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."

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