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MCirba

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On Joe Bausch's "Oakmont - The Birth of Greatness?" thread http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,60746.0.html the initial article from 1905 contains the following snipped about the course being "laid out scientifically".    Subsequent articles on that thread show that the original terrific routing and wonderful balance of natural golf holes exists to this day (although the bunkering took years to reach the present state), and were already conceived by early 1903.

Given that timeline, with very little in the United States (Myopia?  Garden City?) already existing with much in the way of architectural sophistication, does anyone know where Fownes may have received his architectural education?   I know the family frequented Pinehurst every winter and clearly would have known Ross and Travis down there in subsequent years, but this timeline seems to even proceed their efforts.

All facts and wild speculation welcomed here...  :D



« Last Edit: March 26, 2015, 11:03:21 AM by MCirba »
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

Andy Hughes

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Is it true that Hugh Wilson took Fownes on several tours of Scotland, guiding him on the principles and features of the best of Scottish golf? I am sure I have seen the ships' manifests somewhere.


PS Good to see you again Mike!  ;)
"Perhaps I'm incorrect..."--P. Mucci 6/7/2007

MCirba

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Andy,

Great to see you as well!   

Seriously, I think ship manifests may be my next stop.   I suspect he went abroad to learn about golf courses prior to Oakmont because I can't figure out where he'd have learned it in the US at that time.
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

Philip Hensley

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Feel free to correct me if im wrong, but I believe in one of the Pinehurst books I read (maybe the Chris Buie book) I remember it was claimed Pinehurst was a heavy influence.

Peter Pallotta

Mike - I'm not sure Mr Fownes had to have travelled anywhere; something was already 'in the air' in America back then. I was struck that the article (and not necessarily Mr Fownes himself) used the word "scientific" to describe the layout; and, while you're right that 1903 is very early on, I read an article in the NY Sun from 1906 called "Thinking Golf". It said that "Thinking Golf" was all the rage in America, and that club committees were busy having their courses altered so as to better exemplify this new ethos. (It mentions Walton Heath as a wonderful example of Thinking Golf). The article also notes, interestingly, that the top amateurs of the day were more enamoured of the Thinking Golf ideal than the professionals were, one of whom (I think it was Taylor, or it may have been Braid) thought it 'unfair' that a worse player was not necessarily penalized for being unable to get over a hazard that the better player could. All of which to say: I think there was a lot more discussion and debate in America -- even as early as 1906, and maybe even 1903 -- about what constituted quality design than we might imagine.

Peter

DMoriarty

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This thread and the companion both place great weight on the phrase "laid out scientifically" as if this was a new way of describing golf course design and some sort of indication of quality architecture.  But this was not a new way to describe golf courses or golf course design, nor was it necessarily terminology associated with what we could consider to be quality golf course design.   There are similar references to scientific courses and golf holes in the United States going back into the mid-1890's.   And, if I recall correctly, the references to scientific and/or mathematical design were often associated with the so-called dark age, or victorian architects such as Willie Dunn.

Both these threads seem aimed at re-rewriting history to turn Oakmont circa 1905 into something that it was not.  No doubt that, eventually, Oakmont would come to be considered considered a great golf course, but this took time and a lot of work by the Fownes.
Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

Sean_Tully

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I'm with David on this one. There is more to the story of Oakmont and the Fownes only having made changes to the course.

What changes did Ross make and how much of that work changed the course into what we have come to know it as today ? How much if any, did Ross help shape the ideas that Fownes may of had on GCA given their very close connection through Pinehurst and beyond?

Tully

MCirba

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Hi Sean,

The first mention of Fownes going to Pinehurst that anyone has found was in 1904, after Oakmont was already routed and that routing exists today virtually intact.   I'm not sure if there was anything noteworthy to see at Pinehurst by then, as #2 wasn't even a gleam in Ross's eye yet.  

Certainly one could reasonably assume that Fownes' ideas on bunkering that followed was likely influenced by both Travis and Ross at Pinehurst during his winter visits, and Travis wrote extensively about "scientific bunkering" during the development of that course.

Hi David,

I'm really not putting all that much weight on the term "laid out scientifically" except to note it asking where he would have gained this knowledge by 1903?

