The NCAA Division III Women's Golf Championship drew widespread, deserved criticism Friday due to the improper placement of the par-4 sixth hole at Mission Inn and Resort's El Campeon Course in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.
The athletes were contending with an utterly unplayable hole, and after watching the women repeatedly confront the tortuous sixth hole's green, Round 3 play was canceled entirely.
To understand the ridiculous putt-putt nature of the course, you can fall into a social media wormhole devouring video footage of the scene. The slope percentage was so severe it conjured feelings of Steph Curry's Holey Moley silliness, not the kind of golf course you'd expect respected NCAA women's athletes to be facing for championship bragging rights.
Laughable Pin Position at Women's D-3 Championship Goes Viral
Round 3 of the NCAA D3 Women?s Golf Championship was canceled (with nearly 60% of the field finished) because of this hole location, which the NCAA deemed ?unplayable.?
Story: https://t.co/lJdUMFYQDc pic.twitter.com/rrsZg2ySIS
— Brentley Romine (@BrentleyGC) May 12, 2023
Golf Channel writer Brentley Romine reported on the NCAA Division III women's golf committee's ultimate decision to scrap Round 3's remaining competition and shorten the event holes, sharing the committee's statement provided to GolfChannel.com.
"Throughout Round 3 on Thursday, and despite efforts to improve conditions, it became apparent that the pin placement on hole No. 6 ... was unplayable. After play was suspended due to lightning late Thursday afternoon, the committee analyzed numerous different options on how to complete the tournament in the time allotted."
Pin positions, canceled third round; what does it all mean? Women's golf expert and Sports Illustrated writer Gabrielle Herzig took to Twitter explaining, "The NCAA was trying to move pins away from 'old cup marks'...One alternate location, however, was completely illegal, with the pin basically being in the middle of a tier on the green. Some teams finished the entirety of the third round, others only got through 7 holes, but the NCAA deemed this particular pin 'unplayable' and canceled the entire 3rd day of play. The championship will now be only 54 holes, with a cut after 36 holes instead of 54. Some teams managed to play their way past the cutline on Thursday but will instead pack their bags because of the cancellation."
Talked to one of my lovely former teammates on @SagehenGolf (they?re currently in 3rd) and here?s what?s going on at the D-III Women?s Golf Championship.
The NCAA was trying to move pins away from ?old cup marks.? One alternate location, however, was completely illegal? https://t.co/eUr9koG2Dr
— Gabby Herzig (@GabbyHerzig) May 12, 2023
Videos of the shameful pin position widely circulated, some going viral, accumulating over 11 million views on Twitter. That left the NCAA Women's Golf community juggling a PR nightmare.
NCAA Women's Golf Colossal Misstep Shines a Light on Continued Inequity
The spotlight may be on the NCAA today, but this isn't the first time we've seen versions of this kind of poor planning and inequity in collegiate women's sports. The NCAA's Big Ten Las Vegas Invitational recently comes to mind. And it's nearly impossible not to wonder if collegiate male golfers would ever deal with such laughable pin placements. After all, the NCAA is responsible for the course's hole locations, not the fairway staff. What were they thinking?
As reported by GolfChannel.com, one coach said, "They should've known not to put [the hole] there," adding that the women had also battled four questionable hole locations in Tuesday's first round. "They just said they were sorry, and they felt bad."
Between the viral videos and numerous coaches speaking out over the ridiculous pin placements, the NCAA Women's golf committee has a lot to answer for. During a Golf Championship, it was a gobsmacking sight to see putts missing the hole and rolling epically back down to the player's feet like they were at this week's El Campeon Course.
Sadly, the women's golf world is used to this. Last year, during the Girls 3A State Golf Tournament in Adel, Iowa, the utterly absurd pin placement on the 18th hole forced the women to struggle on a whole other level.
Today at the Girls 3A State Golf Tournament at The River Valley Golf Course in Adel, the average score on hole 18 was a quadruple bogey.
No, the golfers weren't bad, but this had to have been the most unfair pin placement I've ever seen. This slope gave the athletes no chance. pic.twitter.com/F7OyqIjbkO
— Jake Brend (@JakeBrendTV) May 28, 2022
The video footage from last year's debacle would be best paired with the iconic sad trombone song. The 18th holes' position was so problematic at The River Valley Golf Course in May of 2022 athletes were averaging a quadruple bogey. Yes, you read that right, a quadruple bogey.
Do all golfers face an exasperating pin position at some point? Sure. However, to plan a collegiate championship course with a knowingly comical slope seems like an unnecessary nag for the athletes. At some point, it becomes more than "the rub of the green" and more like the negligence of the NCAA.
Fans on social media weren't the only ones calling the whole NCAA Division Women's Golf Championship a disgrace. Coaches notedly vented their displeasure over the "ridiculous" 5-percent slope. One anonymous coach outspokenly shared that one of the few birdies he saw all day on hole No. 6 "would've gone 25 yards off the green if it didn't go in."
It is worth noting that the Mission Inn and Resort's El Campeon Course staff did attempt to remedy the challenges posed by the NCAA's poorly placed hole. The fairway personnel ventured to temper the harshness of the slope by watering the putting green. Do you know what they say? If there's a small hill, add water to it to stop the sliding. It's so ridiculous; it's laughable.
Needless to say, their efforts weren't enough to inspire the NCAA Women's Golf Committee to allow for the continuation of play. And once again, we're left to wonder if the NCAA is sincerely interested in properly planning significant events for their female athletes as they are for their male counterparts.
On the plus side, millions of people on social media were talking about golf. No press is bad press, right? I'd wager the NCAA Women's Golf Committee may disagree with the adage, but there were millions of eyeballs on the collegiate world of golf.
And fans are sick of seeing this kind of thoughtlessness in women's sports. In the day and age where one clip or photo can go viral, the glaring disparity bubbling beneath the NCAA and professional sports worlds will no longer go unnoticed or unreported.
All athletes deserve better conditions than the slope from hell at Florida's NCAA Division III Women's Golf Championship this week. Still, women are sick of needing to speak up regarding less-than-acceptable circumstances. Do better, NCAA. This week's talented pool of female athletes signed up for collegiate championship-caliber golf, not holes reminiscent of a drunken bachelorette party at the world's wildest miniature golf course.
MORE: Revisiting the Poor Conditions at the 2021 Women's NCAA Tournament
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