Venues Matter, Volume 3,909: Wilshire v. TPC San Antonio

Geoff Shackelford/Golfweek

Venues Matter, Volume 3,909: Wilshire v. TPC San Antonio

Courses

Venues Matter, Volume 3,909: Wilshire v. TPC San Antonio

It’s been a long time since a course has elicited as many texts, Tweet responses and consistent commentary. They all went something like this: “Wilshire looks great! Fun viewing! Great crowds!”

Perhaps it was the prime-time placement of the LPGA Tour action from stately and cool Wilshire Country Club. Maybe it was that ingeniously placed crane shot, conspiring with the late light to make Wilshire and surrounding old Hollywood look so darn cool. And just possibly all of that, with enthusiastic commentary from Gannon, Stupples, Cockerill, Foltz and/or Abbott juxtaposed with the already-tired-looking and soulless TPC San Antonio served as yet another remind of golf in a classy old course in the city center is way better than rural TPC golf.

Wilshire won the week 8&7 over TPC San Antonio.

All of this should sting at PGA Tour headquarters but won’t, even though the Valero Texas Open used to be played at a beloved city-center course with Tillinghast ties and big crowds.  The PGA Tour chases the money and worries about the fallout of going to antiseptic, suburban, bloated venues later. Or the events just die and no one examines the ties between venues with soul and those where even a novice detects the joylessness.

As the PGA Tour pursues a mind-bogglingly short-sighted position in favor distance advances that will all but rule out quaint, city-center courses on a more human-scale like Wilshire, they will have no one to blame when the numbers speak volumes.

Sure, the PGA Tour will still out-rate the LPGA Tour this week because a network broadcast still always wins. But only three of the world top 30 could find their way to San Antonio, while LA’s new LPGA stop drew 21 of the world 25. For perspective, the upcoming Zurich Classic and its two-man team format has landed 10 of the world’s top 14 thanks almost entirely to the fun format change.

The Valero will change dates next year to a pre-Masters slot. But major changes in the TPC San Antonio design and maintenance will be needed to build upon what Houston did in the pre-Masters position. Though as I noted in last week’s Alternate Shot, the Valero should be careful what it wishes for in demanding the pre-Masters date. Houston’s venue offered no masterpiece, but it also didn’t make players want to hurl their drivers.

As Eamon Lynch notes for Golfweek, the May calendar spot is not helping the Valero, nor is the stagnant nature of PGA Tour golf. But really, it’s all about the venue for players, fans, television and ultimately, the sponsors footing the bills.

That same poll declared the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio the fourth-worst stop on the schedule, suggesting that being named for a corporation isn’t the most objectionable thing about it. The Greg Norman design (presumably he confessed to it under interrogation) hosted last week’s Valero Texas Open. It is one of the Tour’s oldest and most respected events and raises huge sums for charity. Yet players look forward to TPC San Antonio much as a condemned man does the gallows.

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