Golf’s Biggest Newsmakers of 2018

by M. James Ward

The calendar on 2018 is coming to an end, but make no mistake about it, the golf season just completed produced a number of key news items of special note. The return of Tiger Woods to competitive golf - and doing so in grand fashion leads the way. But, there are other key contributors, some which will spill into 2019.

 

1).  The Tiger Woods Resurrection
Who can forget the police mugshot of Tiger Woods after being found asleep at the wheel while driving near his home in Jupiter, FL in May of 2017? The same Tiger who had endured four back surgeries since 2014. This is the same person who opined at the 2017 President’s Cup that he did not rule out the possibility of possibly never playing the game competitively again. Hard to imagine that the perennial world number one player had fallen to 1,199 in the official world golf rankings. Woods would tee it up in his first PGA Tour event at the Farmer’s Insurance event in February 2018 - exactly one year earlier he had done so before leaving the stage.

The process was a slow one.

Woods needed to get a number of starts to get acclimated to tournament golf. Yet, two unknown questions still lurked: would Tiger’s body be able to handle the amount of play needed, and what type of swing would Woods use given the work carried out on his back? The fanfare tied to Woods returning was certainly present. Golf fans, of all ages, were eager to see Tiger return to the top rung in golf’s ever changing competitive ladder. Woods showed promise at the Valspar event, finishing in a tie for second, but had many questioning why he opted to hit an iron off the tee at the 72nd hole when a much bolder course of action was needed.

Returning to Augusta for his first Masters since 2015, the speculation that Woods would once be a factor faced hard realities when Tiger barely made the cut and only scored one sub-70 round, and that in the final round. His tie for 32nd was clearly showing that more work needed to be done.

At the US Open at Shinnecock Hills - his first back in America’s championship since 2015 - Woods started the event with a triple-bogey at the opening hole on Thursday and was simply lack luster throughout. His missing the cut was only the third time he had done so in his career.
But things clearly turned round when returning to The Open Championship at Carnoustie. Woods was in the hunt, even leading for a brief moment on the early stages of the final 9 holes before stumbling.

The momentum at The Open spilled over when Woods played superbly at the PGA Championship at Bellerive, finishing solo second to winner Brooks Koepka and firing a career best final round 64.

With the FedEx Cup Playoffs Woods started slowly at The Northern Trust and Dell Technologies events, but his performance accelerated at the BMW event opening with a 62 and ultimately finishing in a tie for 6th.

Then Woods did what many thought could not ever happen again: winning on the PGA Tour. Tiger claimed his 80th victory at The Tour Championship at East Lake and the win marked his first since the WGC Bridgestone Invitation at Firestone in August 2013. The victory also pushed Woods to 13th in the world golf rankings, although he finished 2018 in the 14th slot. Unfortunately, Woods flamed out at this year’s Ryder Cup matches in Paris, losing in all four matches played.

Given where he was and where he is now is truly an amazing story. But, the ultimate success will be if and when Tiger is able to claim his 15th major championship - the last coming nearly ten years ago at the US Open at Torrey Pines. 2019 will certainly mark a pivotal year in showing if Woods can reclaim his position at the top of the world rankings. Betting against that happening has been a constant chorus of naysayers, however, in each instance Woods has shown the wherewithal to not only confound his critics, but rise above them. 2019 will indeed be a year to watch if the “eye of the Tiger” is ready to pounce on all comers.

2). Europe’s Crunching Ryder Cup Win Over USA
After losing possession of the Ryder Cup following the matches at Hazeltine National in 2016, the general feeling was that the American squad had turned the corner and that with a younger squad now becoming regular participants the balance of power would shift.
Someone forgot to remind the Europeans of that.

When the matches were played in Paris, it was clear from nearly the outset that the Americans were not going to slow down the juggernaut Team Europe adamantly displayed. The 17 1/2 to 10 1/2 margin was a worse beat down than what happened the last time Europe hosted the matches in 2014 at Gleneagles. Europe, led by a canny Captain Thomas Bjorn, was able to consistently make crucial shots when called upon.

Much was made of the return to Ryder Cup play of Tiger Woods, the first time since the 2012 event at Medinah. Woods had just come off his first PGA Tour win at The Tour Championship for his 80th career triumph, but his play at Le Golf National was to say charitably - lacking. Tiger played in four of the five sessions and garnered a flat zero point total.

