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Golf Observer’s Geoff Shackelford slams Fazio, Riviera changes

Geoff Shackelford, my colleague at Golf Observer slams the recent changes to Riviera.

Here are some excerpts:

But is the architectural demise really that surprising? After all, the Fazio Design group has a consistent track record of showing little or no interest in classic architecture. Just ask the members at Oak Hill and Inverness. Or even some of the members at Winged Foot who are wondering why they have a bunch of two-dimensional Caves Valley bunkers dotting their historic property.

Atta boy Geoff…the only thing missing is to get Rees “open Doctor” Jones out there next. Anyway, Shack continues…

Either way, for Riviera and George Thomas fans, the changes have been painful to see, not only because they were made for a mythical U.S. Open, but because they were carried out so poorly.

Shack goes on to describe how the strategy of the course…and all of it’s charm and character…have been bulldozed into nothing. Why does the tour keep retreading the same people over and over? Oh, right…the pros want flat greens so they can make more putts and no blind shots so they don’thave to actually work hard on visualizing a shot.  Here’s some great xs and os on one of the individual holes:

The biggest boondoggle of all is found on the next hole. For the par-4 8th, Thomas originally created a multi-option alternate fairway with a wash down the center.

The options were simple. Lay-up short left for the safest play. Play down the right and face a second shot over the wash. If you play long left by carrying the wash and a fairway bunker, you open up the best approach angle and view.

“It stinks,” said Olin Browne, one of the few PGA Tour players who actually contemplates this architecture stuff.

In three years, the left fairway has been visited only a handful of times since the right alternate fairway was put back into play.

With the tee pushed too far back, there is little temptation to play to the most daring option left. (Tiger did it last year, but he had to carry his drive 300 yards in cool air just to reach the far left option.)

“You’d have to be out of your mind to hit it to the left,” says 2004 PGA runner-up Chris DiMarco.

No risk, no reward. The arch-enemy of Thomas’ philosophy that says strategy is the soul of the game.

TV tournament golf and no restrictions on equipment are killing golf course architecture. Hey PGA Tour! Get on the horn to Doak and Silva and Jim Engh fast! Or go play Tobacco Road or Black Mesa.

Show us something different and interesting. We’ll like it and so will you.

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