Takes on Industry Happenings

Without hesitation, the use of a crystal ball, tarot cards, astrological charts or the express written consent of the National Hockey League, I boldly make my predictions for the world of golf in 2014.

– The U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open will be played in consecutive weeks at the same venue for the first time in history. The No. 2 Course at Pinehurst Resort is the place. ABC/ESPN will be broadcasting both events with a combined 40-plus hours of coverage. That’s the good news. The bad news is the broadcast includes audio, and the announcers are going to run out of nongolfing subject matter by about the third hour of the first Friday broadcast.

Prediction: The restoration of the No. 2 course will be an overly discussed topic. Viewers will hear the word “iconic,” used in reference to the resort, the course and Donald Ross at least once an hour on average. The announcers will latch onto the fact that Ben Crenshaw and his design partner Bill Coore were behind the work and never let go. We’ll discover that a little information can be very dangerous, as well as grating on one’s nerves.

With Mike Tirico et al devoting so much air time waxing poetic on how the ven erable layout was returned to its roots and/or original intent, I’m betting that for weeks after the final putt drops we’ll bristle at the mere mention of “sandy waste areas,” “Donald Ross,” “Coore and Crenshaw” and “restoration.”

Man, I hope my mute button works that fortnight.

– To quote the aforementioned Tirico, who uttered this beauty a couple of years ago during a golf telecast, “They’re expecting weather later on.”

Immediately upon hearing that I thought, “Jeez Mike, does the news division at ABC know about this?”

Oh, there’s going to be weather all right in 2014, Mike, don’t you worry.

Prediction: This summer some parts of the U.S. will experience a late or early spring; some will endure record-setting cold or heat. Some regions will be very, very wet. Others will not. How’s that for going out on a limb?

According to one of my trusted advisers, superintendents in the Northeast need to stock up on wetting agents; it’s going to be a dry one.

Not a single section of the country will have a routine season. As a television meteorologist told me nearly 20 years ago, when climate change was first making news, “There’s no such thing as normal now, it’s just the average of extremes.”

– At the Golf Industry Show (GIS), a friend tells me there will be more robotic mowers on display than ever. He thinks darn near everyone in attendance will “accept them as a fantastic innovation.” He’s not one of those guys. As he sees it, robotic means fewer laborers required. He makes a good point.

Prediction: Like so many other industries, golf course maintenance will be faced with the dilemma of whether or not to embrace equipment that will reduce the living labor force and budgets while trying to determine how important the human touch is to the quality of the product delivered. You have to admit, though, seeing a drone fly out to an irrigation head, land, repair it, and then fly back to the maintenance facility would be kind of cool.

– Greens are going to get bigger by approximately one mower width.

Prediction: Following the lead of The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn., and the Philadelphia Cricket Club in, yes, Philadelphia – well, at least the golf course is – superintendents will eliminate the collars on their greens. By doing so the area susceptible to disease disappears. Saved is the time and money needed to maintain it. Only clubs that understand there’s no need to have U.S. Open-length rough around the greens will be able to make the transition.

Could this be part of a bigger trend following on the heels of the eradication of step cuts at many layouts?

– Once again we find that golf courses without documented histories don’t realize, or maybe refuse to realize, how easy it is for the accurate chronology of the club to be lost, forgotten or misremembered. (It’s a word. Look it up if you don’t believe me.)

Prediction: One of the most heralded golf clubs in the U.S. will publish a history, and what was long considered its design narrative will have been rewritten. One great architect (Donald Ross) will be stricken from the official record and at least one other (Seth J. Raynor) will be added.