Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Bank of Rough Fronting a Green

Merion West has a great example

For a change I find myself writing first thing in the morning.

Often architects have found natural plateau sites in their routings, and occasionally some are even high enough to be classified as skyline greens. For some courses the banks were still left at fairway height like the fantastic green site called “Foxy” at Dornoch, but at many others like the Merion West the slope was left as rough. A slope of long grass used to be a very common technique used to handle this situation, but this has become a rare in today’s golf courses.

Why is it disappearing?

Most architects have a tendency to turn to bunkers to front every green site because of the dramatic effect that they offer and the contrast that they present. The dark green and light green contrast pales in comparison to the flash of white against the sea of green. I think many see the bank of grass as too old fashioned a look and something that doesn’t fit into the playability model of the modern architect. I do think the major change in philosophy came through increased grading, most of these are turned into a maintainable slope that becomes a fairway approach. The theory is the weaker player could run it up while the strong player must head the potential of coming up shot and rolling the ball back. Considering modern architecture props almost all greens in the air for “definition” I’m surprised it isn’t used more just for variety.

Why is this still a good technique?

The grass bank makes a nice change of pace to always bunkering the slopes. It offers players a fairly easy recovery since most of these shots are up hill and from a comfortable lie. It is much less cost to maintain than a bunker and helps weaker players with speed of play. This can be a handy choice for public or resort courses. The hazard is unique since it does not capture or repel the ball and holds the shots in place making the course a bit easier than short grass would. It is also a wonderful way to create shadows and the bluegrass offers a great contrast between the fairway and the green. Finally it is a wonderful was to show the elevation change between the fairway and the green.

Would I use this technique a lot? No, it has to have it’s place, but Pete Dye proved it still can be used as a wonderful simple contrast to front a green. It’s never wise to throw out any idea because they all have their place.

Thursday and Friday: an arguement building in the field/an arguement for working drawings

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Value of Sweeping Fairway Contours

The sketches show the technique, but the sweep is greater on site

There is a wonderful A.W. Tillinghast quote where he states that straight fairways are akin to the travesty of placing a sugar bowl helmet-like on a child’s head and giving him a haircut. I tend to agree. While I occasionally encourage “straighter” lines with some restoration to keep the look authentic, I generally find long sweeping lines are what makes the best fairway contouring of all. Fairway lines are at best when they sweep left and right around either the bunkering or the natural features of the golf hole. They are at there very worst when they are quick swings back and forth that look more like an attempt to chase a snake than create beautiful fairway lines.

The first time I truly understood the power of sweeping fairways was at Mike Stranz’s Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Mike used the sweeping contours, large scale hazards and the sweeping panorama of the Monterey Peninsula to make one of the most visually stunning courses I have ever seen. I found his work fit perfectly into the spectacular surroundings and the scale and movement were magic across the open land that he had to work with.

The sweep is magnificent at this scale

The joy of these wide swings left and right is that they also make for excellent strategy too. The value is that they offer long carry lines that continue to work regardless of the changes in technology because the hazard and contour are still sweeping beyond the planned centerlines. This may be the most technology resistant strategy that I have seen. The key seems to be having enough movement left or right to continue the carry angle well beyond someone’s ability to carry the ball.

Making this all work requires room and scale. You can’t take a narrow tree lined corridor and make these happen. When you’re in a tree lined environment it is best to stick to modest moves to fit the scale of place. When the corridor is widened, you begin to gain opportunity to expand the horizontal movement. If there is no tree lines and the scenery is part of the setting, large horizontal movement of the fairways seem to fit the grandeur of the surroundings. The more room, the more appropriate, and they are certainly the best answer on a massive site. Look at Sand Hills, those are large horizontal moves around spectacular and large natural features.

If you wanted to employ this technique you will need to have a large site. You must employ or find hazards on a very grand scale. You must employ the use of long or natural areas to provide separation and definition. This could even be used to make something special out of a flat site as long as you had the room to meander those fairways.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Interview at

This is a fairly long interview, but the questions were quite good. From running a business to architecture, to equipment, to the USGA to the Masters committee, it covers a lot of ground.

Use this link to go straight to the interview: