Golf architecture faces many challenges for the next decades. With technology regulation at a standstill, it seems like golf architects will have to dig deep to figure out a way to make sure golf courses remains fun, accessible and able to host competitions once in a while. I say competitions because even today, 15 year old kids may hit their drives 280 yards !!! or more.
So the length gap: between everyday golfer and competitive player keeps widening.
I've addressed the issues of more acreage, more maintenance, more costs in previous posts.
I've often been fascinated with courses on a small piece of land... and with Merion hosting the US Open this year, people will discover how you can turn a small piece of property in a 7000 + yard course. They are going to use every inches of the property to do so, but the US Open tees are not used in everyday play.
And that led me, for many years, with the idea of a flexible course. A flexible course would bring the concept of tees back to its origins, when a golfer had to tee his ball 2 club length from the previous hole and start the next hole from there.
Some courses, mostly designed by Renaissance Golf Design (Sebonack) and Coore & Crenshaw have tees that are just an extension of the previous green surrounds and some flatter spots here and there are the tees.
A flexible course, conciously designed to presented length variations on most holes on a day to day basis will have 2 major advantages:
1) It can be stretched to host competitions, using tee positions that would be borderline dangerous in every play, but safe in competitions where ball spread is less an issue.
2) It can offer a different course to the members basically every day. I've always wondered how members can play the same exact course for 60 rounds a year ? Would it be fun to see a 320 yard "easy" par 4 one day turned into a brute 245 yards, par whatever, the next. Or the 510 yards par 5 into a 472 yards, par 4.75, monster to next day. Or just take the average 360 yards par 4 slider left and see it a 390 yards slider to the right next saturday.
The flexible course will deconstruct the "false unwritten laws of golf architecture" where a long par 3 cannot have a small green.... but the next day it's a short par 4, so it must have a small green. Players would play the hole for what it is, a golf hole... It might encourage match paly a little more.
The only thing a flexible course leaves out is the course record and the notion of par... I can live with that !!!