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Anthony Butler

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The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« on: April 26, 2023, 11:39:39 AM »
As analytics becomes a larger part of sport performance optimization and, as digital rendering of proposed designs and renovations becomes a bigger tool in helping certain firms win prestigious projects,  (e.g. OCMs presentation to Medinah for the remodel of #3). it's only a matter of time until that digital asset (the representation of a future golf course) starts to be influenced by analytics that indicate certain design choices will impact resistance to scoring, green slopes and speeds etc.

Perhaps the only thing left or trusted to the human eye and mind will be the aesthetics of the experience, although AI-enabled visual composition tools like Midjourney could certainly create options or be used for 'decision support'.

Within 5 years, it seems likely that a design tool will be able to consume the inputs of a topographical survey of the selected piece of land, a construction budget, environmental permits, expected playing volume, projected maintenance costs etc. and produce a variety of routing and individual design options for the property developer to consider. 

Whatever the timeline, it seems likely that the days of designers who prefer to 'work it out on the ground' will likely come to an end before we reach 2040.
Next!

Tim Gavrich

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2023, 12:22:43 PM »
What a grim prospect.
Senior Writer, GolfPass

Charlie Goerges

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2023, 12:35:16 PM »

It's a discussion that probably needs to be had, (I believe there has been a little already).

Within 5 years, it seems likely that a design tool will be able to consume the inputs of a topographical survey of the selected piece of land, a construction budget, environmental permits, expected playing volume, projected maintenance costs etc. and produce a variety of routing and individual design options for the property developer to consider. 

The previous are all things that are happening already, it's just that people are much more involved than they would ostensibly be in the future. It will be cheaper when a computer can do it more autonomously, but I feel like the process is the same. If it's the case that the clients who, right now, are hiring the "dig it out of dirt" guys are only doing so because they can't afford to hire the all of the above types, then yes, it would perhaps spell the end of the former. But is this the case? I don't think so.
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Charlie Goerges

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2023, 02:31:57 PM »
I will say it can be fun, and may be useful in the future, to use a program like Dall-e to generate ideas. (Peter Flory is the one who made me aware of using it for this).


I've actually done it a couple of times. The first time several months ago, and again just today. First off, the quality of the images has improved, just looking clearer and less noisy.


However, what I was looking for was something novel and maybe off the wall. The prompt I used back then was "The last human golf course, designed to be undetectable by the machines... Our only refuge from the war." I showed the results to others and one of the first responses was that one of the images looked like the 16th at Sharp Park. That was disappointing. It's impressive that these images can be produced out of whole cloth, but not great for ideas at this point.


Today's prompt was "golf course at the end of the world". I was hoping for some mushroom clouds or maybe a Bud Chapman painting. Instead, I got some nice looking images (better quality than the previous rev of Dall-e), they were even more recognizably golf course images, but still nothing truly imaginative (basically looked like fake courses of British Columbia or New Zealand).


At this point, I feel like if I want something truly cool from those prompts, I need to give them to a human artist and see what they come up with.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2023, 02:34:07 PM by Charlie Goerges »
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Ben Sims

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2023, 03:02:59 PM »
This topic is interesting for what it represents at the macro level for humanity. Iím not sure if we (humans) are appropriately grappling with the question at hand: what do you want in life?


Advancement always has innovators, early adopters, mainstream, and curmudgeons. Having an innovator or early adopter tell me that the new thing is the better thing is boring. Someone explain to me not how something is better. Tell me why I should care if itís better. Optimization is soÖdull.

Charlie Goerges

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2023, 03:34:37 PM »
Tell me why I should care if itís better.


Agree. In fact I'm not even sure that better is even the question. Just faster and cheaper.
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Anthony Butler

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2023, 04:23:50 PM »
This topic is interesting for what it represents at the macro level for humanity. Iím not sure if we (humans) are appropriately grappling with the question at hand: what do you want in life?


Advancement always has innovators, early adopters, mainstream, and curmudgeons. Having an innovator or early adopter tell me that the new thing is the better thing is boring. Someone explain to me not how something is better. Tell me why I should care if itís better. Optimization is soÖdull.

