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.

21 August 2006

The Golf Course as Oppoenent

Most consider golf a sport. To me the notion of sport indicates that some opponent has the ability to impede the direct progress of the player in the game or action of the sport.

I think the most fun and desirable designs put the golf course squarely in this role. Contrarily, when maintenance or design takes away the golf course's sporting chance to fight back I find the course dull and banal. This is the equivalent to the hunter fencing in his prey before the shot, or worse, tying it up.

For the purpose of advancing good design and the concept of golf as a sport, it is imperative that at some point the golf world embraces the notion that on a certain day, the golfer may be placed in an impossible situation by simply teeing the ball up on a particular hole. This fact is not unfair or undesirable, it is sporting.

Too often, the essence of fairness and fun are bastardized into meaning possible and easy.

How often are the sporting advantages that the golf course possess rendered useless or non-existant by setups that fail to utilize the full design of a green or hole?

How often do maintenance practices preclude that contours too severe should be eliminated, taking away a fundamental challenge the original design intended?

This was most recently exemplified at Medinah this past weekend, where a similar result could have been garnered by parametrizing a scoring system based on ball striking on a driving range, and then holding a seeded match play putting contest based on the results of that score.

We saw what happens when a golf course loses it's sporting chance. Bunkers became havens for recovery, angles of attack became nonsense with the only real penalty for firing right at a flag being a short side miss into gnarly rough. A challenge, which again, could have been simulated off the golf course.

Golf is losing its sporting way with setups and championships like this. It's high time to take stock of our values, and just what skill sets make up a "championship golfer."

21 May 2006

Red and Black: First Nine

I love Bethpage State Park. The park could possibly be one of the greatest places on earth. I itch to get back there day by day. To those familiar with my tastes in golf courses, you may know that I firmly believe the Red Course to be every bit as good as the Black, and in some subtle ways superior. There are those who ardently disagree with me, but that's okay - that's what makes this game wonderful.

I've always been fond of matching up two courses hole-by-hole and will probably beging to do so more often in this blog as a method of comparing, contrasting and disecting architectural features. Done right, it can be quite useful in assessment of a golf course.

Here goes for Bethpage Black and Bethpage Red.

First hole:

The Black's first wins for atmosphere (especially as the first group out - I still get chills thinking about being the first to break the silence on the Black on October 14th, 2004 and splitting the fairway down the middle), however, outside of that and a decent green, the Black's opener is fairly benign. Though, to be fair, the hole does require a well aimed tee shot in order to have a shot into the green and one must execute perfectly to cut the corner, but most decent golfers will have no more than 7-iron into the hole.

The Red's opener is a brute. 470 yards of a brute for the tips, to be precise. While bunkerless (though a sliced ball may find the bunkers that pinch the Black's 18th fairway), both shots require execution near perfection. The ideal tee shot finds the left side of the fairway which has the green view obscured by a mound about 100 yards out with the green about 40 feet above the fairway. Hitting a running, long iron into this green is the ideal play for the approach. Perhaps the most endearing part of the hole was realized this past March when I played Bethpage Blue. With the flag out of the green and the grass dormant, someone unfamiliar with Bethpage would not be able to tell a golf hole was even there - that's as natural as it gets.

Red wins: Red 1-up

Second Hole:

The Black's second hole is often villified as not being up to the standard of the rest of the course. I find this to be a baseless claim mainly made by people who feel the Black should be all about bombs off the tee. While the second can easily be reduced to a 3-wood, pitching wedge proposition this is hardly an indictment. Double Bogey lurks on both shots as going through the fairway or too far left leaves an awful angle into the green. Once on the green, two putts are fairly easy to come by as the green is one of the flatter on the course, but often times, the player is over aggressive for the birdie.

The Red's second is another villified hole and perhaps with more reason than the Black's. Like the Black's this is a dogleg left where driver may not be the best play. Unlike the Black's the hole is fairly flat and non-descript.

Black wins: All Square

Third Hole:

The Black's third is a good long par 3 with a devlish fall away green. The long to mid iron approach must land short and hopefully hold the back of the green. Front right is a good bailout as any of the front left bunkers are a difficult up and down proposition.

The Red's third is a very strong par 4 dogleg right with a dip in front of the green that can hamper the long hitter off the tee. The green has a good amount of movement in it and with the recent green expansion, holes can be tucked in corners like the days of yore.

