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GolfClubAtlas.com => Golf Course Architecture => Topic started by: Chris Kane on December 10, 2007, 04:35:22 AM

Title: Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 10, 2007, 04:35:22 AM
3. ...the course should be arranged so that in the first instance there is always a slight walk forwards from the green to the next tee; then the holes are sufficiently elastic to be lengthened in the future if necessary
(Mackenzie's design principles)

This makes it quite clear that Mackenzie contemplated that his courses might need to be lengthened to combat the advances in equipment technology, indeed he wrote about how equipment was changing the game at the time!

Royal Melbourne West is a great golf course, but many of the holes obviously don't play as they were designed.  With the ball flying much further than it did eighty years ago, many of the ground hazards which challenged tee shots don't do so anymore.

At 6023m, RMW is desperately short, and more a course to challenge the members than the champions.  Might this be different if Mackenzie had routed the course in a way which allowed another 300-500m to be added over the years?  There is an abundance of space on the site, so he might have built a more elastic course if he wished.

Before I'm accused of rocking the boat for the sake of it, I should point out that RMW is my second favourite course in the world.  But does it (and Mackenzie) get a free pass?  
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: wsmorrison on December 10, 2007, 07:44:17 AM
Great questions, Chris.  I think a lot of these revered architects get free passes on features and designs that would be questioned in others.  Do you have a routing map that can help us understand the situation?  I looked briefly in Doak's book on MacKenzie but didn't see one.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 10, 2007, 10:44:26 AM
I don't think Royal Melbourne West necessarily gets a free pass. I think it is more of an exposure issue. Not that many people get down to RM to ever see it.
   The quality of a course is not how it holds up against 0.1% of the golfers in the world. From what I saw on my one visit is a course that has enough defense  on the green end (under optimum maintenance conditions) that the vast majority of golfers have all they can handle there.
    Unfortunately for me the greens were soft when I was there earlier in the year and I could clearly see how much of the interest of the course can be negated by that.
    I would say the routing isn't the issue. I doubt anyone would have wanted to walk an extra 500 meters back when the course was first built.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 10, 2007, 03:27:01 PM
I don't think Royal Melbourne West necessarily gets a free pass. I think it is more of an exposure issue. Not that many people get down to RM to ever see it.

C'mon Ed, it gets plenty of exposure and discussion amongst Australians who have seen it (overseas visitors who post on GCA.com aren't the only ones who look at the course in terms of its architecture!).  It is generally acknowledged within the Australian golfing community as our #1 course, and the routing considered to be top notch.  That seems like a free pass to me.

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The quality of a course is not how it holds up against 0.1% of the golfers in the world. From what I saw on my one visit is a course that has enough defense  on the green end (under optimum maintenance conditions) that the vast majority of golfers have all they can handle there.

My question specifically referenced ground hazards (bunkers) which are  mostly irrelevant from the tee for any single figure player, not just the 0.1%.  The fairway bunkers on 2, 4, 9, 12, 15 and 18 are out of play for anyone who can hit it over a jam tin.  If the greens were enough defence, why did Mackenzie bother building fairway bunkers (which are now obsolete, but had to be negotiated when the course was first built)?  

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I would say the routing isn't the issue. I doubt anyone would have wanted to walk an extra 500 meters back when the course was first built.

There are many courses which are now 500m longer than they were eighty years ago, where golfers didn't have to walk an extra 500m back when the course was first built.

(http://61.95.6.117/CMS/Domains/93f7a373-3bd5-4c73-9298-6fa4f23dd38a/Images/West%20Course/westcourse1.gif)
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Bill_McBride on December 10, 2007, 03:31:51 PM
Chris, one of my favorite MacKenzie courses is the Valley Club of Montecito in Southern California.  He designed elasticity into the Valley Club in accordance with his principles, but not enough!  The tees have been lengthened as far back as they can go, and the course is still under 6,800 yards.  It doesn't make much difference, as the members are pretty much an older crowd and there are not outside events played there.  But elasticity doesn't work without more land than you think you might ever need in the current environment of longer and longer balls and implements.

It's never been an issue for me!
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Noel Freeman on December 10, 2007, 03:34:27 PM
If I recall, Tom Doak was extremely impressed in his Mackenzie book on how the good doctor routed the course among some of the landforms there taking advantage of them for tees and greens. He likened it to how Cypress Point and the huge dune that is the backdrop behind #3 and is home to the green on #6, tee for #7 and also backdrop behind #11..
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Jim Sullivan on December 10, 2007, 03:35:53 PM
Chris,


What in the world are those bunkers immediately short and left off the first tee? Is that a short game practice area?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 10, 2007, 03:39:24 PM
James, those bunkers would be the 18th green on the East course (which is the 18th on the composite).

Noel, I fully agree with what Doak has said, but in exploiting those landforms did Mackenzie neglect to future-proof his course?  He was most certainly contemplating that this would be an issue in years to come.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Bill_McBride on December 10, 2007, 03:40:28 PM
If I recall, Tom Doak was extremely impressed in his Mackenzie book on how the good doctor routed the course among some of the landforms there taking advantage of them for tees and greens. He likened it to how Cypress Point and the huge dune that is the backdrop behind #3 and is home to the green on #6, tee for #7 and also backdrop behind #11..

Noel, that's quite a trademark.  He did the same at the Valley Club, with the 3rd, 7th and 10th greens up against one hill with the 4th, 8th and 11th tees on that same hill, and the 8th green and 9th tee on a second hill 150 yards away.  Those are the only prominent landforms on the course and it seems like he put half the course on them!
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Noel Freeman on December 10, 2007, 03:48:47 PM
Bill-- I remember that vividly, mainly because our cart died on the 3rd hole and Tommy wound up riding back with a member who had to be 90 years old to go get a new one.... Evidently, the member gave Tommy his view on the evolution of the course..

Chris-- Was it the good doctor or Alex Russell who should be responsible?  Didnt the good doctor inherit the paddocks that RM is fitted into.. Did he conceive of the composite course or maybe thought that since that configuration could be used the course could play longer..

Having played RM three times and one time on the Composite Course when hard and fast and played in summer I truly think even at 7300 yards, the pros could shoot 62/63 unless there is a lot of wind.  The overall median score would still be about right, but RM even at additional length would still allow the great round just like Augusta.  I'm not sure how much additional length Mackenzie built into ANGC but this was later in his career and he had Jones there to counsel and the course was tested for shot length etc.

