INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The majority of the players in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic were unanimous in their praise of the golf courses. They were almost effusive in talking about the manicured fairways and greens and the near-perfect weather, which was warm but not oppressive, with minimal wind.
The courses--Indian Wells, Bermuda Dunes, La Quinta and the Palmer Course at PGA West--have routinely yielded sub-par rounds.
That's all well and good, but are the conditions too perfect?
Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus think so. They say that courses aren't as challenging as they should be for the players.
"They need to make the golf courses tougher," Palmer said. "Get the courses longer, get the rough a little deeper, get the greens a little faster. Give them a challenge.
"The courses are too consistent week to week, too manicured, no bad lies. Toughening them up will bring the better players to the top."
Nicklaus agreed, saying: "Golf shouldn't be a game where you hit the same shots on the course that you could on the practice tee.
"It seems on the tour now that they're making it so fair nobody ever gets a bad lie, or a bad break, or a bad anything.
"As a result, nobody can separate themselves. These guys have a lot more in them than what they're showing."
Palmer said he encountered different course conditions when he started on the tour in the 1950s.
"These guys should have started when I started," he said. "The ball looked like a snowball rolling down the fairway, picking up mud and dirt. You played it as it was."
Nicklaus said European players haved honed their games on courses with bad lies and bumpy greens, where shot-making is essential.
"That's why the Europeans have been knocking us silly in the Ryder Cup," he said, referring to the Europeans' hold on the trophy since 1985. "They play golf courses (on which) you really have to have some imagination. It's unfortunate that we don't. Everything is perfect."
Peter Jacobsen, the 1990 Hope champion, who is active on the PGA Tour, agrees with Palmer and Nicklaus.
"Why throw money away to have a course in great condition for one week a year," he said. "If everybody wanted perfect conditions, why don't they build indoor golf with carpets (and) no wind."
Nicklaus believes the present pros are spoiled. And in truth, some have complained bitterly when they had to play on a course they thought too difficult or unfair.
For example, at the Hope tournament in 1987, the players complained so vociferously about the new PGA West Stadium Course that it hasn't been used since.
Jacobsen said that in a survey of players, the older courses in the United States got the most favorable ratings. "The top five of favored courses were Pebble Beach, Riviera Country Club, Cypress Point, Winged Foot and Colonial in Ft. Worth," Jacobsen said. "And 17 of the top 25 were built before 1935.
"That was when you couldn't move earth, couldn't manufacture golf. The other thing that came out of the survey was that you make a golf course (difficult) by conditioning. You don't (do it) by design features. You don't add bunkers, mounds and water. You make the greens firm-fast hard and get tight fairways with work."
Jacobsen was sandwiched in the pairings between Tom Kite and Arnold Palmer for four days at the Hope tournament, prompting him to quip: "It goes good golfer, bad golfer, good golfer."
PGA Tour talk:
--Fuzzy Zoeller, on missing a two-foot putt in a pre-tournament shootout at Pebble Beach: "I haven't missed a putt that short since Moby Dick was a guppy."
--Pro Ken Green, playing in a foursome that included actor Jack Lemmon at the Pebble Beach tournament, allowed Lemmon to putt even though he was farther away. "Go ahead and putt, Jack," Green said. "The people are here to watch you, not me."
--Larry Rinker relieves tension by playing his electric guitar in hotel rooms while on tour. "When I travel to tournaments, I check my golf clubs with the baggage and carry my guitar onto the plane," he said.