Hole Halved: All Square

Fourth Hole:

The Black's fourth is an all-world par 5 that really has no comparison. It could possibily be one of the best "second shot" par 5s in the game of golf (I put the 13th at Augusta as a Par 4.5). The glacier bunker is formidible and the green will give you nightmares with a misstruck approach.

The Red's fourth is a decent mid-iron length par 3 that serves its purpose quite well. Don't miss left or long (on the 18th tee of the Black). Perhaps the best feature of the hole is the view of holes 15-18 of the Black course.

Black wins: Black 1-up.

Fifth Hole:

The Black's fifth is another all-world hole, this time playing to a par 4. The oblique bunker that messes with the tee shot is one of the best uses of such a bunker I've seen and the method by which a golfer challenges the hazard can reap many rewards on the approach. The sheer horizontal elasticity of the hole is incredible as well, and in the two times I've played it there has been two vastly different results. The green sits like a fortress above two bunkers from the fairway and forces near perfect execution.

The Red's fifth is an excellent par 5 with a premium placed on the angle off the tee (no line of charm on the Red, Jay? ;-)) . The golfer is forced to fight instinct and play the long way down the outside of the hole to even have a shot at the green in two. Too far right and the hillside and trees force the golfer to a bad angle from about 140 yards out on the left. Another restored green with a lot of movement awaits the golfer.

Black wins: Black 2-up

Sixth Hole:

The Black's sixth invites the golfer to really wallop a hard drive down the left side as this may be the most open tee shot on the course. The green sits like a pancake wedged between two Tillinghast pastiche bunkers and is usually approached with anything from 6 iron to wedge, depending on the line off the tee. A good hole and a good breather after four and five.

The Red's sixth is also fairly wide, but with trees lining the hole on both sides. A sharp dogleg left - the instinct is to play left, but dips, swales and the valley through which the fifth hole plays awaits the slightest hook. The best play is 3-wood to the outside of the corner which yeilds an open shot to the green. Two restored bunkers await an overly aggressive approach as the green actually feeds away from the golfer. I've speculated that at one point the trees down the left were much lower and sparse, giving the golfer a view of the green from the tee. Since the green "faces" the tee box this could have been a way for Tillie to tempt the player into biting off more than the player could chew.

Red wins: Black 1-up.

Seventh Hole:

The Black's seventh is a relatively easy par 5 with a difficult tee shot compounded by a bunker similar to the fifth hole's. This hole is actually played from a forward tee for the US Open and played as a par 4. The green is one of the more undulating on the course but the second (and third) shots are some of the easiest.

The Red's seventh is a mid length par 3 (a club or two longer than the fourth) that would probably fit well at a bunch of other Tillinghast courses. The hole follows the scheme of a lot of the par 3s at Bethpage (3rd and 14th on the Black, all four on the Blue, 11th on the Yellow, 12th and 17th on the Red) of having the tee and green on high points across a valley. This does get redundant (especially on the Blue), but is appealing on this hole.

Hole halved: Black 1-up.

Eighth Hole:

The Black's eighth is a drop shot par over a pond to a severly sloping green. A bunker compounds the back left. I've hit 5-iron to the green both times from the back tee into a breeze and have parred the hole both times. It's non-descript, but effective.

The Red's eighth is a short par 4 that begins an excellent stretch of holes on the plain portion of the property. Avoiding the bunker off the tee is key and will leave the golfer with a wedge to a tiered green. It's non-descript like the Black's but fun nonetheless.

Hole halved: Black 1-up.

Ninth Hole:

An interesting par 4 on the Black with a VERY exactly tee shot. The new back tee places the carry to the top of the hill to something like 295 yards (I have VERY mixed feelings on both the efficacy and decision making for this new back tee). Don't reach the top and you have about as much of a hook lie that is possible without rappelling equipment. I think the hole will be better from the old back tee (I have yet to play the new one).

Stand on the ninth tee on the Red and let your golfer's instincts take over. Everytime I play the hole, my eyes scan for the best angle to hit my tee shot and they inch perilously close to the tree line and bunkers at the inside of the corner each time. Did I mention this hole is 440 yards from the tips? The green is something else too, pinched off by bunkers but allowing a well struck rolling shot on (unless you cut the corner, navigate the bunkers and avoid the trees effectively where you'll probably be treated with a 5-6 iron approach).

Red wins: Match All Square

Second Nine coming up in a bit.

13 May 2006

Know Your Greens

After a month long hiatus (greenkeeping so far has been great!) I am back.

Today's topic revolves around greens and how certain architectural clues can help you break apart the architect's intent in designing a golf hole.