I don't view RM any different than Merion which is short and really is going to be squeezed to get to length for the US Open.. Pound for Pound it is a tiger but no one designed it for 7000 yards... But Wayne can talk a lot more about that, then I, surely is is not routed poorly!
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 10, 2007, 04:07:57 PM
It is generally acknowledged within the Australian golfing community as our #1 course, and the routing considered to be top notch.  That seems like a free pass to me.

Royal Melbourne definitely gets a free pass, on a lot of things.  My first game there yesterday in some time.  I remember not thinking much of 1 and 15 from previous visits, but had forgotten how ordinary 8,9 and 14 were, and how appalling the bunkers/mounds on the inside of 11 are.

And how many flat areas there are around the greens.

But then I had also forgotten how good 13 was.

The fairway bunkers on 2, 4, 9, 12, 15 and 18 are out of play for anyone who can hit it over a jam tin.

I can if fact confirm this is 100% totally correct.  Even into a breeze, the bunkers on 2 and 4 presented no problem to carry for this well known jam tin flyer.

The good doctor would appear to have boxed himself in with the par fives, three of which are quite short and no (real) room left for expansion, but 12 wasn't intended as a par five, so you can let that one go.

However, the rough on the right hand side of 2 poses a problem for the longer hitter not striking his shot into the perfect place, and in fact isn't it the rough/native plants which serve as a driving hazard for the better player on many holes?

Eg. 2,3,4,6,10,11,12,18?

Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 10, 2007, 04:14:57 PM
I don't think Royal Melbourne West necessarily gets a free pass. I think it is more of an exposure issue. Not that many people get down to RM to ever see it.

C'mon Ed, it gets plenty of exposure and discussion amongst Australians who have seen it (overseas visitors who post on GCA.com aren't the only ones who look at the course in terms of its architecture!).  It is generally acknowledged within the Australian golfing community as our #1 course, and the routing considered to be top notch.  That seems like a free pass to me.


  Geez, lighten up Chris, where did I ever say that GCA guys are the only ones  visiting RM and studying the architecture. We had a foursome, playing from appropriate tees for our game, and everyone had some shots in bunkers in the course of the round. Handicaps varied from 5-14 I would estimate. So who exactly needs more  bunkers in  your estimation? We're still talking a small percentage from what I saw out there. If you are so good, then tee off with a 5 wood, I'm sure the bunkers will be in play. Otherwise go join the pro tour, they have plenty of courses that can punish golfers.
I don't think RM gets a free pass, but you do. C'est la vie.
   Try changing the scorecard so the par 5's are par 4's, then let me know how weak the course is. None of this has anything to do with Mackenzie's design, it is the technology advances. Every golf course architect I have ever heard talk about the course thinks its brilliant. You think Mackenzie gets a free pass. Interesting. Be sure to let us know when you design a superior course.
   What percentage of golfers in the world do you think have heard of Royal Melbourne? TOC? Pebble Beach?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 10, 2007, 04:22:33 PM
Ed,

Did you or your group tend to find it was the shorter holes that can be the most difficult?

I parred 5, but the other three par 3s ate my lunch big time, as they did the others in my group, and 10 is quite notorious for having a wild array of scores, as can 3 to a lesser extent.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: James Bennett on December 10, 2007, 04:29:19 PM
Ed

Chris's opening line was that RM is his second favourite golf course in the world (and we can guess which is #1 given his recent OS sojourn).

I think he is seeking a discussion with those who know.  On this matter, I (unfortunately) don't.  Got bumped from a possible game there this week for the staff xmas break-up game!  Good for them, they deserve it.

cheers

James B
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 10, 2007, 04:35:54 PM
[quote author=Mark Ferguson

However, the rough on the right hand side of 2 poses a problem for the longer hitter not striking his shot into the perfect place, and in fact isn't it the rough/native plants which serve as a driving hazard for the better player on many holes?

Quote

    Good point about the native vegetation. Happy to hear you are out golfing, the arm healed well I take it.
    You too with the free pass, eh? Please list a dozen courses you have played in your travels that are better. I assume by free pass you mean less than a 10  on the Doak scale, essentially if you missed any hole you would have missed something worth  seeing. I haven't played a single course in the world that I would give a 10 to on the basis of that definition.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 10, 2007, 04:39:29 PM
Geez, lighten up Chris, where did I ever say that GCA guys are the only ones  visiting RM and studying the architecture.

You didn't, but my point (which I admit was poorly made in the previous post) is that the only people giving it a "free pass" are those who have seen it, hence the "exposure" reason isn't really valid.  

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We had a foursome, playing from appropriate tees for our game, and everyone had some shots in bunkers in the course of the round. Handicaps varied from 5-14 I would estimate. So who exactly needs more  bunkers in  your estimation? We're still talking a small percentage from what I saw out there. If you are so good, then tee off with a 5 wood, I'm sure the bunkers will be in play. Otherwise go join the pro tour, they have plenty of courses that can punish golfers.

It doesn't need more bunkers, it needs bunkers in the right places.  In a previous post I listed a number of holes where the fairway bunkers are completely irrelevant to the tee shot of any semi-competent player (even myself and Mark Ferguson can go over them, which says a lot).  If the tees could go back (and they can't, which is the point of this thread), the holes would improve significantly in my opinion.

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I don't think RM gets a free pass, but you do. C'est la vie.

Agreed.

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Try changing the scorecard so the par 5's are par 4's, then let me know how weak the course is. None of this has anything to do with Mackenzie's design, it is the technology advances.

At the risk of sounding like Patrick Mucci, you're missing the point.  This isn't a thread about scores, its about the challenges posed from the tee.  2, 4, 12 and 15 could be par 4's and it wouldn't change my contention at all.

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Every golf course architect I have ever heard talk about the course thinks its brilliant.

It is brilliant.  As I said in my opening post, its my second favourite course in the world, and I love playing there.

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You think Mackenzie gets a free pass. Interesting. Be sure to let us know when you design a superior course.

Now thats a cop-out.  This is a website dedicated to "frank commentary on the world's finest golf courses" - do I have to design a superior course to question the conventional wisdom that RM's routing is flawless?  

