26 February 2011


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01 October 2007

Alive and Well

After a bit of hiatus, I am back and well. The past few weeks have been busy, but in that business there is a lot to share. My absence was due in part to a trip back to Pennsylvania to visit the family and see Genesis in Philadelphia. The trip included a trip back to Reading CC and some time on DuPont CC's DuPont and Nemours courses.

I've also discovered a Steve Smyers course in Lakeland called the Golf Course at Bridgewater. Having played a handful of Smyers courses, including Southern Dunes, both Royce Brooks and Old Memorial - Bridgewater is like nothing I've seen from him, and I hope this is the step he continues to make as his work matures. I am in class right now but will post more later tonight.

04 September 2007

Short Hazards on the Long Par 3

On the Monday Doodle, I have a long Par 3 design featuring a bunker well short of the green.

Let's take a closer look at the hole.

I envision a hole between 220-240 yards from the back tee with the bunker being 160 yards to carry. I drew a ridge just beyond the bunker with the green below the ridge and the green
obscured from the tee. Ideally, the upper portion of the flag is visible. The green should fall away slightly from the tee.

The idea is one of controlling trajectory to best approach the green. The better player is more often able to hit higher shots with longer clubs than players with higher handicaps. This hole affords the opportunity for the higher handicap player to use a shorter club, challenge the bunker and allow the ridge to run the shot on to the green. Meanwhile, the better player is forced to precisely execute a higher trajectory shot or the fall away nature of the green can work against the ball, moving it to a less than desirable position behind the green.

I didn't draw it, but a severe fall off or other form of trouble behind the green would be helpful in furthering this idea.

In practice, one doesn't often encounter such a par 3, but there are a few examples. Kelly Blake Moran has designed two holes such as this: the 3rd at Morgan Hill in Easton, PA and the 5th at Lederach in Harleysville, PA.

Pictured at the left is a view from behind the 14th green at Penn State's White Course, another example of the idea in practice. This hole is one of the original Willie Park, Jr. holes remaining from 1922. The tee is located at the top of the hill just left of the pine trees. Each "bump" in the hillside are bunkers that appear to sit next to the green from the tee, obscuring the approach from the tee. While the hole plays 190 yards downhill (a mid-iron for better players), attempting to fly the green often proves most difficult as stopping the shot on the green can be tricky given the fall-away design. Missing long makes for a difficult up and down. Simply carrying the bunkers with a low trajectory shot (130yards) provides a much more consistently successful alternative for all calibers of players.

Another particularly appealing feature of the idea is that on repeat play, the hole begins to outwit the golfer's mind. Now aware of the possibilities, the golfer may bring the bunkers into play through poor execution.

03 September 2007

Monday Doodle

Every Monday (when I have one available) I'll post one of my sketches for discussion and perusal. Yes, it's shameless self promotion, but that's what blogs are for. Here we have 4 holes I just let flow on the paper. A short par 4, followed by a longish par 3 and then two par 5s. I am particularly fond of the middle par 5 and the bunkers that hamper the second shot. I'll be exploring this bunker arrangement as a way of forcing the golfer to really commit to an angle of attack and his approach to the green. Each option presents a variety of choices and hazards to negotiate based on the skill level and daring of the golfer.

I like the idea of having the hazards well short of the green on a long par 3 as this allows the wily short hitting golfer a means to reach the green by challenging the hazards short while still forcing precision in the long hitter.

29 August 2007

Wednesday Chip Shots

Each Wednesday, I'll post a few quick points from the week in golf architecture.
  • Mike Cirba started a good thread on Golf Club Atlas about ground level tee boxes and their seeming fall into obscurity. While not reaching pandemic levels, it seems more and more the golf is hoisted on a pedestal for each hole. Thread can be read here.
  • Something I would have posted awhile ago, but Ian Andrew compiled a subjective, but very comprehensive ranking of deceased golf architects. His list, like all lists, stand some scrutiny but the discussion wrought as a result is interesting. He presented the list in a series of posts on his blog.
  • Perhaps out of the general ennui brought about by playing Florida golf over the summer, I've been doing a lot of sketches lately. While not terribly practical in terms of building a golf course, I feel that sketching rough concepts can help apply certain strategies in the field, especially given the correct land form. I will post some of these sketches later in the week.
  • In conjunction with my roundtable discussion threads on Golf Club Atlas (first two weeks found here and here) I will post the questions for discussion here each Sunday with my responses. As these threads seem to inspire some spin-off threads, I am going to continue with a weekly five question format. Any general topics for questions would be more than welcome.
  • The Castle Stuart construction videos on YouTube provide a very interesting and informative insight into some of the niches of golf course construction. Kudos to all involved with their production and to Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner for a peek into their world. Embedded below is the video on bunker construction and the "chunking" process:
Additionally, I've discovered through Ryan that Google's news aggregator hits on this Blog, as one of his criteria is "Doak," and yesterday's post came up. Yes, in some ways I'm doing this to see if he's still paying attention, but it's nice to know that a few buzzwords may generate some traffic.

28 August 2007

Change Afoot

So I've neglected this for far too long.

With my recent career happenings, I've been given a bit more time to keep things current and that's going to be the plan. Ideally, and concurrent with my participation in Golf Club Atlas's discussion group, I can offer some good content a few times per week.

