Pasture golf is a return to Scottish links style courses. Technique over technology, it makes golf both fun and affordable to play. Pasture Golf Course Criteria

Tired of super manicured courses, ridiculously priced greens fees, spendy clubs and fancy clothes? You'll love the back to basics play of pasture golf!

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Pasture Golf Course Criteria - What exactly is a Pasture Golf Course?

Some concern has been voiced as to what is a Pasture Golf course. Do we mean that Pasture Golf courses must be actively involved in providing fodder for ruminants? The answer is no (although it could be a definite plus). Are Pasture Golf courses a throw back to the ancestors of the modern golf course, in other words classic style? The answer is yes. Modern golf courses, unfortunately, bear very little resemblance to their ancestral roots. The prolific use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, refrigerated greens (you think we're kidding, don't you?), and high tech mowers invented modern golf courses in America and spread them around the world. Most contemporary golfers would consider the courses where Gene Saracen and Bobby Jones played to be shabby. Playing them would be like playing golf in a pasture.

Pasture Golf belongs to the restoration or so-called "minimalist" movement. We are part of what Geoff Schackelford described to as a "backlash to the penal and politically correct, landscape oriented styles" of courses. To make fairways like carpets, and greens like pool table tops, may eliminate bad lies and bad bounces but it also eliminates a true part of the game. We suspect that most golfers who complain about weeds in the fairway and greens that don't roll true also don't like to play golf in the wind.

Pasture Golf courses are rarely homogenized. Many American golfers traveling and playing in Scotland think those courses are substandard because ("Good Lord") in the month of August there might be brown spots and the rough might indeed be rough. Yet those same folks can't go out and break a hundred because they've been spoiled by overpriced, over-watered, homogenized courses on their own side of the pond.

There are Pasture Golf courses that require golf shots that the manicured courses never will. All courses, whether they're manicured or Pasture Golf style, will put a golfer's skill to the test. However, some tests are more challenging than others.

There's something I call the ‘television effect’. Golfers watch the U.S. National Tournament at the Augusta [Georgia] golf course, one of the world's great courses. The course has been styled to appear perfect for a TV show, although it doesn't look that good for the rest of the year. But golfers around the country see that magnificent-looking course, and then pressure their local golf course managers to replicate the Augusta course even though the local climate, soils, and native plants may not be at all like those in the Southeast.” - Michael Alexander, chair of the Sierra Club’s Presidio Task Force in San Francisco, California (Environmental Health Perspectives, August 1998)

Pasture Golf courses may not be nice and pretty but they keep you coming back for more. To continue to quote Geoff Shackleford, there will come a day when, "hopefully, we will see people look at the work of many of the so-called 'modern masters' from this era and say, 'those courses are nice and pretty, but there is nothing of genuine, timeless interest there. I play it once or twice, and all of its secrets are revealed.'"

Pasture Golf courses do not insult the pocketbooks of players and their level of affordability makes them even more fun to play. Manicured, modern courses require obscene quantities of money in their creation, use, maintenance and promotion. These high costs wreak havoc upon players in the form of ridiculously high green fees. In a complete reversal of the old adage, "get more for your money," golfers are actually getting less out on the course in relationship to the more that they pay. What's the point of paying an arm and a leg to play more "par 72, 7000 yard duds" (G.S.)?

Pasture Golf courses did not spring forth from Country Club culture. Country Club golf in this country epitomizes exclusivity. Much of it is guilty of an embarrasing and shameful past based upon minority discrimination. Our guess is that the manicured golf course movement is an outgrowth of this exclusivity.

Pasture Golf courses, on the other hand, are often civic or community enterprises in which everyone is welcome to contribute to the cause, no matter who they are. Bear Valley Meadows Golf Course in Seneca, Oregon is just one example of a small community with big ideas that created and continues to support a town golf course where a right-minded person would never expect one to be.

Pasture Golf courses are indigenous. They take advantage of natural topography, vegetation and the climate of the locale. There is nothing more ridiculous than a so called links style course being bulldozed into existence in an American suburb.

A bulldozer gouges out part of a forest for a golf course on the Seabrook Island Development on John's Island, near Charleston, South Carolina. May 1973. Photographer Paul S. Conklin. (Still Pictures Branch, National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD)

Pasture Golf courses should not be like Disneyland™, a fantasy, a completely artificial, unreal place with no relationship to the essence or qualities of the land on which it exists. Indigenous courses are rarely "bowl-shaped, 'user-friendly,' everything-must-be-in-front-of-you landscape architecture" (as described by G.S.). Pasture Golf courses are as unique as the geography that shapes them. While Pasture Golf courses may not offer perfect visibility, they also do not have the relative lack of surprise of many so called modern courses.

Link to Interview of Geoff Shackelford talking about Holmby Hills' Armand Hammer Golf Course and the backlash to what he calls "the penal and politically correct, landscape oriented styles" of courses of the past decades.

If you would like to Nominate a Pasture Golf Course to our Directory, Click here for Nomination Form

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This Page Updated: June 27, 2005

Copyright © 1999-2012 Bruce Manclark & Cory Eberhart