I should also point out that Mark Ferguson responded to my question without resorting to personal attacks - this in itself suggests that my contention is pretty solid  ;D
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 10, 2007, 04:44:37 PM
Mark,
   I would have to go back through my scorecard and notes  to see. Nothing stands out as super hard or a pushover in my memory. What do you think about #1?
   I just know from personal experience with Crystal Downs that I tend to put more weight on the opinion of people who know more about this stuff than I do. The first time I played CD I was expecting wall to wall world-class knock your socks off golf architecture, and I came away thinking it was great, but not as  great as I went in thinking. Now after a dozen or more rounds I am still finding really cool things I hadn't noticed before. Sometimes what seems like a free pass, just means you haven't peeled enough  layers off the onion yet.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 10, 2007, 04:58:36 PM
Chris,
   Are you advocating moving the bunkers out further only, or adding more bunkers to those that already exist? I only saw the course one time but I don't remember any bunkering that I thought was completely useless, like you guys are implying with your jam tin flyers. I will tend to have a different perspective than most when it comes to driving demands as I am such a spaz off the tee.
   What did you think of Royal Dornoch? I will tell you why I  am asking after I hear what you thought.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 10, 2007, 05:14:57 PM
I'm not advocating moving any bunkers, nor am I advocating add any bunkers to what is already there.  If the tees could be moved back, that would be the obvious solution - but they can't.

I thought Royal Dornoch was superb.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mike_Clayton on December 10, 2007, 06:25:52 PM
The best run of holes I think at RM are 4,5,6 and the genius of the routing to make them work - and he set that up with the big blind tee shot with the great looking bunkers - that are not really in play - into the hill.
Surely is an architect comes up with three of the best holes in a row in golf be gets the adolation he deserves.
The 2nd and 3rd are fantastic holes as are 7,10,11,12,13,16 17 and 18.
Its an unbelievable routing and it misses the point to criticise the holes that join it all together - 8,9,14,15.
They are holes that would mark amongst the best on some pretty decent golf courses- and I have never got the criticism of 15 because the second shot there is one any architect would be happy to conceive.


It is too short to test the best players because there is not a par five on the West - but if 68 was an accepted par would we be saying it was too easy?
How many world class holes does a course need before the routing is beyond criticism?
I think any course that has 10 or 12 passes the test of a great routing - especially if the rest are really good - and they are.



Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 10, 2007, 06:42:47 PM
The best run of holes I think at RM are 4,5,6 and the genius of the routing to make them work - and he set that up with the big blind tee shot with the great looking bunkers - that are not really in play - into the hill.
Surely is an architect comes up with three of the best holes in a row in golf be gets the adulation he deserves.
The 2nd and 3rd are fantastic holes as are 7,10,11,12,13,16 17 and 18.
Its an unbelievable routing and it misses the point to criticise the holes that join it all together - 8,9,14,15.
They are holes that would mark amongst the best on some pretty decent golf courses- and I have never got the criticism of 15 because the second shot there is one any architect would be happy to conceive.


It is too short to test the best players because there is not a par five on the West - but if 68 was an accepted par would we be saying it was too easy?
How many world class holes does a course need before the routing is beyond criticism?
I think any course that has 10 or 12 passes the test of a great routing - especially if the rest are really good - and they are.

Clayts, my criticism of the routing wasn't so much that the course is "easy", but that Mackenzie routed many of the holes in such a way that they couldn't be lengthened in order to play as they were designed.

For example, surely his intention on the 2nd was for players to make a decision about challenging the bunker which cuts into the right side of the fairway.  Now there is no decision to be made about taking on that bunker - even myself and Mark Ferguson go straight over the top without a second thought.  

It is still a great hole because of the all-world second shot and the green complex.

Mackenzie was aware (principle #3) that technology would necessitate lengthening his courses.  Can't we extend that principle to suggest that an ideal routing allows lengthening in the future, to ensure the hole continues to ask the same questions the designer intended?  
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 10, 2007, 06:45:57 PM
Chris,
   The reason I asked about Dornoch is that I consider it one of the most well-balanced tests of golf. If you break the game down into 4 areas: driving, approach shots, short game, and putting, I feel  that Dornoch  is one of the most balanced tests of those four areas. You really can't afford to get too sloppy in any of those areas or the course will make you pay.
That to my mind is what makes a great golf course.
   On the other hand, my sense of TOC is that it tests you mostly from 150 yards  in. Yes, there are  preferred  angles, but you can get away with stuff off the tee. It really gets interesting in trying to figure out how to get your approach to the right patch of ground and decipher what it will do the rest of the way to the hole. That to me was part of the genius of the course.  Of course I only have one 36 hole day there, so I could be totally wrong with these impressions. It did occur to me that it was sad to know I wouldn't live long enough to get in enough rounds on TOC to sort out its mysteries.
   For all I know RM West could be the same and I'm just never going to get in enough rounds there to know if it is getting a free pass.

Mike C,
    What are your thoughts of the first hole? What is the hole asking you to do, and how does it defend itself?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 10, 2007, 06:56:30 PM
Was the land for RM already hemmed in by houses when Mackenzie did his routing?

Chris,
   How would you build in the ability to lengthen the course? Do you start out with moderate walks forward, so eventually you will have short green to tee walks, and later moderate walks back to the tee? That brings land acquisition costs into consideration?  What membership is going to want to spend so much money for advances in technology they can't envision.

Mike C,
   Do you factor in 300-500 meters for expansion on your new courses?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 10, 2007, 07:08:56 PM
Ed, its a huge parcel of land - on the main paddock there wasn't any need for Mackenzie to go right into the corners like he did.  My understanding is that it wasn't hemmed in by houses when the course was built - it was miles from civilisation.  

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How would you build in the ability to lengthen the course? Do you start out with moderate walks forward, so eventually you will have short green to tee walks, and later moderate walks back to the tee?

Yes.

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That brings land acquisition costs into consideration?  What membership is going to want to spend so much money for advances in technology they can't envision.

Mackenzie was envisioning it.  And the land acquisition cost argument doesn't work - Kingston Heath is 6352m, Commonwealth is 6380m, Metropolitan is 6500m and Victoria is 6278m.  All sit on parcels of land of similar size or smaller to the West course, which is 6023m.  Mackenzie could have built a course which was "extendable" (like the other courses were) if he'd chosen to.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 10, 2007, 07:16:02 PM
Chris
While I don't agree with your general premise, RM West has not been able to be lengthened over the years to the same degree as courses such as Royal Adelaide. Whether that is good or bad is arguable but the course is closer to Mackenzie and Russell's original vision for the course that most other Australian classics.

A few historical points need to be considered in any evaluation. Firstly, Mackenzie did not have a clean sheet on which to start. As there were 12 of RM's existing Sandringham course holes in the land Mackenzie was given - the main paddock plus the small paddock north of Cheltenham Road (on which holes 13, 14, 15 and 16 were sited) - the Club would not have wanted all of these totally abandoned seeing they had put a number of years development into the fairways. So it is likely I think that Mackenzie's brief was to reuse as many of the Sandringham fairways where they could be fitted into his routing. Also, the land Mackenzie had available to him in Oct/Nov 1926 was less tham Russell finally got to work with as the Club was able to acquire additional land along Cheltenham Road - Bumford's Block in particular in the north east corner.

