I hear that Yeamans Hall is now interested in restoring most of its original bunkering -- something that wasn't even in their thought process 2-3 years ago. Is that something we should do?
If so, that's restoration and NOT preservation. It's crucial to understand the difference, which is why I posted the two topics simultaneously to begin with.
All of the candidates for preservation are constantly under siege with ideas for change, most of which are thrown in under the guise of "restoration." (i.e., Let's lengthen this hole to restore the shot values Donald Ross intended.) Clubs which are not swayed easily by such arguments are often portrayed by others as "sticking their heads in the sand," although it is important to consider the source. (Any time it's an architect, you must consider that they would like to do the restoration work.)
I do believe that a few courses ought to be preserved as they are ... the best one or two remaining examples of a master's work, and perhaps a few historic venues if it's not way too late. Prestwick is a great example ... certainly National though it has been lengthened ... and I was glad to hear discussion of Rolling Green. (It would be great if Wayne and Tom's book could have influence in this area for Mr. Flynn's career ... although at Rolling Green, you have to look at how many of the trees to preserve.)
Why do I think this? Partly for the same argument as whether Merion could have hosted another U.S. Open. Just suppose for a minute that the answer was yes, it could have, that it would have stood up better than most people thought, and produced a worthy champion.
But what would have been the fallout if that had happened? The fallacy of length would have been unmasked. Rees Jones wouldn't be needed to lengthen every US Open course to 7400 yards to preserve them. Callaway might not sell quite so many $500 drivers (although many people want to add twenty yards, irrespective of the fact it hasn't helped their handicaps any more than it has helped Phil Mickelson vs. Tiger). Developers wouldn't hound me so much to add length to my golf holes, and wouldn't have to buy as much real estate or as many sprinkler heads or as many lightweight fairway mowers.
There are a lot of forces in the golf business who think change is good, and the last thing they want to see is some examples of courses which haven't changed and still stand up. This is why I'm interested in preservation -- to set a benchmark so we can see what's really happening. I'm convinced that a lot of it is being blown out of proportion so that we'll believe everything needs to change.
I'm not saying the golf ball isn't getting longer -- that's a real change, and a change for the worse in my opinion. But there are many ways to deal with that change. Let's see, we could lengthen and toughen every golf course in America -- what would that cost? Or we could retool the Titleist factory. Or we could call everything under 500 yards a par 4. Unfortunately, it looks like there is no one left to make a rational choice between those options.