Golf Gadfly (Bill Amick) Gets His Due

“You made a joke in SI about Heritage Classic winners looking ‘bad in plaid,’” writes a reader from the Vatican City. “The proper term is ‘tartan,’ but that’s beside the point. You shouldn’t ridicule a garment that symbolizes achievement or high attainment.”

Two sentences, two complaints. Yes, I “joked” about the gaudy blazer using “plaid” instead of “tartan”, but that’s because the rhyme for tartan wouldn’t have gotten past my editors. As for the argument that tartan blazers should command respect, I say, “Only if it’s the Donald Ross tartan worn by members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.”

Bill Amick at ASGCA meeting in Denver

Bill Amick, left, can wear plaid.

The Ross tartan, modeled by former ASGCA president Bill Amick in the adjoining photograph, is a particularly distinguished variant of the Highlanders’ weave. The man wearing it, I might add, is a particularly distinguished member of the ASGCA, inasmuch as he is shown receiving the architects’ Distinguished Service Award in Denver at their 65th annual meeting. Amick, in his 52nd year as a golf architect, is only the fourth pasture-plower to receive the DSA.

Amick is well known to followers of the Top 50. Gut Heckenhof Hotel und Golfresort, in Germany’s Rhein-Sieg National Park, is currently No. 20, while his tasteful redesign of Ross’s Hillcrest Country Club in Kansas City, Mo., is 45th. The second 50 pays tribute to four more Amick courses:  No. 53, Killearn Country Club, Tallahassee, Fla. (longtime venue for PGA Tour, Champions Tour, and LPGA events); No. 68, Sky Meadow Country Club, Nashua, N.H. (deemed the best course in New Hampshire by Golf Digest); No. 89, The Vineyards Country Club (South Course), Naples, Fla. (a former Champions Tour site and Golfweek honoree); and No. 97, Mangrove Bay Golf Course, St. Petersburg, Fla. (a Golf Digest Top-50 public track).

But it is Amick’s contribution to the debate about golf’s future that is his real legacy. For decades he was the lonely gadfly waving the red flag while his peers poured billions of dollars into courses that were too long, too hard, too remote, too exclusive and too expensive to maintain. When Jack Nicklaus proposed a shorter version of golf using his limited-flight “Cayman ball,” only one architect answered the challenge by building an 18-hole course for its use.* That man was Bill Amick.

Eagle Landing Golf Club, Hanahan, S.C. 

German golf course Gut Heckenhof

Amick's Gut Heckenhof is plenty goodenof.

“In these times of a slower economy and lower golfer participation,” Amick told his colleagues in May, “many areas have enough championship courses. However, the game could use more courses that are easier, faster to play, and which have lower fee to encourage and keep new golfers of all ages. Smaller courses will not replace the standard 18-hole par 72 model, but will compliment and supplement those larger courses.”

Those smaller courses, Amick was too polite to suggest, could be built on the fallow land left by bankrupt golf developments.

But I digress. The reader is right, honorific garb should be given a pass by the fashion police. I might even slip on a green jacket, if offered the right incentives.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the U.S. Public Links Championships (Golf Channel) for men and women are drawing to a close on Mike Keiser’s 55th-ranked Old Macdonald in Bandon, Ore. Old Macdonald shares the four-course Bandon Dunes Golf Resort with 26th-ranked Pacific Dunes, Tom Doak’s contribution to Keiser’s dream of an American linksland.

Next week, the cameras descend upon No. 7 Castle Stuart Golf Links, the new home of the Barclays Scottish Open. Castle Stuart is the eighth course in the current Top 10 to serve as a venue for elite-level competition and the first course to achieve that recognition on the strength of our Top 50 imprimatur. So we’ll be watching.

1 Comment

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One response to “Golf Gadfly (Bill Amick) Gets His Due

  1. Pete

    Hats off to Bill Amick….he had the fortitude & common sense to foresee the future of the game. Look what these other so called architects in their “bigger is better” mental rush have turned the game into… failing swaths of time consuming, expensive & resourse wasting land, that run counter to the new world economy of practicality. Time has finally caught up with traditional golf. So now where are you going to get the people to bolster the fading ranks…with another uncomprimising growth initiative?

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