This afforded Russell the opportunity of modifying the routing that Mackenzie (no doubt with some input from Russell) was able to achieve on the smaller land area. Russell also had to allow for his East Course holes on the main block to get away from, and back to the Clubhouse.

It is interesting to note that the West Course did not open until 1931, nearly five years after Mackenzie had visited. It took time to acquire the additional land, there were squabbles over the clubhouse location and cost, and by the time the course opened, Russell had already designed and built Yarra Yarra and Lake Karrinyup and was underway on the East Course.

RM West is a masterclass of routing and anyone who says it isn't has never routed a course themselves to see how difficult a job it actually is. The fact that the routing has not allowed for sufficient elasticity should not necessarily be viewed as a criticism of the overall routing IMHO.

I will also post an article by Dr John Green, a 50 year member of RM and  a contributor to Golf Architecture magazine, who discusses the difficulty of RM in light of Ernie Els round of 60 on the Composite course a few years back and Norman's subsequent criticsm of the course. I'm sure it will help shed some light on this topic.

cheers Neil
 
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 10, 2007, 07:23:35 PM
Chris,
   I'm just throwing ideas out there. Eventually I'll stumble onto some that work. :)
   Speaking of parcel size, Kingston Heath was a revelation. Had I not known going in that it was a small parcel I would have never noticed. If I moved to Melbourne the first thing I would do is put my name on the list to join KH.
    Another way of looking at the size of the courses and the use of the land is perhaps Mackenzie did "waste" some of it. Howevere, which is clearly considered the best course? Maybe sometimes you have to sacrifice elasticity for more good holes or better flow or whatever reason Mackenzie had for using the land the way he did.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 10, 2007, 07:23:47 PM
Here's John Green's piece:

Who's Afraid of Ernie Els?

Dr Alister Mackenzie created golf holes but did not give them a par rating - many of his holes would fit into the four and a half or three and a half par category, thereby making them ideal match play holes.  Mackenzie also showed no interest in ‘defending the par’ of his courses and was quite happy to see a record of 64 or 65 for a course under seven thousand yards, which in his day would have had a par around 77.  He saw this as a case of accurate and excellent play having been rewarded.  Mackenzie regarded a high course record as almost invariably a sign of a bad course. Therefore, those who believe that there is much to learn from Mackenzie, and any wishing to debate whether, or not, the West Course at Royal Melbourne should remain as a Mackenzie course, should all look at the average scores rather than just the exceptional ones.  However, the latter do have importance because they show if it is indeed a course where good play gets rewarded.

There are those who consider the West Course at Royal Melbourne to be vulnerable because of the state of modern equipment, where all the par fives are reachable with two shots – however, Mackenzie always intended that they should be so.  In the Club Championship in 1999, where the handicap limit was 12, the best score around the West was 69, while the average score was 88.  In 2006, the scores were better, with the average score for the Championship and the Council Cup (handicap limit 12) being 85.5, and with two scores below 70.  However, it needs to be noted that one was played in winter and the other in summer.  In the eight years between 1999 and 2006, there have been only eight scores below 70. These are hardly the scores from a vulnerable course.  

Lest people think that this is a reflection on the ability of those playing the Club Championship at Royal Melbourne, from the scores in the qualifying rounds of the 2005 Australian Amateur Championship it is clear that the West Course fulfilled its role admirably by Mackenzie’s standards.  On Day 1, half the field played the West Course with the best score being 66, while the average of the field was 76.0.  On the final day of qualification when the whole field had been cut to one third, the best score again was 66, but as would be expected, the average dropped to 73.2.  This was an elite amateur field, especially for the last two days, and included many top quality overseas players.

Probably nothing has more stirred those who believe that par must be protected than when Ernie Els scorched a course record of 60 around the Composite Course on the first day of the 2004 Heineken Classic.  The average score for that day was 71 - it was also the only Day 1 of the four Heineken Classics without at least one score in the eighties.  The Day 1 scores for the four years of the Heineken Classic were:
2002 – Best Score 64, Average 72.8  
2003 - Best Score 65, Average 72.7  
2004 - Best Score 60, Average 71.0  
2005 - Best Score 65, Average 71.9

Here again, is the confirmation that both the West Course and the Composite Course (combining selected holes from the West Course with holes from the Alex Russell designed East Course) conform with the criteria by which Mackenzie judged a good course – accuracy has been rewarded, but loose shots have disadvantaged the player so that making par becomes more difficult, and if the player tries to be too smart he may lose more than one shot.

People who are concerned about the distance that players can now hit the ball should remember that this is only partly due to the equipment, and applies to a limited minority of club members.  Most of the players hitting these very long drives spend considerable time on the practice fairway and the gym, and have had their swings developed from an early age by coaching and video surveillance.  Those who do not fit into this category, but are still long hitters, usually spend ample time in the trees and are not likely to be a serious threat to any course record.  So to compete, do members of clubs like Royal Melbourne want to spend more time on the practice tee and the gym, do they want to spend money updating their clubs every two years or so, or do they just want to go out and enjoy a hit with their friends?  Because, if it is the last of these, then the courses should respect the golfing needs and abilities of the majority of club members, and not be changed just to contain the few with exceptional talent and skill.  

Around our courses at Royal Melbourne, if those gifted players score well, then they have played well and have earned their reward of a low score.  It is worth remembering that Mackenzie asked for the ages and handicaps of the Royal Melbourne members before he began laying out the West Course with the assistance of Alex Russell – it has always been primarily a members course, and that it also remains to this day an excellent test for the best golfers is a credit to his skills.  If Mackenzie did not consider it was necessary to protect par then why should we agonise over good scores on one of his courses?  The course has achieved a high world ranking and has stood the test of 75 years of play from golfers of all abilities.  

Back in November 1956, young Royal Melbourne amateur Tom Crow (and later founder of Cobra Golf) shot a course record round of 63 on the West Course on his way to winning the Olympic Year Amateur Medal. Bogey for the course was then 73. After his son Jamie, also a fine player, came to grief on the Composite Course during a tournament, Crow advised his son on how best to play Royal Melbourne, advising him, "You need to treat this course like a grand lady.  Show her respect and you can try to seduce her - try to rape her and she will fight back."

Remarkably, Crow's record of 63 around the West has never been bettered and was of 50 years standing last November – and what better evidence can be found for the current relevance of the West Course?