The heroes for Team Europe were led by Italy’s Francesco Molinari and England’s Tommy Fleetwood. As the reigning Open champion, Molinari was the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time when the matches were officially resolved. Molinari watched as his match against Phil Mickelson was conceded after Lefty promptly disposed of his approach into the adjoining pond at the par-3 16th hole. How glorious for Molinari and how revealing of Mickelson, given his woeful overall Ryder Cup record.

Certain members of the American squad were quick to bemoan the courser set-up, but frankly these same players were in need of a compass in order to find fairways that the European players were finding with constant regularity.

What does this all prove?

On the European side, the deep and abiding love all members have for the event is clearly self evident for those with eyes to see. No matter the situation, the European side has shown a stubborn “you must beat me” mentality. The focus on team  -and not on the individual - lies at the core of why Europe has won seven of the last nine, and four of the last five.

On the American side, there can be no feeling of completeness until they are able to win on European soil. Something not done since 1993. There is also the need to push aside the singular gun fighter mentality, which plays well in individual competitions, but does so very little in a team format. Whistling Straits is two years away, but the clock is ticking until the next encounter.

Given the hyper emotions attached, it cannot happen fast enough.

3). Golf Ball Distance Debate - Talk Yes, Action No
When politicians are loathed to act on tough issues, they quickly employ a common tactic passed down over the ages: kick the can down the road and let someone else handle it. That manner of leadership - dare it be called - is what the USGA and R&A have decided to do despite clear evidence that on the world’s highest golf stage - the PGA Tour - gains are clearly accelerating.

Unlike the “slow creep” which was how the USGA defined gains in past years, the average jumped from 292.1 yards to 296.1 for the 2017-2018 season: four yards in just one year. Just one year prior, the gains were 2.1 yards.

Given this reality, the USGA & R&A created an 18-month comprehensive study aptly named the “Distance Insights Project.” That study will encompass all of the key professional tours, including everyday golfers, via online and telephone surveys.
 
What has not been refuted by any organization, or individual who is reputable to discuss, is that the data is not true. The primary being for such organisations as the USGA and R&A is to enact rules concerning golf equipment that keep the game in some sort of balance. That balance is no longer in question. The more meaningful question is what meaningful actions, if any, will the USGA & R&A bring forward?

Some outside the two rule making groups have lobbied for bifurcation - one set of equipment rules applying to those at the highest levels of professional golf and those playing the game recreationally. The USGA has clearly stated its opposition to that possibility. Ditto the R&A.

There is also increasing scepticism that the two rule making bodies will ever act decisively on this topic for fear of litigation from ball producing companies. Years ago when a controversy emerged over the depth and dimension of square grooves for irons, the PGA Tour was sued by the late Karsten Solheim - the founder of PING - who argued the methodology used was flawed. Eventually, Solheim prevailed via an out-of-court settlement to “grandfather” in the clubs in question. Only after the brouhaha had settled did the USGA act to ban such grooves. When did that happen? Try 2010. Not exactly, a decision at light speed. Keep in mind that this is the same USGA that failed to outlaw metal clubs during the mid-1980s when such clubs clearly had a major impact on the spike of distance when compared to traditional woods.

Throwing down the gauntlet against future ball increases will be a very problematic stance for the rule making bodies. Both are intent on acting in a joint capacity and it has been known that the R&A, more than USGA, is not exactly thrilled with having to fight such an issue that potentially could involve major lawsuits that could siphon large sums of money from their respective organisations.

The clamouring for action has been stated numerous times over the years by various architects, and even top players such as Jack Nicklaus. Courses have been unduly lengthened, with such noteworthy examples being The Old Course at St. Andrews and Augusta National, to name just two of the most prominent.

There is little question that at the very, very top of professional golf the players are more athletic - bigger and stronger is becoming more and more the norm. Power is quickly taking over as the prerequisite attribute in order to establish dominance. Winning scores are increasingly going lower, and without some sort of meaningful brake the end game will no doubt be a de facto split as wide as the Grand Canyon between the very top and the rest of the game’s players. Can a resolution be negotiated with all the key parties? From the ball manufacturers side there is little need or desire to do so. Given that likelihood, will the ruling bodies summon the courage to do the heavy lift on their own? If past actions are any guide, don’t count on it.
  
