NCAA Golf Championships to begin 3-year stint at Grayhawk Golf Club in 2020

NCAA

NCAA Golf Championships to begin 3-year stint at Grayhawk Golf Club in 2020

College

NCAA Golf Championships to begin 3-year stint at Grayhawk Golf Club in 2020

The NCAA announced today a recurring venue for its Division I men’s and women’s golf championships. Grayhawk Golf Club’s Raptor Course in Scottsdale, Ariz., will host three consecutive championships beginning in 2020.

It’s certainly big news in college golf, but is it a good idea? That depends on the angle from which you view this new concept.

The thought of a recurring venue for the NCAA Golf Championships has been making its way around the college-golf arena for a few months now, and it is not something most coaches have been excited about.

This topic has even had a code name: Omaha. That’s not a reference to a Payton Manning audible but rather college baseball’s annual trip to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.

Golf is different than baseball, though. With the exception of the Masters, major championships are played at different venues and only return to those sites once every several years. The thought of playing the U.S. Open, British Open or PGA Championship at the same site each year is not appealing.

However, the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass does work. The concept works, too, of course, at Augusta. Will this work for college golf in the same way it has for the Players Championship and the Masters?

That’s the essential question. Is one site good for college golf?

The positives are that Grayhawk will offer a standing location that could help the event gain momentum and familiarity in a local market, which could possibly attract a bigger fan base. Scottsdale and the greater Phoenix area are known for golf, and the golfing community in that area certainly could embrace this event. For the purpose of keeping the event on television, an annual trip to the same spot could ease many of the nuances and costs associated with production. It certainly is a more appealing time slot for television and an East Coast audience.

The biggest negative in playing the event annually at Grayhawk certainly would be the possible benefit to teams familiar with that style of golf, just like Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., played some sort of role for schools with more experience in those conditions. No matter where the event is played, there will always be some sort of home-course feel for some teams and players. But, unlike Omaha for baseball, where the pitching mound and the bases are set up the same as every other baseball field in the country, golf has very distinct differences. In golf, no two playing fields are alike.

Another negative is those schools east of the Mississippi River having to make that trip each year to compete in the national championship. Some will see that has a bit unfair.

As for the fan base, would we really see larger crowds in Arizona than we have already seen? Crowds were good the past two years, but that was largely because of Oregon’s 2016 title run at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club and then Illinois playing deep into the week at Rich Harvest Farms last month.
Most of the college-golf community, including myself, would like to see a rotation of courses. One of the more popular ideas would set up a rotation among sites in the eastern, central and western parts of the country. Of course, that idea is difficult to execute.

For the next two years, the NCAA championships will remain in the Midwest. The 2018 event be played at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., and in 2019, the event travels to Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.

It’s no secret that venues for the college-golf championships have been harder to secure now that this new televised match-play format has the men and women play in back-to-back weeks – a total of 14 days that a course must be closed for outside play. There is no easy solution here to keep the championship moving forward and on television.

Maybe this will work and Grayhawk will do for college golf what Omaha has done for college baseball. Maybe it won’t. For now, Grayhawk and Arizona State have to be given credit for stepping up and assuring that this event can keep going with the momentum it has – unless of course the Sun Devils start racking up NCAA trophies. Then we know how that story will play out.

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