At Royal Melbourne, the members are proud of their Mackenzie course, which they and any visitors find highly enjoyable.  By his own criteria the course is still achieving what he intended it to do.  Therefore, it should be best judged according to his criteria and not transformed by penal features and hyper-championship tees so that it can be judged by completely different criteria – and criteria that when the current fad dies, are likely to be found to be flawed.  Finally, it should not be lost sight of that Ernie Els staggered around the front nine of the Composite Course in 42 strokes in the final round of that 2004 Heineken Classic – going to the tenth tee his record breaking round of 60 just three days earlier must have seemed a very distant memory!

by Dr John Green


Dr. John Green is a retired medical practitioner and a single figure golfer. A 55 year member of Royal Melbourne, John has a special interest in the history of the Club and its courses.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 10, 2007, 07:59:12 PM
Good point about the native vegetation. Happy to hear you are out golfing, the arm healed well I take it.
You too with the free pass, eh? Please list a dozen courses you have played in your travels that are better.

Ed,

Yes, the arm is fine now. Thanks. Has been for some time, although work don't realise that yet.  ;)

Maybe we are on a different wavelength in regards as to Free Pass.  By that, I mean the obvious bits and pieces of RM that don't gell or work get glossed over simply because it is RM.

Royal County Down is better.  :)

I don't particularly like the first because it is just uninteresting.  I don't buy the argument that a first hole has to perhaps have qualities other holes don't, because it's objective may be to get the field away, etc., so it should perhaps be wide, and reasonably hazard free, or whatever.

Compare it to the first at Dornoch.  Dornoch's is much shorter, allows a wider range of clubs off the tee, appears as easy as the first at RM, yet has a little more going on with the fairway bunker and the green.

Mike;

What is so fantastic about 11 and 12?

I would agree they are very good holes, and I don't want to nitpick, but they are hardly all-world.  

Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Bill_McBride on December 10, 2007, 08:07:59 PM
I've never been there  :-\ but doesn't #11 look a lot like #13 at Augusta National?  Of course I have no idea what the topo is like, and there's no creek, and maybe it's not a short risk/reward par 5, but perhaps it's the precursor of #13 ANGC in the same vein as #10 at Alwoodley!  ;D

Could one of you Down Under guys post a card to match up with that nice layout diagram?  Some of those holes lay out a lot like the Valley Club.  #2 for example, is a hard dogleg short par 5 much like #2 RMW looks to be.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 10, 2007, 08:39:46 PM
Its not really anything like the 13rd at ANGC Bill - there is no reason to lay-up and the green isn't anything spectacular.  I can see why you might think so based on the map though!

So when are you going to visit?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Justin Ryan on December 10, 2007, 08:57:26 PM
Are you advocating moving the bunkers out further only, or adding more bunkers to those that already exist? I only saw the course one time but I don't remember any bunkering that I thought was completely useless, like you guys are implying with your jam tin flyers.
Hello Ed, the bunkers on holes like 2,4 and particularly 18 are fixed in the slope.  They can't realistically be moved forward and given this limitation I think the question asked by Chris about whether this is a routing flaw is valid.  As seen in his design principles, Mackenzie realised that distances would continue to advance.  Given these bunkers cannot be realistically shifted there is a good argument that extra length should have been left behind these bunkers to ensure continued relevance.  They are now irrelevant for a large proportion of golfers.

And even by the standards of the time the course lacked a long par five.  It is also reasonable to argue that space should have been left behind one of them to be extended to a decent length.  

However, the rough on the right hand side of 2 poses a problem for the longer hitter not striking his shot into the perfect place, and in fact isn't it the rough/native plants which serve as a driving hazard for the better player on many holes?

Eg. 2,3,4,6,10,11,12,18?
Mark, do you think the use of rough/native plants is a valid means of challenging golfers from the tee?  I have seen it posited elsewhere recently that the only true means of challenging the tee shot is with bunkering.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 10, 2007, 09:31:33 PM
Justin,
   I think the use of native vegetation is a good thing at RM. As I remember it, there is generally a way around it so a foozler can roll it most of the way around the course if so inclined. How are the studies and house coming along? Have a great summer with the kids.

Mark,
   I can buy that. I have heard RCD's praises sung enough, by people who love GCA, to know that you are on firm ground there. I need 11 more courses though. ;D I haven't been to Ireland yet, but rest assured I will see RCD when I go there. It will be the focal point of the trip.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Bill_McBride on December 10, 2007, 10:31:11 PM
Its not really anything like the 13rd at ANGC Bill - there is no reason to lay-up and the green isn't anything spectacular.  I can see why you might think so based on the map though!

So when are you going to visit?


I have used up my allotment of overseas travel for 2008 with Buenos Aires in January, Scotland in June, and Paris / Provence in September.  This all works for me.  

I am thinking of January 2009 and wonder who might want to accompany me down under of the GCA wunderkind.  Let me know...... ;D
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Kevin Pallier on December 10, 2007, 10:43:41 PM
Might this be different if Mackenzie had routed the course in a way which allowed another 300-500m to be added over the years?  There is an abundance of space on the site, so he might have built a more elastic course if he wished.

Before I'm accused of rocking the boat for the sake of it, I should point out that RMW is my second favourite course in the world.  But does it (and Mackenzie) get a free pass?  

Interesting questions Chris and I think Mackenzie would be flabberghasted to see how the advancements in equipment have impacted on the playing of his courses over the years.

Certainly - RMW elasticity is inhibited by the boundaries affecting / bordering many of the holes. I confess I dont know enough about the history of the design (with the boundary issues in mind?) but I would suggest that I wouldn't consider it "poor" that he designed some of the holes without too much room for additional length to get some of the holes into the routing he has.

The opening stretch of holes from 2 - 6 are my favourites. Holes 2 and 4 could be extended - but that would impact on the 17th East ? Interestingly, the stretch of holes from 8 onwards pretty much have elasticity issues in most of them:
8 - green is virtually aginst the boundary
9 - tee is almost against the boundary and one cant extend the green otherwise you would impact the tee shot on 10 !!
11 - the tee and green are pretty much against boundaries as most definitely is 12
13 - 16 - all pretty much have boundary issues and it's not until one gets past the tee at 17 that the elasticity issues are aside.

Still - within those stretch mentioned above he has created some marvellous holes 13, 16, 17 being my favourites. I think Alex Russell's six holes on the East could be considered equally as good use of the land but they again have boundary's impacting / bordering some way or another on most of them.

Yes - he could have routed the course a differently but then again as I would suggest in my original sentence - he couldn't have forseen the marked increases in technology over the years. I wouldn't say he gets a "free pass" because of that - but I also wouldn't crticise his routing too much given some of the holes he's produced.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 11, 2007, 12:25:18 AM
Mark, do you think the use of rough/native plants is a valid means of challenging golfers from the tee?  I have seen it posited elsewhere recently that the only true means of challenging the tee shot is with bunkering.