4). Alternative 18-Hole Efforts Emerging
Golf’s future is facing an uncertain dilemma. Course closings have been outdistancing openings in America, Canada and the UK since The Great Recession hit in 2008. In other area such as Asia, where golf is showing new development, those specific openings are meant for the deepest of pockets to enjoy.

  Attempts to reach out to a newer younger audience - tagged as The Millennial Generation, born between 1981 and 1996, is coming forward with a range of different approaches. Among the leading efforts is Topgolf. Originating in the UK and then blossoming with new ownership in America, the company has over 50 locations worldwide, employing over 15,000 and serving approximately 13 million guests. Roughly 70% of the people who visit Topgolf have never held a golf club in their hand.

The thrust is simple: provide a social gathering place where food and drink is served and link a golf connection as the entertainment vehicle. Topgolf uses the driving range formula in a modified manner, creating various games in which people can compete with one another, or simply use the platform of golf for a fun time with those on-hand.

Topgolf is rapidly expanding with numerous sites throughout America and internationally for 2019. There is even speculation a future site in West Palm Beach, FL will have an actual golf course located next to a generic facility.

The issue meriting additional study is whether Topgolf can actually serve as a porthole in taking those who were never exposed to golf, and move them towards playing the game through conventional means as their main recreational sport. Thus far, there is no clear study that can demonstrate that connection. Topgolf has engaged Callaway as their main equipment provider and lessons are offered for those intent to do more than just share a social connection. The success of Topgolf has spurred another competitor called Drive Shack, which is patterned in a similar fashion. How much more space is there for the market to develop? Clearly, the companies believe there is much more room on the growth side.

There are also movements to shorten the golf experience with various routing that include number of holes less than 18. A number of previous 18-hole courses have opted to shut down a portion of their facilities for other development, while keeping 9-hole courses active. There has also been facilities simply charging amounts based on the actual total number of holes you play. There are also attempts to resurrect “executive style” courses where the total length of the holes is much shorter than many courses. At Pinehurst, the desire to include some form of alternative 18-hole rounds was the genesis for the creation of The Cradle - a 9-hole short course immediately near to the main clubhouse. The handiwork of Gil Hanse allows for quick entertaining rounds for all ages to enjoy. Other traditional courses have also gone ahead with plans to add various adjoining short courses to keep their members/guests engaged; the success of the 13-hole short course called Brandon Preserve by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore at Bandon Dunes in Oregon is another example of this type.

Outside of pure golf experiences, there have been efforts via such games as Footgolf - where players kick a soccer ball on an actual course to a prepared hole where play concludes. Some have wondered if such an activity will ever create a pathway where people move towards traditional golf. The same situation applies with Frisbee Golf where players throw a Frisbee to a predetermined target placed throughout a golf course’s routing.

Golf’s main handicap for the newest generation of players evolves around the time to play, the cost of the equipment and the learning curve to fully enjoy the sport. A number of the remedies have only come in recent times, since much of the industry was under the false impression that all was well with the sport and that nothing need happen. The Great Recession ended that fallacy in a big time way.

Alternative golf may be frowned upon by a certain percentage of died-in-the-wool traditionalists, but it is clear that without different avenues to engage new players the very real possibilities exist that golf could very well retreat back to the days where those with only the heftiest of bank accounts enjoy the game. That scenario is by no means out of the question at this moment. Creating variation of the golf model is an exploration of various concepts that bodes well. The question in 2019 is just how much more momentum can be generated, because as each day goes by the age of the Baby Boomers - the biggest grouping of core golfers now - gets older and will need replacements for the sport to continue to thrive in the years ahead.

5). Brooks Koepka Captures Two Majors and Final World Number One Ranking
The amazing emergence of Brooks Koepka is all the more remarkable given the 2018 start he had at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. Koepka injured his wrist and did not play at The Masters. But by late May he had returned with a solo second behind Justin Rose at the Colonial event. Going into the US Open at storied Shinnecock Hills most eyes were looking elsewhere. Koepka showed true resolve and unflinching grit by playing the final round knowing full well that any major misstep would result in Tommy Fleetwood snaring the championship. 

Koepka sealed the win with a definitive birdie at the 16th hole - thereby allowing him to play the final hole with a bogey five and win the championship in back-to-back years. The last golfer able to do so came back in 1988-89  by Curtis Strange.

