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.

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