Q&A: Mike Clayton on Golf's Good & Bad

Mike Clayton has become a common sight on Su Oh's bag when the LPGA star competes in Australia. (Photo: Golf Australia)
Mike Clayton rose to prominence as a touring professional in the 1980s but has since become revered as a golf course architect and golf writer with forthright views about what's good and bad for the game.

Clayton is the latest subject of iSeekGolf's Q&A.


iSeekGolf (ISG): What is golf’s greatest appeal for you?

Mike Clayton (MC): The courses, and playing them with like-minded players.


ISG: And what is its biggest turn off?

Mike Clayton: People who play golf but have no interest in the game outside of their own irrelevant games.


ISG: You can only play one course for the rest of your life: which one is it?

MC: Australia – Royal Melbourne; World – St Andrews.


ISG: What is the most under-rated course in Australia?

MC: Royal Melbourne – people who don’t play golf don’t understand what a significant piece of man-made design it is. It and the Opera House are the 'only two man-made things of any world-wide architectural significance’ (John Carroll).


ISG: How long should it take four club golfers to play a regular competition round?

MC: 4 hours and 15 minutes.


ISG: Who do you regard as Australia’s greatest golfer?

MC: Peter Thomson.


ISG: Would you support a genuine world golf tour (in the same way that ATP tennis has its global circuit)?  

MC: Yes – but one not ruled by the US Tour.


ISG: Which, in your view, is the best-run professional sport in the world and why? 

MC: Golf.


ISG: The popularity of golf is waning. You’re the boss of the entire game globally: what one thing would you do first to arrest the slide?

MC: "The popularity of golf is waning": Tell that to Vietnam Golf and Country Club where its 36 holes do 120,000 rounds a year.It’s waning amongst people who were never that into it anyway. The only people who want to ‘grow the game’ are people wanting to profit from it.


ISG: Do we need to get radical and say ‘yes’ to denim and cargo shorts on the course, music-blaring speakers on golf carts, bigger holes on greens, and other innovations that will appeal to non-golfers or are they just trivial gimmicks that will push away people who already love the game?

MC: Trivial gimmicks mostly – but Barnbougle proves the world doesn’t fall in when people are allowed to wear jeans in the clubhouse. Cargo shorts seem fine. Playing golf in denim doesn’t work for me.


ISG: Who, in golf, embodies your idea of a ‘good sport’? 

MC: Geoff Ogilvy – he ‘gets it’, Adam Scott too. Gil Hanse.


ISG: What’s the best golf book you’ve read?

MC: Too many – [The Eternal Summer: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Hogan in 1960, Golf's Golden Year] is a great one. Doak’s [The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses] is important as is The Spirit of St. Andrews by Alister MacKenzie. The Future of Golf in America: How Golf Lost Its Way in the 21st Century (and How to Get It Back) by Geoff Shackelford.


ISG: You are given the ability to time travel: which player, shot, tournament or historical moment in golf would you like to witness?

MC: 1960 US Open – Hogan, Palmer and Nicklaus. The basis of The Eternal Summer.


ISG:You can choose ANYONE - dead or alive - to play in your group next Saturday: who would make up your dream four-ball? 

MC: Seve, Su Oh, Mickey Wright. So Su could see the best woman ever and the best player to watch play ever.


ISG: If you were given $5,000 to splurge on your game, how would you spend it?

a) A series of lessons with Butch Harmon

b) A golf getaway at an exotic location, such as New Zealand or Hawaii

c) A new set of custom-fitted clubs

d) At the 19th hole

e) Other: please explain (MC: Golf at Sand Hills – Nebraska.)


ISG: What shot makes you most nervous?

a) A long bunker shot

b) A short putt in a close match

c) Any shot over water

d) First tee shot of the day

e) Hitting in front of strangers

f) Other: please explain (MC: Used to be a 5 footer to make the cut. Now – nothing !!)


ISG: What most annoys you on the course?

a) Slow players

b) Poor course conditions

c) Players talking on their mobile phones

d) Players talking during your setup/backswing

e) Someone not yelling "Fore!"

f) No drinks cart

g) Other: please explain (MC: Bad holes and horrible tree planting schemes.)


18. The Tiger Woods Question – Will he:

a) win another major?

b) if Not, will he win another tournament?

c) if Not, will he ever finish top-10 again?

d if Not, when do you think he’ll decide enough’s enough

MC: Purely speculative because he’s always lying about the reality of his sitiaution.


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