We get a little emotional when it comes to the woods that line our fairways. Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin tackle this controversial topic
If you want to easily upset a section of the membership, take a chainsaw to a few groves of trees and watch the angry emails roll in.
We have a strong emotional attachment to these inanimate objects – the cause of so much suffering for many of us on our tours – and there are few club issues that can divide the clubhouse in greater ways.
And yet clubs across the country risk the wrath of their members by felling thousands or bringing in experts to implement forest management programs.
In an episode of Excerpt from the Clubhouse podcastTom Irwin and Steve Carroll delve into the controversial subject of felling trees on a golf course…
“Once we got past the initial shocks, the journey improved”
The areas where they did this significantly improved the condition of the course and the playability of the holes and also restored some angles.
There are countless examples of places that have done this in quite extreme ways – at Woodhall Spa they experienced this incredible renovation by Tom Doak where they discovered bunkers they thought they had lost and found gigantic stretches of fairway swallowed up by trees.
Once we got over the initial scars and shaking where the tree went, those places – and I mean the moors – got better.
We try to get heather to take hold, we try to get finer herbs to take hold. We know the agronomic reasons.
The principle of many of these Golden Age architects, and certainly of many modern companies attempting to restore golf courses, is the idea that the course is playable for the weak player and remains a challenge for the best player.
This often means hard, fast running, fairways, and it means the best players lose control of their ball or their time.
Trees don’t contribute to that because they create mulch, they create meadow grass, they create softer areas. If you lose the angles that the width of these fairways gives you, in terms of varying pin positions on massive greens, then the principles of the holes are lost.
Cutting down trees on a golf course is a shame because they are part of a good environment, the animals like them and they are pleasant to look at. But they are not always useful.
“They can ruin the design of the golf course”
I understand why people get emotional about trees, said Steve Carroll. They are pretty to look at. There is a feeling of being one with nature and if, in the past, they had been implemented with any idea or strategy, I would be less inclined to remove some of them.
But it was just committee members from back in the day saying, “We’re going to put trees in there.” They didn’t take care of it and a few trees became too numerous.
My biggest problem is that the architect who designed the course didn’t do it with these trees in mind. So, if they are not planted judiciously and sensitively, they ruin the design of the golf course. They rarely improve it. They make things worse.
Anyone who has been to Moortown, Woodhall Spa or Ganton where they do a lot of work to properly remove the gorse, I would challenge them to say that they are not better for those trees that are removed.
I understand the environmental argument – trees are the lungs of the world – but we could replant them elsewhere and in better places.
You can hear more of Tom and Steve’s thoughts on the From the Clubhouse podcast. But what do you think of the debate? Are trees suitable for golf courses? How would you go about managing them? Let us know with a Tweeter.