Wisdom from Waco: What bifurcation could mean for golf course superintendents

By |  April 17, 2023 0 Comments

Bifurcation — the point at which something divides into two parts — isn’t a word that you hear every day. But recently, golf’s leadership and royalty have gnashed their teeth over the word.

Compare the photos above and below ... Are they really still the same game? (Photo: Jim Moore)

Compare the photos above and below … Are they really still the same game? (Photo: Jim Moore)

The reason why? It’s possible that we’ll see the bifurcation rules of golf as an effort to rein in the increasing length of pro golfers. If that happens, there will likely be one set of rules for the pros and another for us mortals.

My first reaction to that news is, “big deal.” I already can’t relate to 350-yard drives. In the words of Bobby Jones after watching Jack Nicklaus win the 1965 Masters: “Nicklaus played a game with which I am not familiar.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the only effect.

There has never been a greater difference between the courses we see on TV and those we play daily.

Most of us remember when THE reason to watch The Masters was the immaculate conditions of the course itself. Right or wrong, Augusta set the bar for what every golfer wishes they could play.

But today, virtually every course on the Tour is near perfect with blemish-free fairways and handcrafted bunkers and greens that reach a level of uniformity that was once unimaginable.

For those courses, practices like air-conditioned root zones and sand-capping of the entire course make perfection achievable.

(Photo: Jim Moore)

(Photo: Jim Moore)

The courses we play daily are about as comparable to golf on television as Formula 1 racing is to our daily commute — unless you are on I-635 in Dallas after midnight.

Unfortunately, I believe bifurcation has become more apparent on a local level.

As financial pressures grow, wealthy clubs are more able to weather the challenges of today.

Now, I’m not saying only country club folks will continue to enjoy the game. Give me some good putting greens and a cold beer and I’ll have fun on any course.

I am saying the gap in quality and course appearance between public and private will continue to grow. Possibly to the point that it will feel like two different games.

As challenging as this will be agronomically, the most difficult task will be getting the daily-fee golfer to understand why their course looks less and less like the country clubs they see on TV.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Jim Moore is the retired director of education and outreach for the USGA Green Section. While with USGA, Moore made more than 1,000 consulting visits to golf courses in the U.S., Mexico and Germany. Now retired, he lives on the family farm in McGregor, Texas.

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