Yes, golf in 2017 is troubled.
The problem: Too many courses, not enough dedicated players.
The solution: Expose more men, women and children to the game through instruction programs, clinics and a variety of fun-based golf activities.
The message: Golf is for everybody, including those who have never played the game.
One area of golf that has remained largely healthy, however, is the senior amateur category. Seniors, whether they are retired or still working, comprise a vibrant, dynamic and steadily growing segment of the golf marketplace.
A prominent example is the 2017 tournament schedule for senior amateurs. The country’s best senior amateurs traveled to Florida in January for the start of the annual points race. Competition was held in three age divisions — Senior (55-64), Super Senior (65-69) and Legends (70 and over).
The first tournament on the schedule was the 54-hole Old Corkscrew Senior Championship, played at Old Corkscrew Golf Club in Estero, Fla., between Fort Myers and Naples.
Although he played from shorter tee markers, irrepressible Dick Pfeil of Naples produced the lowest score among the three division. Pfeil, competing in the Super Senior group, finished with a 224 total.
In the Senior division, Stephen Sharpe of Greensboro, N.C., was the winner with a 225 total. Joe Pavoni of Prospect, Ky., took the Legends crown with a 229 score.
Old Corkscrew, which opened in 2007, is a distinctive course that provides a stern test for senior amateurs.
“It is not unfair,” said Mark Iwinski, a PGA professional who is general manager and director of golf at Old Corkscrew, “but it is very demanding and pushes you to the limit. It isn’t your everyday plain Jane kind of golf course.”
Better yet, it is a semi-private course that is open to the public. Par at Old Corkscrew is 72, or 216 for 54 holes.
Blame the high tournament scores on Jack Nicklaus, if you will. The layout is a Nicklaus-designed Signature Course that plays between 6,400 and 6,500 yards each January for the Old Corkscrew event. Yardage is not the problem; it’s the tricky green complexes.
Iwinski tells a story about Stewart Cink prepping for the 2009 Open Championship by playing and practicing at Old Corkscrew. Cink, of course, won that major championship in a playoff with Tom Watson.
“We’d like to take just a little bit of the credit for his victory,” Iwinski said. “Overall we’re right up there with USGA championship courses.”
What Iwinski likes best of all about Old Corkscrew is the natural look of the property. “Nicklaus did an excellent job,” he said. “The land formations do not look contrived. The course does not look like it was manufactured.”
—Jim Achenbach, Senior Golf Insider email: firstname.lastname@example.org