall distance limit for the balls, but it's not doing the job. Any pro will tell you the ball is 20 or 30 yards longer today than 10 years ago."

Hall of Fame golfer Sam Snead, 75, will join Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Chi Chi Rodriguez in a $360,000 senior version of the Skins Game. The senior Skins will be played Super Bowl weekend in Hawaii at Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu.

Snead, Palmer, Player and Rodriguez will play nine holes a day Jan. 30 and 31, with Prudential insurance putting up much of the prize money. It will be televised by NBC and produced by Ohlmeyer Productions, which created the original Skins Game.

The first six holes will be worth $15,000 each to the winning golfer, the second six will be worth $20,000 each and the final six will be worth $25,000 apiece. If a hole is tied, the money carries over until a hole is won outright.

The LPGA isn't going to be shut out of Los Angeles in 1988 after all.

When the $250,000 Glendale Federal tournament folded after three years, the LPGA was left without a tournament here, but now there is a new $400,000 tournament in the works.

Scheduled for April 15-17 at Rancho Park, the tournament will be formally introduced Nov. 9 at a press conference in Tokyo. A Japanese corporation is putting up the prize money. Centinela Hospital Medical Center will be a co-sponsor.

The richest golf tournament in PGA history, the $2-million Nabisco Championships of Golf, will be played Thursday through Sunday in San Antonio and the handicapping has already begun.

Curtis Strange? Ben Crenshaw? Scott Simpson? Greg Norman?

The top 30 on the Nabisco points list are competing for a record $360,000 first prize. Paul Azinger, three-time PGA event winner this year, who is second to Strange on the points list, has made his choice.

"Hal Sutton," Azinger said. "He may be the best mid-iron player in the game today."

Get out your calendars and mark this down: The 1988 PGA Tour begins with the MONY Tournament of Champions at La Costa Jan. 14-17.

Golf Notes Former UCLA golfer Kay Cockerill was not among the 26 at the LPGA qualifying tournament who won exempt playing status for next year's LPGA tour. Cockerill, a two-time women's amateur champion, shot a 72-hole total of 307, 22 shots off the pace set by leader Trish Johnson of Britain. Cockerill finished three strokes off the cutoff and must qualify for major LPGA tournaments in 1988. . . . The second annual Pasadena Pro-Am, which will be played Nov. 3 at Brookside Golf Course, is a fund raiser for the Pasadena Senior Center. . . . American Golf Corporation of Santa Monica has acquired Vista Valencia Golf Course, a 27-hole facility in Valencia. . . . The Verdugo Mental Health Center benefit golf tournament, which was to have been played last week at the Wood Ranch Golf Club in Simi Valley, was postponed until next spring.

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