Koepka solidified his year by winning the PGA Championship at Bellerive just outside of St. Louis with a new scoring record of 264. His third career major win came in grand fashion in holding off a final round charge from Tiger Woods. The last golfer to do such a similar two-major success was Jordan Spieth in 2015. The Floridian also becomes just the fifth to have won the US Open and PGA in a single calendar year.

The 28-year-old ended the calendar year at the top of the world golf rankings and the expectations have certainly climbed a good bit. 

Amazingly, Koepka earned his professional stardom in starting his career by heading to the European Tour, where he literally started from the bottom with no status. Even after his solid performance in winning the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills, there were many critics who simply viewed that success as a one-time thing, given the generous set-up provided by the USGA for the Wisconsin layout. There were even media people who routinely sought out other players to interview and thereby pushing Koepka to the rear of the line.

With the breakout year in 2018 earning the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year Award, it is clear that Koepka is here to stay and intent on adding more hardware to his growing trophy portfolio. 

6). Can The Millennial Mystery Be Solved?
Golf’s dilemma facing player growth has been happening for a number of years now. The core of those who play the most rounds and spend the most money in the sport is aging. And that aging process is now moving at a far more rapid pace. Golf course closings have easily outdistanced new course openings - and that situation was already in place prior to the start of The Great Recession in 2007. More and more clubs are facing ice-cold realities that without meaningful new blood the wherewithal to stay operational is not going to happen.

The Baby Boom generation that has spearheaded the surge of players is now moving into senior citizen status. Many private equity clubs, which for years had simply relied on this base of players, are now facing hard financial decisions. Some clubs have opted to “double down” and reinvest significant resources in order to demonstrate their connection to a new younger audience.

The very definition of the words “country club” is now in state of flux. Prospective younger members are not interested in simply being seen and not heard. The adaptability of clubs to respond to the varied needs of such a younger membership in concert with their growing families will likely play a pivotal role in whether those clubs maintain existence.

Golf is facing other, more broader issues. The game itself takes up time: no less than 4-5 hours and often more to play 18-holes. Those defined as Millennials - born between 1981 and 1996 - are now becoming the critical group for golf’s future. How such a group defines leisure time and where and how golf does fit in are all questions needing answers.

The issue is further exacerbated by the hurry-up world that exists today. Golf was created as a means to get away from such activity. Millennials came of age where constant activity on several fronts is viewed as a desirability.

Golf is also facing a shortage of players from a gender and racial side. Pre-existing barriers have played a role in keeping such participation numbers from growing. There are also socio-economic issues, as golf remains a costly game to play regularly on both the equipment side and in fees to play at various venues. Given golf’s overall difficulty, there is also the lack of effective teaching spread throughout the ranks of golf. Patience, which was a feature of earlier generations, is not as prevalent amongst those who want near instant positive feedback.

There are various efforts already underway, but whether they can be effective for the long term remains a question to be answered. Such reach outs efforts for junior players via First Tee have been helpful, but the impact has been limited.

Other efforts have come in repackaging golf, most notably via Topgolf. The company has surged since going full bore just a few years ago with various locations popping up in America with constant regularity and including sites in the United Kingdom and Australia. The company states roughly 70% of the people coming to Topgolf for the first time had never picked up a golf club before. Whether even a small percentage of those going to Topgolf actually takes up traditional golf is an issue to be studied. There is little question the age demographic at Topgolf is certainly much younger than the base age at traditional golf outlets. But will those who view golf in purely the narrow entertainment window that Topgolf provides really step out and play the real game? No one can say with any certainty now.

The 18-hole model product is also evolving. Now, courses are providing less than 18-hole options. The reality for golf is that is in competition with a slew of different activities looking to secure the ever shifting attention span of a younger generation that views golf in a far different light than their predecessors. How the situation evolves will clearly dictate the shape and nature golf will be in the 21st century.

7). Pete Dye Says Good-Bye
In the second half of the 20th century arguably there was no more influential figure in golf course design than Pete Dye. The 92-year-old native from Ohio who has lived the bulk of his life in Indiana will turn 93 by month’s end. Sad to say, but Dye has withdrawn from any future projects - the last coming with The Links at Perry Cabin in St. Michael’s MD which had a soft opening in 2018.

Dye is in the grips of dementia, but his presence in golf is clearly in the same vein with such icons as Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast, Alister MacKenzie, to name just a few. Dye brought back into focus the classical period of architecture that germinated in the UK and Ireland and then early on in America during the heyday of the 1920s and 1930s during the Golden Age of Architecture.