It has been said that the greens are the "faces" of the golf course portrait. By extension of this analogy, we can surmise that green design should garner the most attention.

At first glance, most greens appear flat and circular and for a lot of new courses this is the case. However, for most courses built before 1960, the predominant green shape was squared off - especially at the front or back. This is especially important to realize as while greens and fairways may have shrunk over time, the contouring and general idea of the hole probably has not.

If one is particularly familiar with the golf course, it is possible to visualize the hole backwards. Assuming a squarish green with some slope, the first thing to think about is at which angle the green is best approached from. From one side of the fairway, a bunker may cover the green or the green may slope away from the player, while 20 yards to the left or right, the green may be more receptive to a running approach or controlled aerial shot.

This is where knowing the general original shape of the green is so important. A circular green is generally more receptive to shots from different angles while a squarish green (or formerly squarish) green generally favors one angle. Determining which direction the flat edge of the green faced can be key in figuring out how to play a hole.

Another thing about shrunken square greens is the amount of hole locations presently available. A green that has lost 4 feet of green space on each side could have lost as much as 75% of old hole locations and the ones that remain are typically the easier locations in the middle of the green pad. Since hole locations are no longer tucked in these old corners, it is rare that as much of a premium on angle is placed on the tee shot or approach. However, left over green contour can still compound a shot or help even if now part of the collar or rough.

Summarily, the idea is to use the architecture of the green to determine the best angles into the hole for scoring. This method can be especially helpful in abnormal conditions where trajectory, distance and control may be affected from the norm. Knowing how a hole "works" can help any golfer maximize score and enjoyment.

31 March 2006


How much trust do you place in the architect of your home golf course? Perhaps even more important, how much trust is placed in the architect at an away course? Not surprisingly, this question probably doesn't enter most golfers minds as they play their round, yet it can be a very important factor in the success of a round. Granted, there is trusting the yardages that are marked on the course, but often times blame for inaccuracy is on the maintenance staff that can't use a laser range finder correctly.

The idea is our assumption that the architect is telling the truth as to the nature of the hazards on the course. We rationalize that bunkers are at the corner of the dogleg to give the golfer something to think about if they chose to cut the corner. We understand that contour in the green is designed to make for interesting hole locations and angles of attack into the green from the fairway and that leaving the ball below the hole will leave an easier putt. But, how do we know for sure?

Ever cut a corner of a dogleg and find yourself with a bad angle into a green or a nastier second shot?

Ever stand over a putt thinking you've read to little or too much break and slowly inch your aim left or right?

Believe it or not, but architects like to play with your mind. Temptation, of course, is the most commonly known way they do this. We are tempted to carry as much of a diagonal hazard as we dare, and we are tempted to fire directly at a hole that looks benign from the fairway. Temptation, however, is not the only way architects play with you.

Next time you play a hillier course of some repute, take a look at how the slopes around the greens and fairways compound your eyesight. Good architects will make their unnatural grading and mounding integrate with surrounding and more natural contour and sights. Built up tee boxes, or those benched into a hillside, will have their built up slope match the grade of the hill side they were built into and both lines will run parallel. This actually does to things: make the golfer comfortable and make the golfer not notice. Well-integrated slopes are hidden from our eyesight precisely because they don't stand out. We may not notice that we are reading a putt from a sidehill lie. We may think the green is flatter than it is. Our aim may shift down the natural line of our eyesight and right toward a hazard lurking in front of a well-integrated mound.

Take heed and notice next time you're out slapping it around the course. You may find yourself placing too much trust in the guy who was hired to make your score higher.

25 March 2006

A Treatise on Equipment

I received a comment regarding my blog and the lack of equipment opinions and their influence on architecture. I've decided to state my feelings regarding technology.

I believe that they ball needs to be rolled back. I would like to see a return to either the Titleiest Professional-era of technology, or the first version of the Titleist Pro V1. This feeling is probably no coincidence in that it corresponds to the time when I turned professional.

It may well take a nuerotic to pay $100 and use $1500 of equipment in order to spend 5+ hours on a golf course that takes up real estate to the tune of 200+ acres. Economics drive any pasttime, and golf is no different. Golf has a problem - a serious problem. These aren't appealing numbers. Granted, these numbers are probably indicative of a limited percentage of those that actually play the game, but indeed, this higher end is the ultimate cost driver. As such, a simple solution must be found if the game is to continue retaining players (forget growth, let's worry about people STAYING in the game - since when is turnover a good thing?).