Nothing is better for everyone. Uber is better only for the riders (and if you've ever had the misfortunate to get in a Boston Cab you know that's true) The service is not designed for people who drive you around.... who are simply necessary due to the fact autonomous self-driving vehicles have not been perfected as yet.

In this instance, it mainly benefits the course developer. It only benefits the golfer once two other things happen:

1. Cost savings are passed onto the consumer. ie. People who play the course
2. It provides a demonstrably superior product (more design options, better design outcomes) than the current approach to building courses.
Next!

John Kavanaugh

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2023, 04:33:40 PM »
I quit Instagram after two days because I hated my algorithm. I donít think I would enjoy a golf course based on what I saw.

Charlie Goerges

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2023, 04:58:36 PM »
I quit Instagram after two days because I hated my algorithm. I donít think I would enjoy a golf course based on what I saw.


Exactly, these deep learning models or algorithms are only as good as what they're learning from.
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Joel_Stewart

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2023, 06:20:50 PM »
What a grim prospect.


There's a guy on Twitter that has built some of the most beautiful holes you've ever seen.  He used a number of courses in the UK and added a California vibe.

Tom_Doak

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2023, 06:57:59 PM »

There's a guy on Twitter that has built some of the most beautiful holes you've ever seen.  He used a number of courses in the UK and added a California vibe.


Actually "built" ?  Or just rendered?  There is a big difference where I come from.

Tom_Doak

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2023, 07:14:26 PM »
This topic is interesting for what it represents at the macro level for humanity. Iím not sure if we (humans) are appropriately grappling with the question at hand: what do you want in life?

Advancement always has innovators, early adopters, mainstream, and curmudgeons. Having an innovator or early adopter tell me that the new thing is the better thing is boring. Someone explain to me not how something is better. Tell me why I should care if itís better. Optimization is soÖdull.




I think I have mentioned here before that my wife was an art major.  Before I met her -- which was just before I built Pacific Dunes, coincidence or not -- I had little or no contact with the art world and rarely thought about my business in terms of "art".  Luckily, now, we have a few friends in the local art community, and a couple of them are golfers, so they are very interested in what I do at an artistic level, and it has led to lots of interesting conversations.


Just last night over dinner my wife and I were discussing Picasso and she said that she [paraphrasing] "was okay with his cubist period because he had proven his abilities with conventional forms beforehand".  I objected to this as snobbish, asking what difference it made to the observer of the art whether the artist was truly talented or just lucky?  But Jennifer has had classes in philosophy of art, unlike myself, and for her it was not even an argument that true art could only occur through the conscious application of observation and talent.  An artist "getting lucky" and producing something cool was not REAL art.


She would say the same for AI.  Maybe it will produce a great course, but does it really KNOW what it's doing?  What's the next one going to be like?  More likely it will just look for good spots to place C. B. Macdonald's templates, and there will be long green to tee walks!


But seriously, you could program it to recognize good spots for 1,000 of the best golf holes on earth and insist that it keep the green to tee walks tidy and move earth if necessary to achieve that . . . but that would not be the same thing as what Bill Coore does, or what I do.  You would be unlikely to get anything that was truly original.  Maybe it would be more efficient than the average designer's work, but I had a good guffaw at Anthony's idea that the cost savings would be passed on to the consumer.  That's not how the world works.

Sean_A

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2023, 04:40:53 AM »
Anthony didn't say cost savings would be passed to the consumer. He said AI could benefit the consumer if cost are savings are passed on.

This topic is a bit like what has happened to recorded music over the years. We have gone from live studio recordings to eventually guys pressing program buttons and no musicians at all. I won't say which is better, but each can have their place. As Tom suggests, knocking out the trained, skilled and experienced professionals will eventually lead to less original work even if only a small percentage of the pros are capable of producing original work.

Ciao
« Last Edit: April 27, 2023, 09:28:47 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2023: Clyne

Tim Gavrich

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2023, 07:21:07 AM »
What a grim prospect.