Justin,

I don't see why not.  Especially, as when used at RMW, it is generally blind from the tee - eg 2,4,10 to some degree, 12 and 18 - which generally induces some doubt in many players.

And if you have ever driven it into gorse -or the horrendous blackberries, old TV sets, rusted-out cars, burnt goats   and other assorted crap sprouting off many links' dunes - you wouldn't be saying that bunkering is the only true means of challenging a tee shot.

Isn't the use of tea-tree and scrub as a driving or tee shot hazard rather widespread on National Old? :) (2,3,7,16 at least).

Mark,
I can buy that. I have heard RCD's praises sung enough, by people who love GCA, to know that you are on firm ground there. I need 11 more courses though. ;D

St Andrews Beach. :)
Prairie Dunes - hopefully!

As I was playing RM yesterday, I idly wondered several times whether Barnbougle may in fact be better than RM. It doesn't have the directional change of RM, nor a par four as good as 6 at RMW, but it struck me as to how reliant green-centered RM - and possibly all courses best desribed as second shot courses? - are on having greens at their optimum each day they are played for them to "work" properly.

Barnbougle still has the odd stances, a little more depth perception to worry about, a green (13) equally as vexatious at any speed, a few more  fairway slopes to carry the ball away from its intended position, (1,3,5,9,15) to provide challenge even if the greens aren't at desired pace because of weather conditions.

RM West's greens, of course, are still pretty good, but even I parred 2,5,6,11 and 13, and birdied 12, on my second outing in four months, and with a back that required a higher dose of Voltaren pre-round than my Doctor had prescribed... :)
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Sean_A on December 11, 2007, 03:27:42 AM
Here's John Green's piece:

Who's Afraid of Ernie Els?

Dr Alister Mackenzie created golf holes but did not give them a par rating - many of his holes would fit into the four and a half or three and a half par category, thereby making them ideal match play holes.  Mackenzie also showed no interest in ‘defending the par’ of his courses and was quite happy to see a record of 64 or 65 for a course under seven thousand yards, which in his day would have had a par around 77.  He saw this as a case of accurate and excellent play having been rewarded.  Mackenzie regarded a high course record as almost invariably a sign of a bad course. Therefore, those who believe that there is much to learn from Mackenzie, and any wishing to debate whether, or not, the West Course at Royal Melbourne should remain as a Mackenzie course, should all look at the average scores rather than just the exceptional ones.  However, the latter do have importance because they show if it is indeed a course where good play gets rewarded.

There are those who consider the West Course at Royal Melbourne to be vulnerable because of the state of modern equipment, where all the par fives are reachable with two shots – however, Mackenzie always intended that they should be so.  In the Club Championship in 1999, where the handicap limit was 12, the best score around the West was 69, while the average score was 88.  In 2006, the scores were better, with the average score for the Championship and the Council Cup (handicap limit 12) being 85.5, and with two scores below 70.  However, it needs to be noted that one was played in winter and the other in summer.  In the eight years between 1999 and 2006, there have been only eight scores below 70. These are hardly the scores from a vulnerable course.  

Lest people think that this is a reflection on the ability of those playing the Club Championship at Royal Melbourne, from the scores in the qualifying rounds of the 2005 Australian Amateur Championship it is clear that the West Course fulfilled its role admirably by Mackenzie’s standards.  On Day 1, half the field played the West Course with the best score being 66, while the average of the field was 76.0.  On the final day of qualification when the whole field had been cut to one third, the best score again was 66, but as would be expected, the average dropped to 73.2.  This was an elite amateur field, especially for the last two days, and included many top quality overseas players.

Probably nothing has more stirred those who believe that par must be protected than when Ernie Els scorched a course record of 60 around the Composite Course on the first day of the 2004 Heineken Classic.  The average score for that day was 71 - it was also the only Day 1 of the four Heineken Classics without at least one score in the eighties.  The Day 1 scores for the four years of the Heineken Classic were:
2002 – Best Score 64, Average 72.8  
2003 - Best Score 65, Average 72.7  
2004 - Best Score 60, Average 71.0  
2005 - Best Score 65, Average 71.9

Here again, is the confirmation that both the West Course and the Composite Course (combining selected holes from the West Course with holes from the Alex Russell designed East Course) conform with the criteria by which Mackenzie judged a good course – accuracy has been rewarded, but loose shots have disadvantaged the player so that making par becomes more difficult, and if the player tries to be too smart he may lose more than one shot.

People who are concerned about the distance that players can now hit the ball should remember that this is only partly due to the equipment, and applies to a limited minority of club members.  Most of the players hitting these very long drives spend considerable time on the practice fairway and the gym, and have had their swings developed from an early age by coaching and video surveillance.  Those who do not fit into this category, but are still long hitters, usually spend ample time in the trees and are not likely to be a serious threat to any course record.  So to compete, do members of clubs like Royal Melbourne want to spend more time on the practice tee and the gym, do they want to spend money updating their clubs every two years or so, or do they just want to go out and enjoy a hit with their friends?  Because, if it is the last of these, then the courses should respect the golfing needs and abilities of the majority of club members, and not be changed just to contain the few with exceptional talent and skill.  

Around our courses at Royal Melbourne, if those gifted players score well, then they have played well and have earned their reward of a low score.  It is worth remembering that Mackenzie asked for the ages and handicaps of the Royal Melbourne members before he began laying out the West Course with the assistance of Alex Russell – it has always been primarily a members course, and that it also remains to this day an excellent test for the best golfers is a credit to his skills.  If Mackenzie did not consider it was necessary to protect par then why should we agonise over good scores on one of his courses?  The course has achieved a high world ranking and has stood the test of 75 years of play from golfers of all abilities.  

Back in November 1956, young Royal Melbourne amateur Tom Crow (and later founder of Cobra Golf) shot a course record round of 63 on the West Course on his way to winning the Olympic Year Amateur Medal. Bogey for the course was then 73. After his son Jamie, also a fine player, came to grief on the Composite Course during a tournament, Crow advised his son on how best to play Royal Melbourne, advising him, "You need to treat this course like a grand lady.  Show her respect and you can try to seduce her - try to rape her and she will fight back."

Remarkably, Crow's record of 63 around the West has never been bettered and was of 50 years standing last November – and what better evidence can be found for the current relevance of the West Course?