Certainly the course developed further over the next decades as did most of these labors of love designed and built by amateur architects.   But, very few of them maintained their original routing and the only hole routing different at Oakmont is that the 8th green was moved and rebuilt.  By contrast, a course like Merion had 8 of its original holes either completely or fundamentally replaced by the mid 1930s, from the similarly nearly bunkerless course that opened in 1912.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2015, 12:16:23 PM by MCirba »
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

DMoriarty

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Merion? I was hoping you hadn't returned to gca.com with the intention of continuing your idiotic Merion crusade, but I guess by now I should have known better.

It seems to me that you are stretching and distorting at both ends of your analysis. I'll leave aside Merion except to note that you count holes that, in your opinion, have been "fundamentally changed." Yet with regard to Oakmont the only change you mention is the relocation of the 8th green.  So your suggestion is that the only hole that has been "fundamentally changed" at Oakmont is the eighth?  If so, this is absurd. If not, then your comparison to Merion is inapt.

Why don't you see if you can stick to Oakmont?  From the article posted by Jim Kennedy in the other thread:  "Beginning in the early 1910s and for the next three decades, W.C. began to transform Oakmont, regularly refining but not radically altering the outline of his fatherís design. He slanted, slickened, and quickened the greens to unheard levels of speed; he also raised and contoured the greens and introduced baffling new undulations that elevated putting into a mental puzzle with missing pieces. He also introduced omnipresent hazards (of all shapes, sizes, and depths) adjacent to the fairways, in the fairways, and surrounding the greens. These included numerous sand bunkers, thickly grassed bunkers and mounds, narrow, overgrown ditches, and vast open pits with god-knows-what at their bottoms." The same article cites a 1915 NY Times article, which mentioned that "a thorough remodeling of the links took place about five years ago."

Rebuilding greens, adding contour, adding slope, elevating greens, adding ditches and pits, adding an extensive bunker system, defining playing corridors, adding hundreds of yards in length, etc.  All these changes strike me as  rather "fundamental," as does a thorough remodeling of the links.  And these were just the changes which took place circa 1910.  Many more changes were to follow.  For you to try and make it seem as if the Oakmont we see today is Oakmont as it was in 1905?  Stretched well past breaking.
__________________________

As for your backtracking on the use of the term "scientifically" I still don't follow.  If you aren't giving any weight to the term, then why did you start a thread about it?  You ask "where he would have gained this knowledge by 1903?"  What, exactly, is "this" knowledge?  The scientific approach was aimed at "the purpose of making every hole perfect as far as the number of shots are concerned."  Is this the "this" about which you ask?   What exactly do you mean when you say he learned "'Scientific' Architecture?"

Despite your suggestions otherwise, Fownes did not live in a vacuum prior to original the creation of Oakmont.  While he first showed up in Pinehurst in the winter of 1903-1904 (the same time period Oakmont was being laid out) he had been a fixture at east coast tournaments for at least a few years prior to that, most notably at the winter Atlantic City tournaments. And all the usual suspects (Travis included) also attended those same tournaments.  And there were knowledgeable individuals right there in Pittsburg, including the Scottish born and raised George A. Ormiston, who was one of the top golfers in the region (and who famously beat Travis in the 1904 US Amateur.)  Ormiston was  member at Highland (Fownes previous club) and I believe a founding member at Oakmont, and if I recall correctly he was involved in the design of at least one Pittsburg area golf course.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2015, 01:57:50 PM by DMoriarty »
Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

Jim_Kennedy

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Mike,
Here's some info  from your  thread on Oakmont greens:
http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/board,1.0.html

Here is some further evidence of changes.
From 1925:

Even a cold winter is not preventing the Oakmont Club from preparing for the coming of the great amateur stars during the approaching season. Emil Loeffler, the course greenkeeper, under the guidance of William C. Fownes, Jr., started early last summer to prepare the course, putting in new tees and changing many of the greens, so that those who played over Oakmont in the 1919 championship will see a course vastly different from that which greeted them when the title event was staged here five years ago.  Number thirteen green, which was picked by "Chick" Evans as the thirteenth green on an "All-American" course some time ago, is among the greens being changed, Needless to say, it is not being made easier. The number six green, difficult enough in 1919, has been remade, and it is now said to be one of the best holes in the country. The same is true of number seven. This green was rebuilt early in the season but after being almost finished was deemed not good enough and was torn up again. Now it is said to equal any number seven hole in America. Other changes are slated between now and the time for the big title tournament that will make the course, already considered an extremely difficult one, the equal of any golf course ever constructed.

