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Tom Fazio slump, Atunyote, architectural echo and the 21st century

All year a debate has raged among the best golf writers in the world – is Tom Fazio in a slump? Golf Digest’s Ron Whitten wrote in the May 2005 issue, “Is Tom Fazio good for the game? Golf’s leading designer is beloved by many, yet his courses have lifted expectations — and costs — to troubling levels.” Ron is the gold standard of golf writers. This is one of the most critical stories in golf this year. Read it.

Geoff Shackelford and Rob Thompson echoed the sentimment. In his terrific piece “It’s Nothing a Little Ambience can’t fix” Shack supports Whitten’s view that “Fazio’s strategy-light, budget-bursting designs” should not be be the enduring standard for golf design into the future. “hope not, if you’re one who believes that golf should still be a test of thought and skill rather than just a walk on the beach where you never get sand in your shoes.” Rob Thompson agreed. Shack has published nine books. Read him.

The New York Times even picked up that there is a teutonic shift since the mid ’90s to resurrecting architectural design features from UK courses and bringing them here. Why do you think Dye, Strantz and Doak went to the UK and played 200 courses? Why do you think they have the most interesting and loved designs?

I stuck up for Fazio here. I love World Woods, Barton Creek, Pine Hill, PGA, TPC-MB, Ventana…lots of Tom. Then I played Atunyote in Utica and was underwhelmed. There was nothing of interest except two good risk reward par-5s, 5 and 12, and 9, 11 and 18 were good. The rest was nothing I had not seen before. This is $175. Casino Golf – nuff said. The design was muted, the natural setting was ordinary farmland and the price was twice what it’s worth. It’s time Tom did the work again not the shapers. players are paying for him, not watered down stand ins. That’s why architectural echo is an important factor in rating a golf course. It offers a way to compare courses to the greats.

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