Date: November 09, 2011

Need for speed

Perhaps the only disappointment at last year s Australian Open was the wet weather in the lead-up to the event. Consequently softer than organizers Golf Australia would have wanted, The Lakes course was shorn of its greatest defense in the face of the modern-day, big-hitting professional: firm, fast greens. When The Lakes isn t firm it isn t it plays a bit easier because the need to drive into the right spots is largely removed, confirms Mike Clayton, whose (previous) design firm oversaw the renovation of the course. Plus, the course isn t that long for the top pros. They are using short irons for a few approach shots, so for the course to play at its best, it needs to be firm. As to how the changes to an old established course had been received, Clayton was philosophical. Last year the players who did like the course told me so, he says. And those who didn t like it said so in the press! Which is normal. But I think a lot of them liked it. Besides, as (course architect) Tom Doak once said, why would you ever care what the players think? (Former tour pro) Paul Sheehan was a member at The Lakes and he knew the course before we made the changes. He felt that what we did made it a far better course. So that was nice. Especially as I think the same. Still, as Clayton is well aware, the views of tour professionals are typically dictated by how a course sets up for their own shot-shape and ball-flight. I was more concerned with what Matt Griffin s caddie thought, continues Clayton, with a smile. Much more than Greg Norman, for example. Chris Kane is a kid who works in the finance department in Canberra. He’s a lawyer, a brilliant young guy who took a year off in the middle of his studies to go and live in St. Andrews, where he worked as a caddie and studied the Old Course. I m much more interested in his opinion because he knows more about golf course design than most people. So if Chris has a criticism of my work I take it pretty seriously. That doesn’t mean that I don t want the players to like the course. I do. But they always look at courses with their own games in mind. Self-interest plays a huge part in their opinions. Plus, I don t think the game should be a tight, restricted, straight-hitting contest like it is most weeks on tour. Besides, as Clayton is quick to point out, last year s winner was unquestionably the best player that week. The Lakes is the sort of course that will always suit Geoff (Ogilvy) but he certainly played the best golf. I played at Lake Karrinyup last week in the Australian Senior Open. The fairways there are so wide as to be almost unmissable, but you still had to drive well to score well. You had to hit shots with the right shape to flight the ball through the wind and find the correct parts of the fairways. How difficult my second shots were was dictated by how well I drove. There s a difference between straight driving and accurate driving. Straight driving is what Lee Trevino, Graham Marsh and Peter Thomson used to do. And they were great at that. But I like to think that you have to be an accurate driver to do well at The Lakes. Because you have to find the right parts of the fairway, not just any part of the fairway. Sounds like a winning and entertaining – formula to me.