From 1927:

The course has undergone some big changes since the amateur championship was played there in 1925. The old
sixteenth hole has been eliminated and a new hole built. There was fault found with this old hole by some of the players, who pronounced it a bit unfair. The green was of the hog-back variety and it was difficult to hold your tee shot on it. The hole measured 230 yards and the safest way to approach it was to play your tee shot, short, and slightly to the left, permitting your ball to trickle on the green. Often a well played shot onto the green would be penalized, as it would not stick on, but would land in the traps and bunkers on the sides or rear.
The new hole is a big improvement and is now one of the sportiest one shotter on the course. The tee has been moved back and elevated, while the green has been brought forward. There was no change made in the distance, and it still measures 230 yards. The rim of the green has been built up and there will be no difficulty in holding
your tee shots. The green is severely trapped and bunkered, and a poorly played shot will be penalized and there
will be no escaping with impunity. It will be all carry from the tee and an accurate shot will be rewarded. Another important change is the one to the fifteenth green. A new green moved back 40 yards has been built and it calls for a full iron on your second shot. The hole measures 470 yards with the new green. This green is also guarded with deep traps and bunkers on the sides and rear. A new tee to the eighteenth hole will add 20 yards distance and make it a lot harder, this will make a fine finishing  hole.
(Oakmont played at 7,000 yards for The US Open that year)


David mentions his associations w/other notables of the time - HCF played in the 1902 US Am with the likes  of Travis, Ormison, Behr, Egan,  Harban, Lockwood, and Tweedie.

Osmosis alone would have gained him plenty of food for thought while hanging out with that bunch.  ;D
« Last Edit: March 30, 2015, 02:58:52 PM by Jim_Kennedy »
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

Ed Homsey

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I think that Mike's question about the origins of Fownes' architectural education to be a fascinating one.  As the Travis Society's archivist/historian, I have applied that question to Travis on several occasions, and my guess is that he and Fownes share some aspects of their architectural educational background.  Travis wrote about his conversations with Ross, in Pinehurst, and it is likely that Fowmes was a part of that conversation.  It was mentioned earlier on this thread that Travis used the term, "scientific", in describing the placement of hazards in his early writings.  Beginning in 1900, Travis wrote extensively about various aspects of golf course design, including a series of articles published in "Golf" that became the basis for his book "Practical Golf".  I would imagine that those articles caught the eye of several golf course designers of that era.  But, as Jim suggests, the process of "osmosis" probably explains the "education" of Fownes, Travis, Ross, and others.

Just a comment regarding the courses in existence, as referred to previously.  Garden City Golf Club and Myopia were mentioned as among few courses of merit.  In a 1901 article on "The Construction and Upkeep of Courses", Travis listed the following as the "best courses in the country": Garden City Golf Club, Wheaton, Atlantic City, Morris County, Newport, Nassau, Apawamis, Midlothian, and Myopia.  He expressed the opinion that the Ekwanok Country Club course showed the "promise of being a really good one in time".  A little OT perhaps, but suggests that people like Fownes had courses fairly close at hand from which they could have learned.

MCirba

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Jim,

Thanks for those additional materials which help our understanding of the evolution of Oakmont.   It's a course that I think was very distinctive in approach, possibly the first of it's kind even by 1903, which I'll try to explain shortly.

You asked some questions on the other thread, particularly about the US Amateur, and I'd like to get back to them but probably should consolidate the discussion on one or the other.   I'd suggest the other as those articles can be found there for easy reference, thanks!

"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

Terry Lavin

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Thanks for all of the added materials.  I, too, would like to learn more about how the course evolved over time, so long as we don't devolve into the time-honored pi##ing matches that sometimes occur.  We can surely avoid said architectural history contretemps!
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.  H.L. Mencken

MCirba

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Just a comment regarding the courses in existence, as referred to previously.  Garden City Golf Club and Myopia were mentioned as among few courses of merit.  In a 1901 article on "The Construction and Upkeep of Courses", Travis listed the following as the "best courses in the country": Garden City Golf Club, Wheaton, Atlantic City, Morris County, Newport, Nassau, Apawamis, Midlothian, and Myopia.  He expressed the opinion that the Ekwanok Country Club course showed the "promise of being a really good one in time".  A little OT perhaps, but suggests that people like Fownes had courses fairly close at hand from which they could have learned.

