26 November 2005

The Logical Flaw of Modern Architecture

"I also believe to some degree we made this golf course a little bit more accommodating even for the member because we took out the trees, so it's easier -- they have a little more latitude than they did prior to our work."

-Rees Jones, during the press conference for the changes for the 2006 PGA Championship to Medinah Country Club's No. 3 Course

Mr. Jones,

I read with interest your comments regarding changes you made to Medinah's No. 3 course in light of the 2006 PGA Championship. The above statement immediately piqued my interest and I believe it can be categorized as the logical flaw of modern architecture.

Your statement implies that wider is easier. While this may certainly hold true for golf courses you design and build I feel this may be used as an indictment to your architectural ability (from a design standpoint, at least). The underlying premise of the statement is that the more lateral room a golfer has to play with, the easier a course will be - since the less skilled golfer will need more width to "stay out of trouble."

However, that premise ignores a basic tenet of architecture that his been practiced since formal architecture came into being. Width provides golfers with options. When a golfer is presented with options, he immediately has to make a choice as to how to play the shot. The golf course should be designed and laid out in such a way that some of the options provide the golfer with an easier next shot, and other options allow the golfer to make his own difficulty. This set of choices is the chief challenge presented by the golf architect to the golfer.

It is paramount to keep this in mind when designing a golf course, especially around the green. For example, Donald Ross rarely bunkered the outside of a dogleg, since he felt that an golfer hitting a shot there made his own trouble by making the hole longer. Similarly, Ross's Greens are known for the heavy use of contour and their premium on well-placed longer shots.

Ross, therefore, allowed the golfer to proceed around the golf course as he saw fit; allowing him to pick a path from tee to green that suited his game. However, he also rewarded the golfer by giving him ways to still score, despite choosing a less-than-optimum route.

I feel that your statement above sets two poor precedents. That tree removal will make a course easier, and that wider golf corridors will make a golf course easier. Often times, when clubs chose to plant trees on their courses, they would line the optimum corridor with trees, negating the lesser of the options off the tee and making the golfer execute, instead of think. They took out compromises that golfer could make that were allowed by Ross and replaced them with demands.

I think your efforts to restore and renovate classic courses are noble, however, I feel that your premises and logic are not in line with the original intent of the golf course, as you are known to say.

Humbly and Respectfully,

Kyle Harris

1 comment:

Mike McGuire said...


Did you send this to Rees Jones? If so did you recieve a response