There's a guy on Twitter that has built some of the most beautiful holes you've ever seen.  He used a number of courses in the UK and added a California vibe.
I guess that's alright for wall-hangings or iPhone wallpaper, but part of what makes golf courses engaging is that they are an opportunity to interact with the people who created them, through the medium of "golf course."


This is true of any art form, by the way. I think that part of why, say, Guernica makes an impact on us is that in addition to responding to the forms of the artwork itself, we're also marveling at the human volition that created it. It's a way to connect to other people across distances and time.


I understand that people have to input prompts in order to have AI programs generate whatever they generate, but there's an inescapable deadness about the output because we are aware of its origin. The idea of promoting that deadness to the point of replacing the human volition aspect of art - golf courses, paintings, writing, whatever - is why I used the word "grim" in my post.
Senior Writer, GolfPass

jeffwarne

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2023, 08:18:19 AM »
I quit Instagram after two days because I hated my algorithm. I donít think I would enjoy a golf course based on what I saw.


Exactly, these deep learning models or algorithms are only as good as what they're learning from.


I thought I was the only one...
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

jeffwarne

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2023, 08:33:34 AM »
Curmudgeon alert.


One of my quibbles with modern(high end) architecture is the unwillingness to have an awkward hole or even an awkward length yardage hole.
If a routing or spacing dilemna pops up, untold amounts of earth are moved to create "visibility", fairness,appropriate scale etc. etc.
It seems whenever I go back to a classic course, my favorite holes are tweaked because they were "too severe" "too blind","too steep", or "too quirky", and then holes/terrain like this rarely get left alone on newer courses for all of the above reasons, combined with modern turf speed.


IMHO, we've just about jumped the shark on "finding"(and then leaving then terrain mostly as we found it) a golf course anymore, unless it's an extraordinary site like Sand Hills etc.
There's just so little tolerance for what might be perveived as a weak or awkward hole within a routing of otherwise great holes.
(see Palmetto #15 discussion of a few weeks ago)


Not saying an architect isn't allowed to make/find every hole as good as he can, but as Ben says,"Optimization is so dull....",
especially when it comes at the expense of the natural and unique land that formerly lay there.
Minimalism has certainly become a moving target/definition on my lifetime.


I can't even imagine what AI would do with all that-especially with an original desaign
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Tom_Doak

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2023, 08:53:48 AM »

It seems whenever I go back to a classic course, my favorite holes are tweaked because they were "too severe" "too blind","too steep", or "too quirky", and then holes/terrain like this rarely get left alone on newer courses for all of the above reasons, combined with modern turf speed.



Can you cite a couple of examples of this kind of work on older courses?


I agree with your general point.  Part of the problem is that I am getting paid a lot more money than I used to, with the expectation of making everything I touch a top-100 layout.  I do have a couple of clients right now [out of eight!] that have said they don't care about the top 100, they just want something cool, so I will try to remember your advice when it comes to those projects.


P.S.  You will definitely enjoy the 8th hole on the new course at Pinehurst.  We did do some work to it, but we also left a lot of stuff in the fairway that we would normally take out!  The 14th hole is pretty wild as well.

Paul Jones

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2023, 08:58:30 AM »
How many original designs are still in place?  Cypress Point, Sand Hills, guessing quite a few in UK but not many in US.


AI would be learning from original designs or the modified/updated designs?
Paul Jones
pauljones@live.com

Don Mahaffey

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #18 on: April 27, 2023, 09:18:38 AM »
There will always be a market for the imperfect.
Be it houses, furniture, music, or golf courses.


The better we get the worse it looks sometimes.

Ira Fishman

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #19 on: April 27, 2023, 09:59:13 AM »

It seems whenever I go back to a classic course, my favorite holes are tweaked because they were "too severe" "too blind","too steep", or "too quirky", and then holes/terrain like this rarely get left alone on newer courses for all of the above reasons, combined with modern turf speed.



Can you cite a couple of examples of this kind of work on older courses?


I agree with your general point.  Part of the problem is that I am getting paid a lot more money than I used to, with the expectation of making everything I touch a top-100 layout.  I do have a couple of clients right now [out of eight!] that have said they don't care about the top 100, they just want something cool, so I will try to remember your advice when it comes to those projects.


