Thursday, November 22, 2007

10 More things I don't like

10 more that I choose not to write about but also would make my list are:

1. forced carries - the are tremendously unfair when presented to a below average player or when the wind is in your face and the carry is long.
2. irrigated fescue – (my biggest pet peeve) might as well be a lateral water hazard, although it becomes worse since it slows play with looking for balls.
3. internal out of bounds – mainly done to make a practice range safe but occasionally has been added as a cruel compliment to a hole – any hazard without recovery should be liberally used.
4. goalpost architecture (hazards that line up across from each other) – anything that pinches rather than inviting a player to either flirt or fly reduces the game to execution (zzzzzzzzzzzz)
5. doglegs greater than 45 degrees. – creates an situation where the average player must always play safe, the good player usually is forced into playing a lay-up, but also often creates a hole where the longest player can take such a short route that the hole no longer makes sense (Crooked Stick and Daly).
6. a course with no short par fours (350 or less) – it’s dull to play and creates a lack of variety
7. a par five over 600 yards – this is never done to create an interesting hole since a 600 yard plus piece of great terrain is almost non-existent – its done as a yardage grab – the holes are long and dull as plain toast.
8. three (or more) tiered greens – the only thing with that many steps should be the approach to the clubhouse.
9. tees with contour – it simply hurts my eyes and wastes useable tee surface
10. bunkers that are meaningless because they are flat – they have no influence on the game whatsoever and they still must be maintained

What would you add and why?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

10 Things I Don’t Like - #10 Wide Greens with Front Bunkers

I thought it would be a more interesting choice than the obvious ones I also considered.

A good players rarely come up short or long – they have fairly reasonable distance control and will usually club themselves with-in 10 yards if there is no wind or elevation to deal with. On the other side of the coin – they tend to miss more to the left or right – particularly when they are required to work a ball on a recovery shot.

A weaker player tends to miss most often in front of the green because they have either miss-hit or misjudged the approach shot. The will miss left or right and occasionally long through swing faults – but the vast majority of shots will be short. When in trouble they will often play back to safety before trying to take on a shot to the green

A strong player is rarely intimidated by a carry unless the carry is either long or on a diagonal. The have more issues dealing with a narrow target or a green that slopes to the side than trying to find the courage to make a carry over a front bunker. In fact a fronting bunker often makes the shot clearer and easier to execute since the carry clearly defines the shot they need to hit.

The weaker player hates a carry because this is not a strong suit of weaker player’s game and also the idea of a carry adds pressure to the situation. When you throw in the complications of limited trajectories and limited abilities to carry the ball and you can easily see why this penalizes the weaker player.

There is no question in my mind that the very old fashioned approach of flanking a green with bunkers and leaving the front wide open is the best way to defend a green site. It opens up a clear and fair approach to the weaker player, while telling the good player not to leak the ball left or right on their approach. It also gives both level of player the option to bounce in the approach if they so desire.

10 other things

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

10 Things I Don’t Like - #9 Squeezing the Landing Areas

Pine Valley's 4th

One of the greatest surprises I ever had came from playing Pine Valley – I went there expecting to be tortured by an impossibly hard course where every miss was trouble. The misses were indeed deep trouble – but the fairways were surprisingly generous leaving the player the opportunity to challenge the course. I found Pine valley to still be one of the stiffest tests I have ever faced – but eminently fair since the fairways were wide.

The European Club's 3rd

I’ve played courses such as Royal Portrush where the landings are very narrow and bordered by deep thick fescue. One the 9th hole I had an unplayable lie 2 feet off the 25 yard wide fairway – I don’t see the need for such a set up. I found at Portrush that each miss was a disaster of epic proportions that day – yet there was no room left for the average player or to deal with the regular strong winds. I really liked Portrush its well designed – but I found the set up got so tight that it presented no options and did not provide me with the charm and pleasure I found at other Harry Colt courses I played.

Royal Portrush's 8th

I went to visit Marine Drive in BC a few years back and was flabbergasted by the narrowness of the fairway corridors. Each hole was walled with trees so narrow that even a slightly pushed or pulled tee shot was certain to find wood. What was even more mind-blowing was the new planting of trees inside those tree lines on a couple of holes. It was a test of golf with very few options.

Marine Drive's 15th - a wider corridow than 10!

I recently played a Gary Player course in Florida where the landing areas were all completely flanked by ponds on one side (16 shots in one round!) always with bunkers and trees framing the other. I’m sure Gary could squeeze a tee shot through the 30 yard corridor but the rest of us can’t. Why would anyone play there twice?

It doesn’t matter how you create the squeeze in the landings – it removes all the options for the player and turns the game into execution. There is no test of courage or decision making – it is a test of execution under pressure. Even the best courses can become victims of a stiff set up and lose some of their charm.

Merion's 14th - note the bunkers away from the fairway

On the same trip to Pine Valley I played Merion for the first time. I loved Merion for all the skill in routing and bunker placement but was stunned that the fairways were very narrow and the rough so thick and high.
It always struck me that Merion was tricked up through the course set-up when it didn’t need to be. I felt the narrow fairways took away the opportunity or desire to try and gain position or challenge the bunkers – there was too much penalty for a miss. I would like to play the course in the spring before the rough grows up to see what the difference makes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

10 Things I Don’t Like - #8 Area Drains in the Fairways

One of the consistent things that I enjoy on older courses is the natural flow of the land uninterrupted by man-made contours. I’ll even take flat fairway over ones that have been artificially shaped to have roll. The modern idea seems to be that fairways must be receptive to be fair and rolling to be interesting. Architects now shape the fairways to achieve both and have turned to fairway area drains in order to make it work.

The new fairways are not only contrived but often feature a “moon like” appearance where the area drains have been used. The placement is so uniform and predictable that the shaping around the basins often upstages even great bunkering. I look at a great course like Tobacco Road where the wildness of the bunkering stands out – yet quite often the fairways come across as too contrived due to the extensive use of area drains in the landing areas. Even a create mind like Mike Strantz can’t overcome the definitive bowl shape that catches your eye and interrupts the natural flow of the land. Once you start using them – there can no longer be anything natural about the fairways. The more you use the less natural the look.

The main reason they are used is to catch water and get it underground as soon as possible so that play will not be interrupted through rain. The only problem with this idea is the low areas around the basins tend to remain wet – and since that is where most balls tend to collect the results are less than satisfying as a player. Throw in ice problems in the north and agronomic problems with wet turf and you wonder why they are so prevalent. If the fairway can be drained off to either side it always removes water far more effectively.

Some builder’s and superintendent’s want them since they catch water quickly to avoid washouts during grow in but there are so many alternatives from wood mulch to just plain old sod that turning to basins should remain a last resort. I personally like to make a conscious effort to route holes so that water can fall off the sides and avoid the problems in the first place. Holes with containment mounds are often forced to use them.

They need to be treated as a necessary evil rather than an important tool – then golf courses will be much better for the change in attitude.