Golf boss: The game has to become easier to play

Emma Williams
By Emma Williams September 10, 2016 06:46 Updated

The managing partner of one of the UK’s most prestigious venues, Castle Stuart Golf Links, has said golf courses have to become easier to play in order to boost participation levels.

Mark Parsinen, who also designed the 2016 Scottish Open venue, said that more difficult courses increase the amount of time it takes for golfers to play a round, and are more punishing and less enjoyable.

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Castle Stuart Golf Links

Parsinen said that over the last 40 years perceptions have changed on what makes a good golf course, with many supporting the idea that  ‘if it isn’t difficult it can’t be good’.

But he said changes are needed as golf club membership in Scotland has fallen by 17 per cent since 2004, with the length of playing time among the reasons cited.

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Castle Stuart Golf Links

“People don’t want to spend their spare time looking for balls and being humiliated,” he said.

“Golf courses have evolved to have faster greens, narrower fairways, much longer rough, and more penalty-laden ‘hard edges’. Golfers have been facing increasingly difficult courses and challenges that are all too often humiliating and costly, both in time and the cost of lost balls.

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Castle Stuart Golf Links

“The logic that difficulty in golf is the way to identify the best players isn’t true, although it holds sway – to the dismay of the average golfer after a protracted and almost unnoticeable trend toward difficulty becoming the ‘be all and end all’ of golf design.

“Over more than 40 years, our perception of what golf is all about has changed. How has golf turned into this torture thing?

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Castle Stuart Golf Links

“My concept of golf is that if you don’t play a shot to an advantaged spot, you should still be able to imagine ‘success in the face of having made somewhat of an error’. You should still have hope and an opportunity for redemption, a chance to control your destiny, to go for glory or to choose a lesser path with at least an opportunity for a modicum of success.”

Castle Stuart opened in 2009 and has since hosted the Scottish Open on three occasions. The 2013 champion Phil Mickelson said his preparation at Castle Stuart was key to his success the following week when he won the Open Championship at Muirfield, adding that “it should almost be a pre-requisite to play Castle Stuart before you are allowed to design golf courses”.

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Castle Stuart Golf Links


Castle Stuart’s ethos is based around four key points on course set up to help improve pace of play – rough, carries, green speed and pin positions, and bunkers.

‘Findable’ rough cuts down the time players spend looking for lost golf balls, eradicating carries reduces the fear factor in the average player and avoids them having the ball ‘in-pocket’ too often. Fair pin positions, greens that are not too quick and fewer bunkers can also help speed up play.

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Castle Stuart Golf Links

Parsinen added: “If people think golf is all about a difficult test and proving your mettle, then in that crucible they will suffer pain because they think it may be inevitable.

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Castle Stuart Golf Links

“But you can change the paradigm of golf and say ‘I don’t need to be playing the most difficult courses in the world. I need to find some engaging pleasure. I know I’m fallible. I make mistakes. And, why shouldn’t I cherish playing a golf course that gives me real chances for something good to happen, allowing some ‘fun’ even in the face of inevitable fallibility?”


Emma Williams
By Emma Williams September 10, 2016 06:46 Updated
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