- Wide Open Fairways: A Journey across the Landscapes of Modern Golf by Klein, Bradley S
Wide Open Fairways is part memoir and part commentary on contemporary golf architecture. Golf writer and editor, Bradley Klein, a former caddie and political scientist, highlights six case studies of public and private golf course projects each of which presented challenging problems for its designers.
Two themes permeate Klein’s book. First, he believes that the renovation of a course or the creation of a new one should be based on the unique typographical features of its [End Page 516] site, whether it is a mountain, desert, prairie, park, seacoast, or urban landfill. He notes that because of the variety of their settings, golf courses are more diverse than any other playgrounds in sports. The only common requirement is that the cup must be four-and-a-quarter inches in diameter; they differ in the location, length, routing, and hazards of each hole. Secondly, he stresses the importance of building and maintaining affordable public golf facilities, arguing convincingly that golf in the United States is not an elitist sport but rather a game for men and women of all social classes, races, and ethnic groups.
Klein includes two case studies from the Midwest and one from the Southwest. The Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska is accessible only via a fifty-five-mile entrance road across stunningly beautiful grassy dunes. It offers classic links-land golf, normally found only along a seashore in the heartland of the nation. Sand Hills is the brainchild of architect Dick Youngscap, who in 1990 hired the design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Klein contrasts the success of Sand Hills with the hardship of the Minot Country Club of North Dakota, a private club also open to the public. In 2011 one-quarter of the town of Minot (including the club’s course) was ravaged by a monumental flood. The community’s recovery from this catastrophe will likely render a full restoration or even a major renovation impossible. Klein’s Southwestern example is Los Alamos, New Mexico, the site of the top secret World War II atomic bomb research laboratory. Golf was one of the recreational activities available to the scientists, first on an informal nine-hole course with sand greens and then in 1949 on the eighteen-hole Los Alamos Municipal Golf Course designed by C.W. “Bill” Keith and William H. Tucker. Klein found it in poor condition due to thin turf cover, inadequate water supply, and unimaginative routing of the holes that did not make ideal use of the scenic terrain.
In the Northwest in 2006 Klein served as an advisor to resort developer Mike Keiser and designers Tim Doak and Jim Urbina, who built a new course for the Brandon Dunes Resort on Oregon’s Pacific coast. Keiser’s goal was to create a classic links course that showcased the talent of Charles Blair Macdonald, who had planned the National Golf Links in Southampton, New York. The new course, named “Old Macdonald,” opened in 2008 and was widely praised.
Klein’s final two examples are from the Bronx, New York, and his home town of Bloomfield, Connecticut. He is skeptical (even cynical) about the former but proud of his contribution to the latter. New York City’s Parks and Recreation department chose Jack Nicklaus’ design company to plan and build a tournament caliber course on a landfill at Ferry Point in the Bronx. It selected Donald Trump’s organization to manage it. Klein argues that the Ferry Point project was undertaken for prestige and reputation and was too expensive to build. Also, unlike the other New York City municipal courses, the Ferry Point facility would not provide an affordable facility for the average middle-class golfer. (The proposed greens fee was about $125.) He also did not like the terms of the deal that Trump negotiated with New York City. The daily-fee Wintonbury Hills Golf Course in his hometown...