However, I also feel that architecture (the field) cannot make a living by demanding that the ball be rolled back. Simply stretching golf courses to 7500+ yards and whining about how high and far the ball is going is not going to help this game. Architects must be more creative, because frankly, the game is getting too big. I feel there are architectural solutions that are both cost effective and land effecient (the two main drivers that the architect controls) and that are fun and challenging to play (the purpose of hiring an architect in the beginning). I've proposed some of these solutions on this blog, and will continue to do so.

20 March 2006

The Jeff

I had the distinct pleasure of playing Jeffersonville GC yesterday with fellow GolfClubAtlas mate Mike Cirba. This course is the crown jewel of the West Norriton Township, PA taxpayer (that's a muni for those taking notes ;-)) and is also a crown jewel (of many) for Philadelphia golf.

The course is your prototypical Donald Ross/JB McGovern 1931 design that, to me at least, gets better with each subsequent play. My first experience with the course was in a High School match back in 1999, right before a Ron Prichard restoration was undertaken. I returned 3 years later after I turned pro and the difference was night and day. The course as I first encountered it was a pitiable maintenance nightmare. I am not sure if this was before or just after they discovered the Ross pedigree, but I would have never even imagined the sophistication of the design then.

The main affects of the restoration were much better (and integrated) bunkering and larger, more integrated green sites. These greens are a superb test of iron play, and as we experienced yesterday can be quite the challenge when fast. The routing also offers the golfer different angles through which the wind will affect play, and with one exception, no two consecutive holes play in the same direction.

While the first nine has many highlights (the short par 4 2nd, par 5 6th and long downhill par 3 8th among them), the second nine is as fine a test of golf mettle as I've encountered in my, albiet limited, experience. The 11th and 12th holes (formerly 17 and 18) are an interesting pair. The first is a long, uphill par 4. The green dictates play of the rest of the hole and its situation is as near to a "redan" style as I've ever seen on a Ross course. The front right shoulder helps feed a low, running approach.

As was our luck, the hole played dead into the wind - placing a premium on this feature. I was able to successfully punch a 3-iron from about 185 out up the hill and feeding toward the hole location on the left side just over the greenside bunker. I should note that Mike hit a wonderful approach right at the hole that nestled abotu 10 feet away, so while this hole has some features of a redan, it's not a true one as the green does not slope away from the golfer.

17 and 18 are a great finish, and the evolution of the 17th hole is of particular interest to me. 17 is a true dogleg where angles are gained by playing out away from the green near the bunkers at the corner. Playing down 18 is an option, but no true advantage is gained as the hole is both sufficiently long with a green angled in a certain way that the small distance advantage gained is not worth the shot due to the poor angle. Interestingly, this hole may have played much straighter or even as a dead-straight on shot. I'll follow up when I do the necessary research.

Jeffersonville is a sure treat, and the price can't be beat (I'm a poet, and the realization has yet to strike me). It's a worthy trip to anyone taking a Philadelphia golf tour as an accessible, playable, and fun sampling of later Ross.

18 March 2006

The Directional Hazard: Messing with Comfort

One of my latest ponderances regarding golf architecture has been that of what I am beginning to call the "directional" hazard. I am beginning to notice more and more that architects may force a player to aim toward a less favorable area in more ways than one.

The first example of this is noticed at Morgan Hill, a Kelly Blake Moran course in Easton, PA. Kelly's bunkering and green complexes may be considered avante garde by a lot of the Philadelphia school pastiche, and some even have a Raynor/Banks-ish quality to them. They resemble a cat scratch across the landscape, and the depth and direction of the "scratch" confound the next shot by forcing the player to aim in a certain direction simply to advance the ball more than a deep explosion shot would do.

To me, this is a very effective hazard, especially in a day and age where the bunker shot has been rendered "ho-hum" by the better player.

I've also noticed some visual deception in regard to direction. The Par 5, 13th Hole, on PSU White (Park, Jr.) has a large bunker guarding the right side of a blind tee shot. Since the bunker is roughly 200 yards out, the better player has little concern for actually ending up in bunker, however, carrying it renders an extremely difficult decision the next shot. Upon getting to the bunker (and looking down the hole for the first time) the player is confounded by attempting to hug the treeline (and OB) right or playing out to the left for a less-than-ideal angle to the green and a fairway area that falls into two cavernous bunkers. It is a very uncomfortable shot regardless of the aim or choice and the premium on concentration and execution is high.