At Royal Melbourne, the members are proud of their Mackenzie course, which they and any visitors find highly enjoyable.  By his own criteria the course is still achieving what he intended it to do.  Therefore, it should be best judged according to his criteria and not transformed by penal features and hyper-championship tees so that it can be judged by completely different criteria – and criteria that when the current fad dies, are likely to be found to be flawed.  Finally, it should not be lost sight of that Ernie Els staggered around the front nine of the Composite Course in 42 strokes in the final round of that 2004 Heineken Classic – going to the tenth tee his record breaking round of 60 just three days earlier must have seemed a very distant memory!

by Dr John Green


Dr. John Green is a retired medical practitioner and a single figure golfer. A 55 year member of Royal Melbourne, John has a special interest in the history of the Club and its courses.


Neal

Thanks for posting the letter.  It certainly helps explain matters that I intuitively understand, but can't place numbers to.  I especially admire the concept that a great course will yield a wide scope of scores even among the best players.

Ciao
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Shane Gurnett on December 11, 2007, 04:08:34 AM
Interesting thread. If the question is that RM is poorly routed because the fairway bunkering is not in play, and cannot ever be so because of the land limitations, then the answer is a probably yes. Would holes like 2, 4 and 12 benefit from the tee going back 40-50 meteres, again a yes, but only in the context of the tournament or elite player. A quick look on google earth shows the bunker carries on these holes to be no more than 200 metres, so yes Mark even you would be able to carry them, assuming you hit a rare straight one  ;)

Having played there perhaps 30 times over the last 20 years, starting in the persimmon era right the way thru to 460cc of titanium, I havent noticed a huge difference in my scores over that time. I think the reason being that there are so many tempting holes at RM West that you cant help but pull thew driver out a lot more often than you really should, seduced by the apparently wide open fairways. The real key at RM is to play conservatively from the tee and when well placed then aggressively to the flags, on most holes. And of course to have an all world short game and putt very well too. Moreso than any other course I can think of, RM West delilvers more bogeys and more birdies to the good player who might still put together an even par round (if 72 HAS to remain as par when its really a solid par 70)

Chris, hopefully your insights into the course will guide me well as a caddy at next weeks Vic Am.  ;D

Mark, how was the condition of the West course - I keep hearing that it is in poor shape. The few holes on the East that I walked on Monday looked fine for golf, albeit a bit patchy to the eye of the couch grass pursists.

Shane
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 11, 2007, 05:30:01 AM
...shows the bunker carries on these holes to be no more than 200 metres, so yes Mark even you would be able to carry them, assuming you hit a rare straight one  ;)

From Jam tin to 200 metres in less than a week.  It couldn't have been me that said steroids would have nil effect for a golfer...


Mark, how was the condition of the West course - I keep hearing that it is in poor shape. The few holes on the East that I walked on Monday looked fine for golf, albeit a bit patchy to the eye of the couch grass pursists.

Shane

Shane,

Most of the greens had a lot of poa in them, whether this is a bad thing or not I am unsure. I had a good day with the putter, so I can hardly complain.  :)  They were a little soft, but not overly so.  

Most of the fairways were fairly patchy, generally absolutely bone dry, but a few - 6West, for one - the bare spots were both dead and very spongy, which was odd.

There is a lot of dead grass and cracked turf around. It's a shame to see.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: David_Elvins on December 11, 2007, 05:53:46 AM
Chris,

I think one thing worth remembering is that the existence of the composite course has meant that there hasnt been any real pressure to lengthen the west course.  If the west course was the championship course then I am sure it would have been lengthenned and there are plenty of holes where and extra 10-30 yards could be added. Although in some cases it probably would have involved sacrificing elements of the east course and/or purchasing property.  
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Matthew Mollica on December 11, 2007, 08:48:28 AM
This is a really interesting thread Chris. Somewhat corageous too.

I tend to agree with David's post (immediately above). A quick run through holes would have me finding an extra 350m for the course, being modest with the increase on 2W.

Whether it satisfies your premise I'm not sure, but RMW at 6350m and a par of 70, would you still question the routing?

I understand your point in that one looks at 6W, 11W, 12W 17W and thinks - "I can't find any more length!" but to suggest that inelasticity of the course is a sign of it's poor routing is not right for mine.

The quality of the stretch from 3 - 6, then 10, 11 and the final 2 holes is just too good for me to ever doubt the routing. Especially if we believe that MacKenzie was hemmed in to some degree by a club which held hopes for additional holes at the time of the West being designed and built.

MM
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Bill_McBride on December 11, 2007, 09:55:16 AM
Does the fact that the composite course can be modern "championship length" make it not essential that either the East or the West be any longer?  Are there events staged on the individual courses where the 1/10th of 1% for whom modern equipment and competitive situations really make a difference could complain that the courses are too short?

Most of the MacKenzie courses I've played have par 5s that top flight modern players think are too short.  Pasatiempo solved this by changing #1 and #2 into par 4s and the layout a par 70.  The RM composite course apparently solves the situation by clever choice of the available 36 holes into a playable routing.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 11, 2007, 12:53:18 PM
Dave, Matt and Bill, the main point of the thread isn't about the total length of the course, or even its resistance to scoring.  Its about the relevance of fairway bunkers to the tee shots of competent or semi-competent players.  Mackenzie clearly intended that these bunkers should challenge the golfer, yet they don't, and haven't come close to doing so for a very long time.  These holes don't play anything like it was intended.

Whether the irrelevance of these bunkers makes the course easier, or inferior to what it might be, is a subject for another thread.

Matt, I've been through the holes myself and could add quite a bit of distance, but the increases are primarily at the holes which don't need them!  2, 4, 9, 12, 15 and 18 all need significantly more length for the fairway bunkers to become relevant again, yet finding extra length on these holes is difficult.  

Kevin, interesting thoughts, thanks for answering the question.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Shane Gurnett on December 11, 2007, 03:45:46 PM
Matt, which holes specifically do you reckon you can squeeze another 350m out of?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Philip Gawith on December 11, 2007, 04:36:06 PM
I am a little late to this topic but it is still worth remarking that the festive spirit is clearly infusing our Australian friends when messrs Ferguson and Kane are displaying such mutual civility; and for the general absence of the rancorous/beating each other to a pulp flavour which one normally associates with a discussion of one of Australia's jewels. Remember the routing of Kingston Heath discussion??!! Still, it is early days and perhaps I speak to soon.

Sadly when I played the course so many holes were being messed around by the problems with the greens (dec 2005) that i don't really feel qualified to comment on the substance of the topic. Pleased to hear, though, Chris that Commonwealth returned to former splendours!
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Shane Gurnett on December 11, 2007, 05:10:59 PM
Philip,

This thread has not yet sunk to those typical lows associated with Australian course discussion, possibly because:

a) Mark Fergusons golfing ability has not been brought into question, perhaps because RM is the one course in Melbourne where he can challenge the fairway hazards from the tee and carry many of them.
b) Woodlands hasn't yet been dragged into the argument, or for that matter Kingston Heath, both of which have consumed many pages of web space in the pointless discussion over which routing is better.
c) the elusive James L has yet to enter the fray with his stirring stick.

