A Sense of Huber: Still a Design Star?

By Jim Huber
Published on

Sooner or later, if we take our beloved professional touring players at their word, Rees Jones may never get another job. Though Phil Mickelson is by far the most vocal in his dislike of Jones' work, he is far from alone. Because the tour has gathered at Chicago's beloved old Cog Hill this weekend where Jones did his usual re-design, we hear from far more than just Lefty. When Steve Stricker ("They need to get their money back") speaks up, something must be seriously wrong. No. 1 Luke Donald was also softly critical.

"I'm not a huge fan of Rees Jones, either," he was quoted as saying this week. "Not a big fan of deep bunkers and ridges in the greens. There's a few holes where there isn't a great deal of strategy."

I must declare impartiality somewhere midst all this, having known and been a friend of Rees Jones for decades. But one wonders at what point the golf world starts listening to those who sway the public's knowledge?

He re-designed the Atlanta Athletic Club where I am a member and there is one very popular cry at one point or another in a round: "Thanks a lot, Rees Jones!"

A swale will swallow, a hump in a green will prevail, a bunker will actually be a hazard.

Thanks indeed.

Mickelson and Co. rail openly not simply about their dislike of Jones' courses from their standpoint but take up the banner of the membership. When they were at the AAC for the PGA last month, they moaned about being glad they didn't have to play it every day. Same story at Cog Hill this week.

Mickelson's beef is largely about Jones' par-threes.

"For the most part," he says of Cog Hill and the Athletic Club, "They require the same club all four holes. That's the first thing I would do. I'd have maybe four different clubs."

The Athletic Club suffers a similar situation, solved only by moving tee boxes and pin positions.

This will be, so they say, the tour's final stab at Cog Hill before moving elsewhere (supposedly somewhere the players all approve).

Jones' body of work, however, is such that it is difficult to avoid him completely. It is difficult to find a U.S.Open venue which he hasn't tampered with in one way or another over the years.

Next week at East Lake, for instance, the final 30 players will attack another of his re-designs. And aside from the horrendous condition of the greens a few years ago, which was hardly his fault, you will never hear a bad word about that old property.

Golf is an oddity unto sport. Basketball, football, hockey, tennis, track, swimming, baseball (for the most part) all have strict borders for each of their settings.

Even Rees couldn't screw them up. Just kidding.

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