Ed,

That's an interesting list of courses, perhaps if only to illustrate how lean the number of architecturally significant courses that existed in the early 1900s.   Nearly all of the courses mentioned still were based on "non-scientific" earlier methods with golfer's encountering one after another "Steeplechase" type cross-hazard of hedgerows, mounds, and cross bunkers.

Ed Oden's thread of early routings (which Jim Kennedy has done tremendous work populating) has been really instructive in showing just how primitive most of these early courses were.   If we need illustrations here for purposes of discussion, I'm sure I can dig up the 1901 versions or so of all these courses and folks would perhaps better understand.  

That's one of the reasons I find the early Oakmont so compelling;

Here's others....

* Built clearly with the intention to be a Championship Course and stretchable to 6800 yards.

* Virtually no bunkers built on inception except those greenside on #2, with the intention of careful, thoughtful placement based on examination of actual play vs the rote cross bunker mentality previously in vogue.

* Wide variety of hole lengths with the idea that this was desirable.

* It had a sophisticated routing much different than many of the out and back, and/or racecourse progression courses of the time.

* No blind holes or steep uphill climbs

* Greens built with variety to test every type of play and not just to function as flat areas to place the hole and accommodate putting.

I would suggest that anyone who didn't see that as quite novel and distinct in the American design progression in the year 1903 might give it another look.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2015, 05:37:29 PM by MCirba »
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

DMoriarty

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Mike,  

1.  Again, when you say that those courses were "non-scientific" I think you are misusing the term "scientific" in reference to early golf course design.  What exactly do you mean by "scientific?"  Because in 1903, I don't think it meant what you seem to think it meant.   "Scientific" was more likely to describe what you term as "steeplechase" as anything else.

2. I think you should take another look at the reference to Oakmont being a 6800 yard course in 1905.  It seems based on faulty math and a misunderstanding of golf courses and their lengths as much as anything else.  If I recall correctly, the article stated that the course was around 6400 yards, but the tees were 20X20 yards, therefore the course could be stretched to 6800 yards.   This doesn't make sense on a number of different levels which I hope I don't have to explain.  The course was listed at 6400+ yards, which was still quite long.  But not 6800 yards long.

3.  What evidence is there that the original greens were "built with variety to test every type of play?"  Eventually, maybe, but initially?

4.  As for the actual routing, I am not seeing the distinction between the "sophisticated" routing at Oakmont and what you term the many of the out and back, and/or racecourse progression courses of the time."

5. Nor am I seeing that the original course at Oakmont offered a "wide variety of hole lengths in comparison to what else was ongoing at the time."
Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

Ed Homsey

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I believe that if you read Travis's April 1902 article titled "Hazards", you will get an idea of what "scientifically" designed meant in those days; at least to Travis.  In that article, he expressed great distaste for the type of bunkering in vogue at the time, according to him.  For example, in regards to bunkers, he stated, "Too much importance is attached to the putting in of bunkers across the entire width of the course, too often at just that distance that will catch a moderately played shot."  In his example of "scientifically" designed bunkers, he provided an iillustration showing a bunker to be carried, but with room on either side for a shorter player unable to carry it; a bunker for a sliced shot, "or oone off the proper line: and "a hazard for a pulled ball".  I'm not sure what is meant by "steeplechase' hazards, but if that refers to "cop" bunkers placed at predictable intervals stretching across the fair green, Travis was vehemently opposed to them. 

I believe that his uise of the term "scientific" referred to the systematic placement of hazards based on shot distances, types of shots, and types of mistakes to be penalized.  Travis would definitely not use the term to describe "steeplechase" hazards (if I understand the meaning of that term).

DMoriarty

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Ed, I am familiar with Travis's "Hazard" chapter but I don't think that the article uses the phrase "scientifically designed" or any similar phrases.

Regardless, I don't really see the connection to the reference in the article about Oakmont.
Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

MCirba

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I think this opening day article perhaps exemplifies a number of points related to how the term "scientific" specifically related to Fownes design intent for specific variety of hole lengths, sophistication of the original greens, as well as overall difficulty and challenge.

