April 28, 2014
Okay, I think things have just gone from the sublime to the ridiculous on the data center land usage front. In recent years, we’ve seen vast swaths of land annexed to erect solar farms big enough to enable astronauts to shave from 230 miles up in space, gauntlets of wind turbines large enough to leave thousands of decapitated birds in their wake, and even one company’s recent procurement of its own hydro-electric dams. Normally, I would say that companies are free to acquire available land for whatever data center related projects their little hearts desire, but when they start buying up golf courses, I think it’s time for everyone to start revaluating their priorities.
In case you hadn’t heard, Microsoft, as part of their Alluvion project, are preparing to buy 9 holes of West Des Moines, Iowa’s Willow Creek Golf Club’s Red course and no one seems to have a problem with it. I, for one, cannot understand this docile behavior on the part of Iowa’ golfing community. Perhaps, the ramifications of this land grab just haven’t had time to sink in for the average West Des Moinian high handicapper. After all, it took a few years, and evictions, for San Franciscans to cry havoc and let slip the condemnations of “gentrification” towards firms like Google and their employees. This may be the case with the Ashworth clad membership of Willow Creek.
Sometimes actions like Microsoft’s seem okay in the abstract, but when their impact is actually felt by the afflicted, it is too late to roll back their devastating effects. For example, what happens when your casual Saturday foursome goes to make the turn on the Red course and, rather than the 10th tee, find 1.16 million square feet of data center in its place? Folks, that might be the world’s longest par 5. I consider myself a pretty big hitter off the tee, but even a 300 yard drive is only going to cover a pod or two. And doesn’t this also wreak havoc on the gentlemanly rules that have been cultivated since the time ancient Scotsman were whacking Titleist’s across their pastures? Do I get a free drop if I land behind a generator, and is the equipment yard considered out of bounds, or can I just play my ball wherever it lies?
I don’t think that this degree of irresponsible corporate behavior can be condemned strongly enough. The precedent it sets is staggering in its potential implications. Would anyone disagree that the slippery slope that begins with knocking out Willow Creek’s Red back nine could ultimately culminate in some mega-facility right in the midst of “Amen Corner” at Augusta National? Some may say this is hyperbolic, to which my reply is, “why take the chance of seeing someone donning their green jacket with some facility’s chiller plant in the background if you don’t have to?”
Obviously, I like data centers as much as the next guy, but let’s show a little decorum here people. If a firm is willing to replace Willow Creek’s well-bunkered 14th hole with a few hundred thousand feet of raised floor, can we honestly say that anything can still be considered as “sacred ground”? Sure a golf course may not mean that much to you, but as the proud duffers of Willow Creek are about to find out, if you’re willing to make nine holes just disappear, no recreational facility is safe. As a result, I urge the collective membership of Willow Creek to rise up against this gross intrusion of data centers into our leisure time activities before it’s too late. Data center placement has always been a sensitive issue, but I believe that through reasoned discourse Microsoft can find a suitable location for the Iowa data center they desire, and the golfers at Willow Creek can still play 18. After all, there is a place for everything, including data centers, but the 17th green isn’t one of them.