Interestingly, these sort of features tend to force play to the edges, adding a certain amount of "internal yardage." Indeed, a player forced to zig-zag down a 490 yard par 5 is actually playing the hole at a 530 yard par 5.

I like the idea of simple golf features messing with the golfer's comfort level in an effort to "defend par."

24 February 2006

A Corollary to Ian

The Caddy Shack: Why a blog about being a golf course architect?

The above is the latest blog entry by fellow GCAer and Canadian Golf Architect Ian Andrew. I was struck by his thoughts on his role in architecture, namely:

"I believe a golf course architect's job is not to define a series of difficult tasks, but to make the game as interesting and fun as he can."

I like that, and I feel it draws a neat parallel to my own definition of the golf architect's purpose. The golf architect is charged with posing a series of questions which the golfer can answer. The course's challenge comes not in asking impossible questions, but asking questions which engaged the golfer's abilities to their maximum level. To me, this leaves golfers of all abilities with something to "contribute" to the answer.

A cape hole, for example, may pose the question, "How much of me can you challenge?" Every golfer has a different answer to the question, and each answer yeilds a different question on the next shot.

14 February 2006

Why are tees always built up?

Why do tees get put up on pedestals of ground?

Not only does this look unnatural to me, it also plays unnaturally. Sure, I can understand a little bit of elevation to keep the tee above surface water flow, but is 4 feet of elevation change really necessary for that? Also, since it IS a teeing ground, and the golfer is given the option of improving his lie with a tee or by picking the best spot of ground, I would imagine the tee can afford to be in less-than-optimum condition.

Tee boxes seem to be in one of two locations: flat ground, or benched from a hillside. For the latter example, we often see the box built up on one end so it can match grade with some aspect of the slope.

For example: The tee box on the Par 3 4th at Manufacturers' Golf and Country Club, Oreland, PA shown to the left. This is the response to a tee box being built on severely sloping ground, and the green and hole in general dictated the placement of the tee box here. While it may not be the most natural look thing (let's not fool ourselves, random flat shelves of land don't protrude naturally from rolling Pennsylvania hillsides) it is an example of the architecture following the function of the hole. Also note (click on the image for a larger view) how the slope built up to the left MATCHES the grade in front of the tee.

In the more egregious category comes the new tee box on the 13th hole of PSU's White Course. The tee shot on the hole from the old tee (now the back tee) is blind. The 13th being a long downhill par 5 with the crest of the hill positioned in just the right distance from the back tee to make the landing area blind. A new forward tee was built that puts the golfer on a 5 foot high stage, laying the hole out in front of the player - no more blindness, at least I'm assuming that to be the purpose for the height of the new tee box. Functionally, I find this less-than-ideal - as the blind tee shot was used to set up strategic decisions later on in the hole. Aesthetically, the rectangularly symmetric pimple of a tee box looks awful. While I recognize the need and desire for a larger teeing ground, I don't quite understand why several cubic yards of dirt were wasted on this enterprise just for the sake of sight lines down the hole.

While this may be a greater indictment of the growing golf culture for "everything right out in front of you" golf courses, and as such, the natural "form follows function" progression from there - I would think that simple aesthetic taste would ultimately win the day. Both my examples certainly aren't natural in appearance, but there is a limit between elegant and over-the-top.

As a corollary to all this, I just started a thread on www.golfclubatlas.com about the conditioning of tee boxes and their ultimate importance on the game. Is the sacrifice of tee conditioning worth the more playable and elegant grade level tee?

18 January 2006

Throw 'em a Bone

"Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered."
-As related by Jim Cramer

I've always been a fan of throwing the conservative, pedantic and plodding golfer a bone here and there and let them earn an uninspired par. It especially works on a shortish-mid length par 5 (in the neighborhood of 500 yards). I like the idea that just executing three simple shots and nailing two putts will give someone a par, but making the hole just wide enough and just short enough to lead to temptation.

The hole design below would be best suited for rolling terrain (even dunescape) since there are some rolling features around the green (including dunes over the back and a bunker cut in one of them to cover the approach from the right).

The green has a deep swale running through the middle along the minor axis and is more accepting of a shot from the left side. I am also a fan of bunkers gaurding a chipping area that lies along the ideal approach to the green. Any golfer going for the green in two is subject to the terrain around the green, whereas a more conservative golfer is given room to pluck easier shots from the landscape - earning a fairly benign par.

I give you all the Jim Cramer Hole: