From the Wall Street Journal:
'That Was From the Artist's Green Period'
Just because players don't wax about aesthetics doesn't mean great golf courses aren't high art
by John Paul Newport
... [Golf] architecture buffs, wisely, don't bother addressing the high-art question, even though they do occasionally throw around the A-word (as in "the art of golf course design"), and some course designers do self-consciously attempt to incorporate age-old artistic motifs into their work. I say wisely because defining art is slippery. Have you ever tried to read an article in a learned art journal? I have, several times, and can only conclude that people who write about the subject professionally are a lot smarter than I am, because I hardly understood a word.
One writer who has boldly ventured into the art-golf waters is Steve Sailer, a blogger and film reviewer for American Conservative magazine. In a most entertaining essay last year (available at www.isteve.com/golf_art.htm2), he made the case that golf courses are one of the world's "least recognized art forms" and might even be thought of as the great WASP art contribution of the 20th century. Unfortunately, he contends, golf architecture has never received its artistic due for various cultural and sociological reasons. (One example: Cutting-edge art is usually thought of as anti-bourgeoisie, and golf is anything but.)
The article also reprised what for me has always been one of the most intriguing notions about golf's appeal, and which I think bears on the art question: namely, that at a subconscious level the game connects us (men especially, I suppose) to our evolutionary past as hunters. We stalk golf courses that themselves often resemble our primordial hunting grounds in East Africa: grassy savannahs with scattered stands of protective trees and abundant watering holes (read: water hazards) that attract prey. In one study Mr. Sailer cited, people in 15 nations were quizzed about what scenes they would most like to see in paintings; the collated responses in 11 of the countries pointed to landscapes that looked very much like golf courses, viewed from elevated tees. [More]