Change is the law of life.
And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
John F. Kennedy
In 1998 Kodak had 178,000 employees worldwide. Within the next 10 years, Kodak was bankrupt. The digital technology that had been around since 1975, had become mainstream. Digital photography was now familiar, accepted, useful and available to everyone. Everyone carries a camera now and Kodak was a casualty because they didn’t react quicklyenough.
Change happens fast. It is not easy and graceful. It is filled with heaves and convulsions. Change is unfamiliar and compels us to grip tighter and hold on to what is familiar. Change is hard. Change is inevitable.
We are in the midst of change. Whether that change is social media, artificial intelligence, digital photography, or mass production using 3-‐D printers, the next 10 years will bring changes that would boggle our minds in 1975. I am certain that the future envisioned as wide-‐eyed and excited children years ago will come to us in ways that are not fun, familiar or easy.
Golf is changing too. Those who embrace change will adapt and see new opportunities. Those who don’t will grip tighter to days gone by. I don’t wish for change, but I do face it, expect it and hopefully recognize the opportunities when they present themselves.
What does not change is that golfers want to play golf. Whether Pebble Beach or the local muni, golfers want to play in authentic places with friends and family. Golf is a shared experience that provides value to our culture and communities: That desire will never go away.
Golfers are changing too. Golfers demand more, but expect to pay less so value is more narrowly defined. The challenge to attract and retain customers is real.
As golf course architects, we instinctively react to the marketplace; adapt to new golfer expectations and client needs; reformulate our designs due to golfer ability and golf ball distance, environmental demands or water availability; and we adjust our specifications to meet construction needs and provide more lasting products. We change and adapt every day.
The golf industry has reacted, sometimes positively andsometimesnot. I applaud the USGA for their research and full analysis of some of the more challenging issues facing the game. It is not coincidence that the most visible tournament, our national championship, has been played on more unique venues featuring firm and fast conditions. Those decisions are difficult to understand for the golfing public.
While the USGA has made significant errors during recent championships, the selection of the host site highlight spectacular venues previously unseen and or untested. Firmer and faster conditions with more compelling grassing schemes and green complexes at Pinehurst, Erin Hills, Merion and Chambers Bay illustrate how the USGA has seen the future and is willing to make tough decisions about our industry. The USGA is adapting.
What golf course architecture needs now, more than ever, is thoughtful and proactive adaptation of golf improvements to make the game better and improve lives beyond the boundaries of the golf course. The best golf and the best golf courses are those that are greatly engaging for golfers AND benefit communities with solid recreation and environmental benefit – whether private or public.
Golf needs golf courses geared to the community, better environmental stewardship, efficient operations and management, habitat enhancement, water quality, provided to wider markets in more diverse neighborhoods. The relevance and value of golfwill be tied directly to how it can provide value to golfers and those lives and communities beyondthe game.
Good golf design shouldn't be confined to the privileged. Nor should it be confined to golfers or the properties on which they reside. Good golf design should inspire our clients and golfers while benefiting the surrounding community. Let’s commit to bettering the game by providing an engaging and authentic experience for golfers while improving the environment and our communities.
The more we provide the better the change.