Some fascinating discussion on when golf course designers get it right, and wrong.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on course design but in the process of managing Aussie Golfer I’ve begun to get more and more interested in the nuances of course design, purely by listening and reading to what the best in the business have to say.
There is a big debate going on right now that encompasses the attempts by golf courses to deal with the long distances the golf ball travels, and a desire to keep golf fun and interesting. It has lead to some very interesting discussion about what makes a good golf hole and routinely dispels the myth that the length of a golf course defines its status and interest.
For the average golfer, (and by that I just mean golfers only concerned with their own golf game) some knowledge of course design can be beneficial to your golf game. You may have heard some professional golfers talking about “playing the course backwards”, in order to come up with a strategy. This is very much tied in with what a (good) course designer was thinking when the golf holes were first conceived.
With this in mind I wanted to highlight three very interesting discourses on golf course design and the problems disasters that ensue when you get it wrong.
Firstly, I found myself utterly engrossed in the analysis of the seventh hole at Barnbougle Lost Farm
by Darius Oliver in the latest edition of Australian Golf Digest
. It may have helped that I have played the hole and remember it well, but his passion for golf course design is clear as he gives a wonderful overview of the golf hole. A few extracts:
“Even ignoring the fact that Barnbougle is one of the windiest places in Australian golf, the notion that this course needs narrower fairways is completely off the mark…”.
“Coore deliberately left acres of room on the right-hand side of this fairway, knowing how difficult it was for golfers who bail out from the tee to then blindly throw their approach shot beyond a gnarly sand dune and onto an unseen landing strip above their feet. Approach shots from the left are no picnic, but from the right this is one of the most intimidating shots in the country.” (Full article)
Most golfers don’t give a second thought to their second shot before they play their first, mainly because they are never sure where their tee shot will finish. But some thought about the best approach to the green before the tee shot is made is surely invaluable knowledge before anyone starts slashing away.
Secondly, this story from Scottish terrier, John Huggan. Never one to take a backward step when it comes to making his point, his words on the disastrous re-designs that litter the world’s championship golf courses, including Augusta National.
“It is a sad but undeniable fact that history will not be kind to those charged with the administration of golf over the last two decades or so.”
“They have also cost themselves money, if this week’s admission that the R&A has spent £10 million on “renovating” the Open Championship courses since 2000 is anything to go by.
In the process, untold damage has been done to so many aspects of the game, with perhaps the most egregious and offensive in the area of course design and set-up.”
“At this month’s Masters, all of the above was cringeingly obvious to all. The seventh hole, where the green was clearly designed to accept shots struck with lofted irons, players are now asked to approach with as much as a 4-iron. All because of a new tee built somewhere in the middle distance, far behind the original.
The story at the 11th, 15th and 17th holes at Augusta National is even worse. All have new back tees and all have seen the planting of trees, eliminating much of the strategies formerly characterised by each hole. It is not the point missing that is surprising, just the extent of it.”
Lastly, here is the link to the latest “State of the Game
” podcast that you can listen to below, or via the link. It is certainly more of a time investment (clocking in at a little over an hour) but the comments from Mike Clayton about the prosaic changes to Merion in preparation for next year’s US Open, are worth hearing. (The Merion conversation starts around 43:40m).
The take away message
Options. If you have options as you play a golf hole, the more enjoyable your golf game. golf administrators, particularly in the US are obsessed with distance and heavy rough as a way of combating the prestigious distances professionals are now hitting the golf ball. This type of thinking is cascading down into amateur golf where golf courses are becoming long and boring.
Golf is no more fun hacking your ball out from deep rough, as it is hitting tee shot after tee shot towards the only position you’re presented with from the tee.