Ian Baker-Finch is a CBS Sports golf analyst and professional golfer. He is best known for winning the British Open Championship in 1991, but has also won a total of 16 tournaments worldwide. He began competing on the Champions Tour in 2011, shortly after his 50th birthday. Baker-Finch has also been a golf analyst for over a decade, covering all the major tours throughout the world. He joined CBS Sports in 2007.
CBS Local Sports sat down with Baker-Finch to discuss his favorite golf course and hole and what he would change about the game if given the opportunity.
CBS Local Sports: What is your favorite golf course or favorite hole to play?
Baker-Finch: It’s so hard for me to pick one because I’ve played them all. That’s my love, that’s my passion. Wherever I am in the world I go play the great golf courses. I could run through the top 10 so easily. In Australia we have Royal Melbourne, quite often ranked number one in the world. Here in the states Pine Valley is pretty much always rated number one or Pebble Beach. Up in the New York area Shinnecock, I think is the best course in the world for championship play because of a blend of open venue, and it’s just a raw bone great championship course, next door to National Golf Links of America, another beauty. Over here on the west coast, we’ve got Pebble Beach, Cyprus Point, San Francisco Golf Club, another gem. Up in the Boston area, Old Sandwich Golf Club. In Australia again, probably my favorite all time that I love, is Kingston Heath. It’s just one of those classic Mackenzie style courses just rolling through the Melbourne sand belt.
If I had to pick one area, one spot to go to, to send someone and say there’s no more beautiful place in the world of golf, it would be Cyprus Point. If they could go and play 15, 16, 17 right out there on the point, two great par 3’s, some of the most beautiful golf land on the ocean in the world. That would be something special that if you saw that you’d know that ethereal, majestic feel that place exudes. It’s just amazing. Can’t wait to get back there.
Every year I can’t wait to get back to Cyprus Point. The seals, the sea lions, it’s right on the ocean. Oh God, and the waves are crashing into the rocks, and there’s these holes and they’re right on the cliffs, three holes in a row. God, it’s just amazing. It really is; they call it the whiskey run, the guys who’ve played their 18 holes, and then they walk down from the clubhouse and they play 15, 16, 17, 18 ’cause it’s just so beautiful. They’re all out there, and they say ‘let’s go play golf!’ So they go, and they’ll take a beer with them or whatever and go and play those four holes again. It’s just amazing.
CBS Local Sports: How would you change the game of golf if you had an opportunity to?
Baker-Finch: I think the game needs to be simplified to be able to speed it up. We live in a time when people don’t have four or five hours or a day to put aside to go play golf. Attention span of the young kids coming through is, you know, always something going on their iPad or on their iPod or their mobile devices, watching television at anytime, you know. Anything that takes four or five hours can be a bit too cumbersome for the people coming into the game now. We have to try and shorten the amount of time it takes to play it, make it a little easier, make it a little more friendly to the beginners.
The traditional side of the game will always be there as you progress and as you become a good player and you fall in love with the game as I have over the years. The game will still be there that way, but we need to find some way of getting the young people of today interested, involved in the game. And I think it has to be at an easier, faster, different level to get them interested, and then they could progress into the longer form, more formal form of the game, because the game of golf is the greatest game in the world, there’s no doubt. But we need to get more people, we have to get more access to everyone, and that’s a conundrum that’s going to be a difficult one to figure out.
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