P.S.  You will definitely enjoy the 8th hole on the new course at Pinehurst.  We did do some work to it, but we also left a lot of stuff in the fairway that we would normally take out!  The 14th hole is pretty wild as well.


Tom,


Are you saying a new course cannot be top 100 or so if it has some quirk? Ballybunion, Lahinch, NB all safely in Top 100. Is there a different standard for new courses?


Thanks.


Ira

jeffwarne

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #20 on: April 27, 2023, 10:00:57 AM »

It seems whenever I go back to a classic course, my favorite holes are tweaked because they were "too severe" "too blind","too steep", or "too quirky", and then holes/terrain like this rarely get left alone on newer courses for all of the above reasons, combined with modern turf speed.



Can you cite a couple of examples of this kind of work on older courses?


I agree with your general point.  Part of the problem is that I am getting paid a lot more money than I used to, with the expectation of making everything I touch a top-100 layout.  I do have a couple of clients right now [out of eight!] that have said they don't care about the top 100, they just want something cool, so I will try to remember your advice when it comes to those projects.


P.S.  You will definitely enjoy the 8th hole on the new course at Pinehurst.  We did do some work to it, but we also left a lot of stuff in the fairway that we would normally take out!  The 14th hole is pretty wild as well.


Augusta CC-Sidehill lie of 17 altered,(modern turf problem)16th punchbowl removed ,multiple others shrunk and slope softened
Palmetto-upcoming work on 5 and 12 green-will be shocked(hopeful) if thats all that gets done..
Adding of tiers rather than tilt/slopes on hundreds of courses.
Pretty sure some work was done to some greens (11,16)at your LI North Shore recently but the greens in general remain super cool overall.


Nice to hear re:Pinehurst .Go Angela!
 I'm pretty sure there's no future in following "advice" from me


Maybe we'd all be better off if the Top 100 went to Top 1000 without any ordered numbering.
Strike that.
No maybe involved.




« Last Edit: April 27, 2023, 10:11:51 AM by jeffwarne »
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Edward Glidewell

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #21 on: April 27, 2023, 10:10:31 AM »
Augusta CC removed the punch bowl green?


It was still there when I last played the course, but that was over a decade ago. I'll probably play it again in the next couple of years, so it will be interesting to see how different everything is between changes like that and the sale to ANGC.

Tom_Doak

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2023, 02:21:53 PM »

Are you saying a new course cannot be top 100 or so if it has some quirk? Ballybunion, Lahinch, NB all safely in Top 100. Is there a different standard for new courses?



Ira:


I would say there is a different standard for new courses. 


Part of it is client-imposed.  A client this week said he wanted the greens "to run consistently at 12, sometimes faster," which eliminates a lot of potential quirkiness on the greens.  Yes, some of the older courses in the top 100 still have that quirk, and they are forgiven for it, but a new course doesn't have the defense that we never imagined the greens could get that fast.


Likewise, heavily sloped fairways . . . as Jeff notes, those slopes nowadays mean a ball won't stay in the fairway and everything will roll in the rough.  On an old course, that's stupid maintenance . . . on a new course, it's bad design.  :D

Ira Fishman

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #23 on: April 27, 2023, 03:09:49 PM »
Tom,


Thanks for response. All three of my examples come from UK&I (and there are more). Do you think a new course there would receive more tolerance for quirk? Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart really have none. Waterville has some. I have not played St. Patrick's.


Ira

Ben Sims

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Re: The topic you knew was coming- AI & Golf Course Design
« Reply #24 on: April 27, 2023, 04:04:18 PM »
This is clearly the best discussion weíve had in some time. Very excited.

OF COURSE thereís a different standard for new courses. The overhead for innovation and newness is so steep that things have to be good day one. Artificial Intelligence has the ability to scour and combine in a way that even AIís first shot at something is pretty high level these days. Imperfection is designed out of the product for fear of being imperfect. But AI canít compete with true creativityÖ

Old Barnwell had a Little Lido competition where kids got to design a hole to go on the Kids Course. Brian and Blake chose a winner. Without divulging too much, the winner has a ramp and a penguin involved. Suck on that AI.

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