The ebullient Dye changed the focus of golf course design that went far beyond his insertion of his trademark railroad ties. The need for shot making was clearly focused upon and his early success with Harbour Town in South Carolina in the mid-1960s was cemented when the likes of Arnold Palmer won the inaugural event with Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus and other players of note to follow in the years ahead. Dye demonstrated a clear counterpoint to the muscular larger-than-life style practised by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., who was the game’s premiere architect during Dye’s initial career start.

The momentum for Dye continued when opening the famed Teeth of the Dog course at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 1971. In that location Dye masterfully weaved holes near to the Atlantic Ocean on both nines and showed clearly how resort golf could be the main headliner.

Dye gained increasing visibility - and a bit of wrath - from the world’s best players in creating “visual horror” in order to rattle them. The opening of TPC/Sawgrass in the autumn of 1980 marked a critical high water mark. Dye gained major fanfare with the final three holes at the course - but the clear star was the green encircled by water par-3 17th. This short hole of just 132 yards has been a deal breaker for many professionals over the years. While not considered an “official” major the weight of the event is clearly prized by professionals for the stature it now conveys when winning there.

At roughly the same time, Dye added another gem to his career with the opening of The Ocean Course at Kiawah near Charleston, SC. When the Ryder Cup Matches for 1991 were announced the course had not even been completed. The close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean meant a steady dosage of shifting high winds and scorecard punishment for even the finest players in the game. The American victory was not assured until Bernhard Langer’s missed six-foot putt at the final hole.

Dye was also involved in creating different venues for the PGA Championship. Locations such as Oak Tree, Crooked Stick and Whistling Straits three times - the Wisconsin club will next host the Ryder Cup Matches in 2020,

The success of Dye is not a singular element by any means. At his side since 1950 has been wife Alice. Pete will be the first to admit the deep influence his wife has continually provided. The fingerprints Dye first cast have been mirrored by other architects who cut their teeth when starting their careers. They include the likes of Jack Nicklaus who consulted with Dye on Harbour Towne and years later with the likes of Tom Doak, Bill Coore, Tim Liddy, John Harbottle, Bobby Weed, Rod Whitman, Jim Urbina, lee Schmidt, to mention just a few.

In short - the Dye legacy will live on, no matter what.

8). Mike Davis
Being a golf administrator, you are not suppose to draw attention to yourself, but for Mike Davis, the head man for the United States Golf Association (USGA), is in the middle of self-inflicted bulls-eye.

The most important task that Davis has taken complete charge of is the set-up for the US Open - America’s national championship for golf. Over the last several years the event has been plagued with one serious issue or the other.

In 2013, the set-up for Merion, the famed layout just outside of Philadelphia, was pushed far beyond the intrinsic qualities that the historic layout provides. In 2015, the USGA took the event to the Pacific Northwest for the first time at Chambers Bay, and the pushback from players was pronounced. The fescue greens were simply not up to the task in performing consistently. In 2016, there was the rules imbroglio at Oakmont involving Dustin Johnson and at the height of the near fiasco Davis was nowhere to be seen or heard. In 2017, the US Open went to Wisconsin - again for the first time - and the set-up or Erin Hills was panned for having fairways as wide as Texas and not really balancing the requisite balance between power and accuracy.

Given all that, the 2018 championship was being hailed as the quintessential test with the finest of host clubs involved: Shinnecock Hills. The Southampton based club was one of the founding members of the USGA, and smartly through the skills of former Executive Director Frank Hannigan, was brought back into the unofficial Open rota starting in 1986, then again in 1995 and 2004.

Unfortunately, at the 2004 event, the USGA lost control of the course set-up and the 7th green became the enduring symbol of incompetence as players could not stop their balls, no matter what was done. The USGA failed to accept responsibility for the debacle up and until the USGA media day for the event at Shinnecock in 2018. It was then that Davis, on behalf of the organisation, admitted the association had goofed and that not enough water was applied as good sense would have done. Davis then went further and announced that the 2018 event would be far different given the available resources at the association’s disposal.

Fast forward to the actual event and a sense of deja vue reemerged. On Saturday’s third round several pin positions were placed too close to the edges of the putting surfaces. The resulting player car wrecks became obvious that the lessons that were supposed to have been learned were not actually carried out. It did not help matters when the USGA looked the other way when Phil Mickelson proceeded to take a clownish action by hitting a moving ball on the 13th green. Instead of a swift disqualification as likely would have happened if Joe Dey, the long time executive director would have issued, Mickelson simply received a two stroke penalty.