I really don't think it's that questionable that Fownes was doing things quite differently than what preceded him...even just building a course without bunkers but instead waiting to see what actual play dictated was novel at that time, but I think the question again inherent in this thread is what his inspiration and examples were because virtually nothing like this with the exceptions of perhaps Myopia and less convincingly 1903 pre-Travis version of Garden City existed in the US at the time.

One point I think folks sometimes forget is that a well-designed course of sufficient length was woefully difficult for the average club member, even without any bunkers or other artificial hazards.   The individual scores shown below from some of the best, most experienced players in the Pittsburg region attests to that fact.   I'm reticent to bring up Merion again, but there are some parallels in that only once the course was considered for national tournament play was it deemed prudent to add stiffer bunkering to enhance the challenge for the best players in the nation.  

In the case of Oakmont, I'm unclear why Fownes didn't stick to his original plan to add $10,000 worth of bunkering in the first couple of years and ask for a US Amateur by 1907 but it could very well be due to the significant difficulty of the course already for the regular membership.   Or, it could be due to the fact that the New York and Chicago regions had a virtual stranglehold on US Amateur venues at that time, as I'll get into later.

« Last Edit: March 31, 2015, 09:40:04 AM by MCirba »
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

Ed Homsey

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David--Go to pg 247 of Travis's "hazard" article, just above the illustration of  "scientifically applied" layout of bunkers. 0

I agree that my response had nothing to do with Oakmont, but was related to other comments on the thread, including your opinion that the meaning of "scientific" in the early 1900s would have something to do with "steeplechase" type hazards.

MCirba

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I also find that Fownes' use of holes that bend in dogleg fashion to be among the first I'm familiar with on US Courses.   Holes that bent significantly include 4, 12, and 17 with lesser turns on a few others.  




Contrast that with Chicago Golf Club around the same time (1901 Golfer's Green Book) and I think you'll see some distinct differences.




It doesn't appear that Chicago changed much in the first few years as this drawing by a member who joined in 1898 seems to indicate.  Mind you, even in the middle of the first decade of the 20th century the 3 courses mentioned as the best in the country were Myopia, Garden City and Chicago, but I believe that's primarily due to Oakmont not being in a major golf metro center at that time and therefore not having the same exposure.


« Last Edit: March 31, 2015, 11:57:24 AM by MCirba »
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

DMoriarty

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Ed.  Thanks. I missed that. My point to Mike about Oakmont is that the term "scientific" was not some sort of magical talisman indicating a certain type or quality of course. The term had been in use to describe various types of courses and golf holes from the beginning of golf course architecture in America (and beyond.)  In Oakmont's case it doesn't seem to have had anything to do with bunkering but rather referred to the length of the holes.
Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

MCirba

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Here's a 1899 Garden City from Joe Bausch and 1900 early routing/bunkering scheme of the same from Jim Kennedy.






Again, these are to show contrast with early Oakmont in terms of approach, routing methods, and introduction of artificial hazards.

"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

Jim_Kennedy

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Mike,
Oakmont wasn't the only course w'doglegs at the time. Here's just a few more.

Beverley GC -2
Detroit GC 2
Hartford GC -2
City Park, NOLA- 6
Glen Echo- 1
Stockbridge -1
Sarasota GC - 1

Ed.- Even the short lived Euclid GC, home of the the 1907 US AM, had one.  

« Last Edit: March 31, 2015, 01:25:50 PM by Jim_Kennedy »
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

BCrosby

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Do we count the Road Hole as a dogleg?

Not a US course, but well known in the US.

Bob
« Last Edit: March 31, 2015, 01:24:56 PM by BCrosby »

DMoriarty

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Mind you, even in the middle of the first decade of the 20th century the 3 courses mentioned as the best in the country were Myopia, Garden City and Chicago, but I believe that's primarily due to Oakmont not being in a major golf metro center at that time and therefore not having the same exposure.

Again with the geographical bias argument? You don't think the "primary" reason might have had something to do with the fact that the course hadn't yet been bunkered or improved?  Really?  

You are grinding pretty hard here, Mike, but going nowhere.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2015, 01:30:46 PM by DMoriarty »
Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

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