Protecting design for the benefit of all
SentryWorld Hole 16
SentryWorld Hole 16 by Evan Schiller Photography

Protecting design for the benefit of all

By Design

Silicon Valley, California, is known for being a global center of technological innovation. I live and work in this bustling area, so am keenly aware of how important regulations and protections are to new developments.

Golf course architecture is an art form – interactive with those who play the 500-year-old sport of golf. All other art forms have copyright protection in the United States, such as music, writing and photography; basically, any original work created by a human and not a machine.

After I authored Golf by Design, copyright 1993, published by Little Brown, the interactive nature of the game of golf became more apparent. The thesis of the book was instructions to players on how to beat the strategies of the architect by reading the features of the golf course. Subsequently I was invited
to assist in the first virtual golf game, called SimGolf, which allowed the user on the computer to move
obstacles on the course as well as play a game of golf over the internet with another SimGolf user. We had a similar experience with Chambers Bay in Washington. RTJ II designed the golf course for Pierce County, and the USGA chose Chambers Bay for its Amateur Championship in 2010. After observing the
competition, Mike Davis, who was the executive director of the USGA, asked RTJ II to refine certain holes
and gallery areas for the US Open that was held there in June 2015. We then cooperated with USGA on the creation of an electronic game of the course that was offered during that championship.

These experiences have proved useful for our role in supporting the BIRDIE (Bolstering Intellectual Property Rights against Digital Infringement Enhancement) Act. The BIRDIE Act simply follows suit of the copyright protection afforded to structural architects that was sponsored by the American Institute of Architects in 1990.

The purpose of H. R. 7228 (BIRDIE Act) is supported by all ASGCA Past Presidents and members. In fact, at the USGA annual meeting, ASGCA President Mike Benkusky informed Fred Perpall, president of the USGA, of the contents of the BIRDIE Act. Perpall responded that as an architect himself and for the good of the game of golf, he understood the purpose of the BIRDIE Act.

The ASGCA is the sponsor of this bill on behalf of all golf course architects and the owners of the golf courses. I and other ASGCA Past Presidents such as Forrest Richardson and Jan Bel Jan have been aware that lidar is used to map accurate representations of golf course architects’ original works, which have been sold to third parties indiscriminately.

The copyright amendment of 1990 was endorsed by owners of the structures. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation acted to protect owner’s rights to modify, remodel, or even destroy their structures at will. Therefore, in keeping with that principle, the owners of golf courses can renovate or alter their courses
as they wish under the BIRDIE Act. And it benefits owners and architects by giving them the tools to protect the unique designs of their courses, bringing value to the golfer.

The act does not change how the Copyright Act covers historically designed golf courses before 1990. Current new works can take inspiration from the features of historical designs. The 1990 sponsored amendment, however, confused courts and local parks authorities because it excluded the copyright protection of the works that were produced/designed by landscape architects.

The lawmakers in Congress wish to clear up these misunderstandings. The bipartisan BIRDIE Act, as introduced by Republican Brian Fitzpatrick of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Democrat Jimmy Panetta
of Monterey, California, is being discussed in committee.

As we know, the future of golf course architecture is ever evolving. The use of runway tees and ponds as water hazards by my father, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., railroad ties in bunkers by Pete Dye, and the extensive use of flowers as a hazard at Wisconsin’s SentryWorld by myself, were new in their time. In fact, the future of golf is changing even now with the advent of TopGolf, simulators and virtual golf games.

The BIRDIE Act is simple: it is written to keep up with the times. The BIRDIE Act is an ace for all who enjoy the great game of golf.