Furyk Mislays Three Decades of Golf Design

Hilton Head, S.C. — I rarely stoop to reportage when I’m rating courses for the Top 50, but Jim Furyk practically bumped my shoulder this afternoon outside the interview room at The Heritage. The former U.S. Open champ had just vaulted up the leader board with a second-round 66, so he was relaxed, affable, and eager to share what, besides the  red-and-white-striped lighthouse, he liked about the 51st-ranked Harbour Town Golf Links.

Askernish 16th Green

Hilton Head resident Dave Henson on No. 16 at Askernish Old. (John Garrity)

Mostly he liked the fact that Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus wore their high-button shoes when designing Harbour Town. That is, they built skinny, tree-lined fairways, installed waste-bunkers where once there was only waste, let tree limbs encroach on commercial air lanes, pinched the greens until they popped, stocked the ponds with alligators, and bundled everything into a short-by-modern-standards 6,973 yards.

Harbour Town “neutralizes power,” said Furyk, a perennial also-ran in the PGA Tour’s driving-distance category. He added, “I’m not long by any means.” Still adding, he mumbled, “You could argue I’m short.”

We could argue that, but this is a golf-course blog. So I’ll just call your attention to the Furyk statement that really caught my ear. “I’ve always said that if the golf course was built before 1960, there’s a really good chance I’m going to like it. If it was built after 1990, there’s probably a good chance I’m not going to like it.”

Not one reporter in the room asked the obvious follow-up question: How do you prejudge courses built from 1960 to 1990?

Never mind. It just struck me that Furyk has hit upon a fresh way of judging golfing grounds, a method that burns off the morning fog of traditional design variables (turf quality, green speeds, length of rough, etc.), leaving us a single overriding criterion: Birthdate.

Furyk’s method, applied to my own Top 50, doesn’t yield groupings as distinct as his tripartite scheme. It’s clear, however, that the best golf courses are those built in the ‘90s. (No. 1 Askernish Old opened for play in 1891. Second-ranked Carne Golf Links threw open its original portacabin door in the 1990s.) The worst golf courses, meanwhile, were mostly built in 1987.

When I get back to Kansas City, I’ll put the Bomar Brain to the task and come up with a more encyclopedic Furyk Scale ranking. Meanwhile, I’m going find out where Furyk is having dinner and point out to him that Harbour Town actually opened in 1967.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Harbour Town won’t hurt your eyes. Next up: Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Golf Club, but not until we’ve endured a week of New Orleans-style gumbo, chargrilled oysters and jambalaya.

1 Comment

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One response to “Furyk Mislays Three Decades of Golf Design

  1. Garrity should definitely play Bayou Barriere in the New Orleans area as it seems destined for a spot in his top 50, either the best or worst courses of all time.
    Love the club’s logo–a large crustacean wielding a putter. Let’s see if Garrity has the guts to play real public golf or if he’s just another gumbo-eating, putting-crustacean-hater.

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