There is a famous Jack Nicklaus quote that “golf is not and never has been a fair game.” If we wanted to play a sport in regulated conditions, we would pick up a snooker cue or a dart

The USGA Got It Right – Golf Peach On Course Setups

The men in the USGA blazers may all be in need of a good lie down. They are not used to compliments. There seems to have been nothing but praise for the way they set Pebble Beach up for the US Open.

Meanwhile, back at my local club in leafy Berkshire there were rumblings about the addition of a set of blue tees for the Ladies’ Club Championship. The new back pegs added 300 or so yards to the course and caused several senior members to withdraw.

The controversy has not yet reached the pages of Golf Monthly but watch this space.

Non-golfing friends often ask if I get bored hitting a ball round the same 18 holes over and over again. But we know different, don’t we?

A golf course rarely plays exactly the same one day to another. The subtleties of set-up are not confined to the Major Championships. If the greenkeeper that cuts the holes at dawn is in a particularly foul mood, it can add half-a-dozen shots to the standard scratch of any course. That’s why I always smile and wave to the guys on rotary mowers.

Britain is a nation where four seasons in a day is a regular occurrence, so we are conditioned to the prospect of a golf course changing character as we play it. The draw for the first two rounds of next month’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush could be critical to the outcome with featured groups setting out seven hours apart over the first two days.

The R&A will have been monitoring the weather forecasts as keenly as a chef watches a rising souffle on the Great British Bake Off. They are effectively cooking the course to run fast but fair ahead of the arrival of the world’s best players, but they know that if they get the recipe marginally wrong they could make Rory and Rosey look silly. And then they will be hearing about it.

Continues below

My other half used to be a member at Royal Liverpool. The famous Hoylake links waited nearly 40 years for a modern Open Championship and when the honour was finally returned to the club in 2006, the rains dried up and left the course looking helplessly white and bereft of protective rough. Tiger Woods prevailed but only used his driver once on one of the world’s great driving tests.

Last summer’s heatwave was a challenge to the men and women that get their hands dirty making our great courses great. Some of the finest tracks in Britain are still recovering from the baking drought. My own course, Bearwood Lakes GC, has improved immeasurably in the last month. For the first time in years, we were forced onto two temporary greens for a few weeks but the course is a picture now.

There is a famous Jack Nicklaus quote that “golf is not and never has been a fair game.” If we wanted to play a sport in regulated conditions, we would pick up a snooker cue or a dart. Everyone’s definition of ‘fair’ is different. We all play by the same rules but at different speeds, with different handicaps, equipment and shot trajectories. And that’s even before a storm moves in mid-round.

Those Ladies’ Champs of ours were played in persistent rain. Because I am one of the longer hitters at the club, I didn’t mind the thought of ducking in and out of umbrella cover in return for some of my fellow-competitors having to find an extra yard or two. We all know what works best for us. Golf is a bit of a selfish game.

I have never had the privilege of teeing it up at Pebble Beach but it looks like the kind of course it would be difficult to mess up. Some may say that the same was true of Chambers Bay and Shinnecock Hills, but preparing a course to test the skills of the powerful icons of the sport over and beyond their week-to-week tour tests is a delicate juggling act that the R&A are next on stage to try to perform. Majors should be different but how different?

Golf is different day-to-day, course-to-course, season-to-season. Practical ‘par’ at our course is maybe 5 or 6 shots different January to July. I have been so fortunate to play Old Head and Sunningdale and Arabella and Harbour Town (and there’s four different sporting disciplines for starters) and I could go on and on.

Golf Peach playing Kiawah Island

The variety that golf offers its followers is one of its greatest qualities. Neither the USGA, nor the elite players, should be looking to dilute that variety in search of a sanitised consistency. Look at the Old Course and marvel that it can still stretch the very best nearly 150 years after Tom Morris first played in the Open there. I had a birdie at the 3rd about a year after taking up the game. Unpredictability is a given in our favourite pastime.

All that we ask when we place that tee in the ground and perch a ball on top is a few hundred yards to capture our imagination for the next 15 minutes. If the fairway is lush and manicured, if the green is flat and true, then all the better. Bring it on. If the USGA or the R&A decide to stick the flag halfway down a ski slope on the back shoulder of a bunker then they should put a windmill and a clown’s face next to it so that we know they are having a laugh.

I got the impression last week that they have stopped doing that.

You can follow Golf Peach on Twitter @golf_peach and Instagram @GolfPeach

For all the latest golf news, check the Golf Monthly website and follow our social media channels