Unlike at Oakmont, this time around Davis did come on television before the end of that day’s telecast, and stated in clear terms the actions taken in setting locations for certain pins was poorly done. Given that the association was feasted royally, it then abdicated a desire to present a fair and stern final round test by setting up pin location in a much more benign fashion. No offense to Tommy Fleetwood, who nearly scored a 62 in the final round, but the test Shinnecock presented was compromised from what had happened the day prior.

The contrast with how the R&A prepared Carnoustie for The Open Championship could not have much clearer. The course was uniformly praised by the competitors through the leadership of Martin Slumbers and his assembled team. The firm and fast conditions tested players thoroughly and showed clearly what is missing with how the US Open is prepared.

The challenge for Davis intensifies with the 2019 US Open returning to the famed Monterey Peninsula and the iconic Pebble Beach. That event marks the 100th anniversary since Pebble first opened. The USGA will need to show a keen sense in presenting a rigorous but fair challenge. A number of people have opined that making the US Open a demanding test is something that should be done, and that far too many players have been given a free pass to whine instead of buckling down as earlier generation of players demonstrated.

Davis will once again be on the hot seat no matter what is done. The tagline “US Open champion” needs to be defined in terms that do what former USGA President Frank “Sandy” Tatum so eloquently stated when asked if the USGA were out to embarrass players during the demanding 1974 event at Winged Foot. His response was vintage: “We are not here to embarrass players, but to identify them.”

Getting it right is the microscope Davis is now under. No one knows that better than the man himself. Pebble Beach is one of America’s grand layouts - how befitting for a US Open that truly showcases the course and celebrates the play of its eventual champion.

We shall see.

9). The Hanse Ascendancy
Determining the best in any field is no easy task especially when the topic of golf architecture is involved, where both art and science are woven together.  But over the last few years it has become obvious to those with eyes to see that Gil Hanse sits on the top of the design pyramid. The 55-year-old started his career as a design associate with another top tier talent Tom Doak - both Cornell alums.

Hanse moved on from Doak and opened his own practice, Hanse Golf Course Design, Inc., in 1993 and made his initial successes in updating leading courses, mostly in the Northeast area of America with such efforts at Plainfield, Fenway, Essex County, Ridgewood and Sleepy Hollow, to name just a few. Hanse also was one of the very few Americans to have designed a course in Scotland with Craighead Golf Links for the Crail Golf Society. A return to Scotland would happen again and this time his effort at Castle Stuart with co-designer Mark Parsinen has been hailed as one of the finest modern courses to have opened in the UK in the last 50 years.

Hanse’s breakthrough moment came when he was selected from a highly competitive field to be the lead designer for the Olympic Course in staging the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Hanse personally lived at the location to get things up and running. 

His star has continued to rise with such notable new efforts with the third addition to the highly successful Streamsong project in central Florida, with the addition of the Black Course design. The layout features an impressive array of holes highlighted by generous fairway widths, encouraging different playing angles and bolstered by putting greens massive in size with a range of different internal contours. The holes are framed in natural sandy corridors and are completely free of any housing intrusions.

Hanse has also been active in strengthening courses used by the PGA Tour. Efforts at TPC Boston and Doral Blue are examples of that. In addition, he updated two classical courses - Winged Foot / West and LACC / North which will host the US Open in ‘20 and ‘23 respectively. 

Internationally, Hanse has had successes with Trump International Golf Club in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates which opened in 2017, and a planned opening in 2019 in Thailand with the Ban Rakat Golf Club is forthcoming. Just this past October, Hanse was selected to design the second course at the Les Bordes Golf International in France. In short, the global reach for Hanse is clearly intensifying.

There has also been his active involvement with the St. Andrews of American golf - Pinehurst. Hanse completely reinvigorated a much changed #4 course and provided a much more in-tune natural look for the layout. His effort in Pinehurst went even further with his creation of The Cradle, a 9-hole short course that just completed its first full season.

And just to make sure every minute is accounted for, Hanse continues in his role as architectural analyst for Fox Sports - the network for the US Open. In short, the Hanse rocket has clearly left the pad and is heading for even higher heights.