Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Week That Was, august 21, 2016

     Mike Keiser’s simmering golf venture on Chicago’s waterfront may get a boost from the First Golfer. Barack Obama’s planned presidential library will be built in Jackson Park, not far from the two money-losing municipal courses that Keiser and Mark Rolfing, an analyst for the Golf Channel, wish to transform into a world-class venue that can accommodate elite professional tournaments. “The library,” Rolfing told the Chicago Tribune, “is going to be a big motivating force in the re-branding and vision of this community.” Elected officials in the Windy City haven’t yet publicly endorsed Keiser’s proposal, but if he and his partners can secure financing and negotiate their way through the city’s political bureaucracy -- matters where the president would certainly be helpful -- their golf course could open in 2021, the same year that the library is scheduled to open.

     Speaking of Mike Keiser, his golf venture in the Scottish Highlands is taking a public-relations beating. The Sunday Herald reports that “a major row is brewing” over the Chicago-based developer’s plans to build Coul Links, and that the venture “is facing angry and concerted opposition.” It’s bad enough that the Herald, drawing upon the views of environmentalists and so-called experts, contends that the property’s Coore & Crenshaw-designed course “will trash a highly protected network of sand dunes treasured for birds, insects, and plants.” What’s worse is that the newspaper is explicitly comparing Keiser to Donald “the Candidate” Trump, who’s persona non grata in Scotland these days, and allowing critics to say that Keiser will do in Dornoch what Trump has done in Aberdeenshire. “Like Trump,” one of them declares, “Keiser has a track record of getting his own way, whatever it takes, and like Trump, he seems to think protected-area laws can be torn up for his own private financial gain.” Another objector believes that Dornoch is witnessing “the Trump golf fiasco all over again.” Public hearings on Keiser’s proposal are to will be held sometime this month. They may not be pretty.

     Bob Cupp, a golf architect for more than 40 years, died last week. He was 76, and a member of the generation of designers who defined high-quality golf architecture in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
     Like so many others who’ve made important contributions to the art of golf architecture, Cupp was well-known in the business but not so much outside it. I’m sure that many of you reading these words right now have perhaps never heard his name, which is a shame because Cupp’s work -- new courses as well as redesigns and renovations -- can be found in at least 30 U.S. states and four foreign countries. He served a term as the president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and he was, in 1992, Golf World’s architect of the year.
     Cupp got his start in the design business as an apprentice for Jack Nicklaus, whom he deeply respected and admired, and went on to collaborate with many “signature” architects, among them Tom Kite, Fred Couples, Sam Snead, Greg Norman, Hubert Green, and Jerry Pate. By my count, he had a hand in at least 70 original works, among them Shoal Creek Golf Club, Liberty National Golf Club, Desert Highlands Golf Club, Old Waverly Golf Club, Legends Club of Tennessee, and Glen Abbey Golf Club. In his final days, he produced a master plan for the forthcoming redesign of Bobby Jones Golf Course in Atlanta.
     What’s more, Cupp had interests beyond golf. He sang and played the guitar, wrote a novel, built furniture, illustrated a book on baseball for Ted Williams, and painted murals that reportedly hang in the state capitol building in Alaska. Greg Martin, the current president of the ASGCA, has called him “a renaissance man.” He also co-wrote Golf’s Grand Design, the companion book to the PBS series on golf architecture.
     Golf architecture will miss Cupp, and so will I. He always picked up the phone when I called and graciously participated in projects that I was working on, no matter how lame. He usually did more than he was asked to do, and he always finished his assignments, much to my relief, a day or two early.
     More importantly, though, Cupp helped to educate me about golf architecture. He was an excellent teacher. And for all his help, I’ll be forever grateful.

     Greg “the Living Brand” Norman is looking to create an income stream in Japan. The West Palm Beach, Florida-based “signature” architect and serial entrepreneur has laid plans to redesign a parade of lackluster, under-performing Japanese golf courses, in the belief that his architectural refreshment will boost their bottom lines. According to Nikkei Asian Review, Norman is targeting “all the courses built in Japan during the 1980s but never modernized,” properties that he views as “dormant assets that can increase in value through redesigns.” He apparently believes he can secure six to eight commissions annually until the river runs dry. The redesigned properties will, naturally, serve to build Norman’s profile in Japan, where new golf development has been at a virtual standstill for years. Norman hasn’t commented on his Japanese venture, but he clearly has a soft spot for Japan. He sells his own brand of “signature” wagyu beef and tweets about his love for sushi, and he’s working with a Japanese home builder on a pair of golf projects in New South Wales, Australia. So far, though, Japan hasn’t shown much love in return. The nation is currently home to just one Norman-designed course, an 18-hole track at Shirasagi Golf Club in suburban Osaka. The course is 20 years old, an age that suggests it may also be in need of an upgrade.

     The original version of the preceding post first appeared in the June 2016 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

     History, Napoleon Bonaparte once said, is “the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.” If that’s the case, Donald “the Candidate” Trump may soon be written out of golf’s history. This week, the PGA Tour officially announced the location of next year’s World Golf Championship: Club de Golf Chapultapec, in suburban Mexico City. In a press release, the tour spells out pretty much everything anyone would want to know about the event -- the dates when it’ll be played, some background information about Chapultapec, the relevant details about the course, even a few notes about previous high-profile tournaments that the club has hosted. The announcement neglects to answer one question, however: Where was last year’s WGC played? The answer to the question is, of course, Trump National Doral. In fact, the tour’s statement doesn’t mention Doral even once, which is curious because the resort had hosted the WGC and its forebears for more than 50 years. If you think I’m reading too much into what is probably just an oversight, consider this: The PGA Tour is extraordinarily sensitive to the needs of its stakeholders, and a lot of well-paid executives sign off on the organization’s press releases before they’re issued. Make no mistake: The PGA Tour always shapes a story the way it sees fit, and these days its version of history doesn’t include Trump.

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