I've also decided that the addition of another author will help keep the content fresh. I've asked Golf Architect student Ryan Farrow to contribute as often as he can. Ryan is a fellow participant in the GCA Discussion Group, a Landscape Architecture student at Arizona State, and recently completed an internship with Tom Doak on a project in Montana. Ryan has taken it upon himself to complement his landscape architecture education by seeking out some of the finest golf courses on the west coast, including Riviera and Los Angelos Country Club. A fellow Pennsylvania, Ryan hails from the Pittsburgh area and worked on the grounds staff at Oakmont Country Club during the summer of 2006.

I welcome Ryan's insight to the forum and hope we can keep things going in this "take 2" for "On Golf Architecture."

21 December 2006

My Eclectic 2006

As is my tradition, here's a recap of my eclectic "New Plays" for 2006. An eclectic course is comprised of a course centered around one theme (region, same architect, played in a period of time) and each hole corresponds to that hole on the course. So, essentially it is a course comprised of the best first hole, second hole, and so on.

From this pool of newly played courses:
74. *Philadelphia Cricket Club - Flourtown Course(p)
75. *Sand Barrens Golf Club (West-North)(p)
76. *ShoreGate Country Club(p)
77. *The Club at Morgan Hill(p)
78. *Riverview Country Club(p)
79. *Bethpage State Park - Blue Course(p)
80. *Pine Barrens Golf Club(p)
81. Reading Country Club(p)
82. *Galen Hall Country Club(p)
83. *Lancaster Country Club(p)
84. *Woodway Country Club(p)
85. *Meadowlands Country Club(p)
86. *Neshanic Valley Golf Course(p)
87. *Glen Ridge Country Club(p)
88. *Turtle Creek Golf Course(p)
89. *Merion Golf Club - West Course(p)
90. Valley Country Club(p)
91. *Shadow Isle Country Club(p)
92. *Country Club of North Carolina - Cardinal Course(p)
93. Southern Dunes Country Club(p)
94. Mountain Lake Country Club(p)
95. *Diamondback Golf Club(p)
96. *The Claw at USF(p)
97. Lederach Golf Club(p)
98. Bethpage State Park - Green Course(p)

This was by far my most prolific year in terms of new plays since 2002, with 22 new courses. Some were great, some were bad, but all were enlightening in some form.
Here goes.
1: 1st Hole at Valley Country Club - this long Par 5 opener has one of the most unique green complexes I've yet to play. The bunkering alone is worth the price of admission

2: 2nd Hole at Philly Cricket - Hit my tee shot down the middle into the fog and hit a good approach into same fog to the front of the green, just as well, as the pro shop is about 5 feet behind the green.

3: 3rd Hole at Reading Country Club - Ticklishly short uphill par 4 with US422 hard right and blind, awkward stance trouble hard left. Small green protected by neat Findlay bunkering.

4: 4th Hole at Lederach Golf Club - Kelly Moran's road hole homage. Could never get the tee shot quite right (yet) but the green complex is amazingly good.

5: 5th Hole at Mountain Lake - My first biarritz and a great one at that. Perhaps the most flexible par 3 I've ever played and can literally be set up to play for ALL clubs in your bag.

6: 6th Hole at Woodway Country Club - A sweeping, reverse camber dogleg left uphill. Perhaps two of the most exacting shots I've hit all season.

7: 7th Hole The Club at Morgan Hill - While standing on this tee, one thinks they could probably hit driver onto the quad at Lafayette College. Great par 3 with nifty left side run up option.

8: 8th Hole at Sand Barrens - I felt dirty reaching this in two hitting driver-driver, but a great par 5 with many shot options. Sand Barrens is a treat.

9: 9th Hole at Reading Country Club - Quirky and delicious uphill par 4 with small green and death on the right side of the fairway. Knuckle in the middle of the fairway makes one chose between a tricky 3 iron lay up off the tee or an attempt to blast one over with driver.

10: 10th Hole at Mountain Lake - While short, Mountain Lake's back nine is a lengthy march home (Par 34 and half the 6800 total yards from the tips). Beginning on the 450 yard tenth gives one a taste of things to come.

11: (tie) Reading Country Club and Merion West - While Merion West's 11th tee shot beats Reading, the Alpish approach to the 11th green at Reading was a definite highlight in a year of highlights. Completely blind over a rock formation to a target skinny pine tree. Small, bumpy green confounds the issue. Merion West's 11th is all-world as well, and the equal to anything down the road.

12: Bethpage State Park - Blue Course - While standing out on the Blue Course is like being the most well-behaved prisoner in solitary confinement, this par 5 is a near propostion with a green cleft into the hillside. Simple and neat, I liked it.

13: Mountain Lake - Perhaps my favorite hole on the course. Visual deception off the tee my force the golfer into blasting one into what should be an aiming bunker. Hit a high cut into this fall away green to nestle your ball next to the flag.

14: Reading Country Club - Awesome par 5 (how come more isn't heard about this course!?) with a great green complex perched atop the hillside. Green falls away too and the approach is well designed for the run up shot. EVERYTHING hinges on the green/hole location all the way back to the tee. Backswing may nick a car on the road, though.

15: Glen Ridge Country Club - Nestled on the low part of the property with OB hard right and the creek left, this iron-pitch par 4 ends with a nasty Willie Park green.


17: Mountain Lake - A hole for which my fondness increases daily. This Brian Silva interpretation of a Raynor Eden is set in as perfect a place for an Eden this side of the Atlantic. With Mountain Lake providing the horizon, a great one shot proposition.

18: (Tie) Bethpage Green and Merion West - Merion West's plays dead uphill to a severe false fronted green and Bethpage Green's has one of the most unique greens benched into a hillside this side of Huntingdon Valley's 9th. Both superlative finishes to fun, short course rounds of golf.

Comments and your eclectic 18 always welcome.