Too many trees

Ivan Morris
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Sara Byrne (Douglas) in trees at the 14th hole during her semi final match at the 2019 Irish Girls Close Championship at Galway Golf Club today (19/07/2019). Picture by Pat Cashman

The scarcity of trees is not the only reason why I prefer links golf to the parkland variety. I prefer golf courses with open vistas. I would never hesitate to remove any tree that did not have a genuine purpose.

Dr. Alister Mackenzie, designer of Augusta seems to agree: “playing down fairways bordered by straight lines of trees is not only inartistic, but it makes for tedious and uninteresting golf. (Courses are) ruined by planting rows of trees like soldiers along the borders of fairways.”

Donald Ross, an equally famous golf architect said: “As beautiful as trees are, we must not lose sight of the fact that there is a limited place for them in golf. We must not allow our sentiments to crowd out the real intent of a golf course to provide fair playing conditions. If a tree interferes with a properly played stroke, it is an unfair hazard and should not be allowed to stand.”

Nobody disagrees that trees are a source of natural beauty and good for the environment by creating oxygen and assisting drainage. Nice specimen trees can often be appealing by adding visual interest on otherwise featureless terrain. And, of course, trees are useful when masking the view of something unsightly. But, if a tree’s effect on the surrounding ground inhibits grass growth or interferes with play negatively, it should be consigned to the background where it can do its bit for the environment without causing stress to golfers.

Trees that narrow playing corridors reduce sunlight. Too much shade is instrumental in creating wetter fairways in winter and a lack of grass in summer. When campaigning for the removal of trees, it’s best to emphasize the agronomy pros and cons and keep it in mind that golf courses evolve and develop. They are never in a fixed state. Trees grow out as well as up and can change the playing corridors in ways never intended. With due deference to being careful not to cut ‘one tree too much’ (because it takes so long to replace) I still think that too many of our golf courses have too many trees.

I appreciate that without hazards golf would be dull but where trees are concerned, I’d prefer them to be in the background and only come into play when one is badly out of position. Even then, if a tree is in the way there should always be the opportunity to go over it, under it, or around it – if you are skillful enough. When trees are planted close to greens and tees, they can be damaging to the soil; competing with the grass for essential nutrients, casting long shadows and blocking out the sun. Trees should always be used wisely and sparingly.

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One response to “Too many trees”

  1. Christy mcg avatar
    Christy mcg

    I have always thought that the new description for courses without tress are called inland links or links effect when no such thing exists,true links are an absolute joy to play on an equally so of parkland courses,but I think the best of both worls are heatland courses,like wicklow and others,a couple of holes with tress but in the main are links like,not links effect but as close as you would get to one that deserves that made up name ,,

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