But there is still hope as we are only on page 2.

I would be interested to see what RM's co-resident architect Tony Cashmore would have to say about the routing and positioning of the bunkers on the West course. Tony I believe is a member of the GCA discussion group but rarely if even posts. His input here would be of interest.

Shane.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mike_Clayton on December 11, 2007, 06:16:36 PM
The fairway bunkers are too often lumped together and accused of being out of position - and that is a generalization that does nor stand up IMO.
At the 2nd they are short and they could perhaps go further down - but why and who wants to take on that job and be acused of doing work that would inevitably be accused of 'not being as good as what was there.'
And on the Composite routing when it plays at 10 you can build a little tee at the back of 17 east (9 Composite) and drive over the edge of the previous green.
Then the bunker is 290 yards to carry and the hole is 570 and a great par five - and the problem of the tee being bombed with 2nd shots on 17 E is gone.Arguably it would be the best long hole in the country - and shows there is room to go back.

The fairway bunkers are perfect at 4 - what a dramatic shot it has always been to hit over them and remember what MacKenzie said about the thrill of driving over a dramatic looking hazard and there is no way to move them further down because you couldn't see them..

6W bunkers are still perfect because you only just want to be over them to get the best line.

The fairway bunker at 10 is the best and most influential hazard in Melbourne - still.What genius.

11 - the left fairway bunkers still work there.

12 - like 4 they are in the top of the hill - fun to hit over and where else could they go?

17 - The left bunker is still perfectly positioned to influence the play and arguably even more so now players can drive over it - something nobody ever thought of.

18 - see 4 and 12.

Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 11, 2007, 06:47:11 PM
...the general absence of the rancorous/beating each other to a pulp flavour which one normally associates with a discussion of one of Australia's jewels. Remember the routing of Kingston Heath discussion??!!

The Good Old Days, Philip.  What fond remembrances I have.

Shane;

A). Not true. Many at KH and Woodlands are in play for me too. I haven't played the others, excepting Commonwealth, where I can't remember if the hazards are perfectly positioned for my classic fade, but if you are offering....

B) Other Australian poster's comments on my golfing ability have no bearing whatsoever on my rigorous yet apparently bilious examination of said people. That notion is as ridiculous as the one that St Andrews Beach has small greens.

C) It could never be called a pointless discussion on whether Woodlands or KH has the better routing, since there is no clear cut answer.

C) a - By the way, it's Woodlands.

C) b - A discussion of whether Woodlands or KH has the better routing is a far more valuable use of web space than on how many times out of ten you would split a shag between Megan Gale or Jennifer Hawkins.

C) c -The answer is clearly 10 to Jennifer.  Even if she had been dead for three days.

D) It is odd how three courses on such small blocks of land - Woodlands, KH and Commonwealth, that is - can find ways to lengthen their courses, yet the club on the largest acreage has the situation that is the topic of this post.  

E) James L has entered the fray.  He was being his polite normal self, as opposed to the ill-mannered little troll he occasionally transmogrifies into.

F) Brian Walshe has yet to enter the discussion. He appears to be somewhat reticent to bear his soul these days.

G) MacKenzie made the decision to route 2 and 4 West.  12 was obviously a par four, and he was stuck with 15.  Given that even 17E can be reached with a short iron second these days, does it matter if a course doesn't have a long par five?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Shane Gurnett on December 11, 2007, 06:59:11 PM
Mike, is this where you would put the tee on 2W? It is indeed 290 yards to carry from back there.

(http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b271/gurngunja/rm2w.jpg)

Mark, we agree on few things but Jennifer Hawkins is surely one of them, but I would split them 9-1 just to say I had, a bit like playing Moonah Links.

Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 11, 2007, 07:37:12 PM
Chris
This is your first post to start this thread off:

3. ...the course should be arranged so that in the first instance there is always a slight walk forwards from the green to the next tee; then the holes are sufficiently elastic to be lengthened in the future if necessary
(Mackenzie's design principles)

This makes it quite clear that Mackenzie contemplated that his courses might need to be lengthened to combat the advances in equipment technology, indeed he wrote about how equipment was changing the game at the time!

Royal Melbourne West is a great golf course, but many of the holes obviously don't play as they were designed.  With the ball flying much further than it did eighty years ago, many of the ground hazards which challenged tee shots don't do so anymore.

At 6023m, RMW is desperately short, and more a course to challenge the members than the champions.  Might this be different if Mackenzie had routed the course in a way which allowed another 300-500m to be added over the years?  There is an abundance of space on the site, so he might have built a more elastic course if he wished.

Before I'm accused of rocking the boat for the sake of it, I should point out that RMW is my second favourite course in the world.  But does it (and Mackenzie) get a free pass?


I find it hard to accept when you say the main point of your thread is  RMW's fairway bunkers and their relevance to the tee shots. Please re-read your thread opener and while you mention this aspect it could hardly be considered your thread's main point. Surely your main point was that RMW is too short and that Mackenzie's routing did not build in enough flexibility to allow for future lengthening. I think this thesis has been disproven.

I agree with Mr Clayton's assessment of the bunkering and he has played these holes far more in tournament and other conditions than the rest of us put together I would expect.

And its Hawkins over Gale by 5 and 4.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Rich Goodale on December 11, 2007, 11:05:21 PM
Sorry to interrupt the Annual Aussie (Closed) Pissing Championship, but I have to say that the article above by John Green is the best piece of GCA writing I have seen in a very long time.  Thanks, Neil.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 11, 2007, 11:23:23 PM
Rich
Appreciate you interrupting the championship! However, the Championship is not a closed event and in fact is the Australian Open Pissing Championships, open to all comers and planned to coincide with the Australian Open Golf Championship which starts tomorrow.

I agree that is a very nicely argued case by John Green and I had planned to include it in my last issue of Golf Architecture magazine but sadly could not fit it in. I think its worthy of sharing though and that's why I posted it. Chris has not commented on it which either means he has not read it or that it blows his thesis out of the water. I suspect the latter!
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Justin Ryan on December 12, 2007, 12:44:37 AM
I agree that is a very nicely argued case by John Green and I had planned to include it in my last issue of Golf Architecture magazine but sadly could not fit it in. I think its worthy of sharing though and that's why I posted it. Chris has not commented on it which either means he has not read it or that it blows his thesis out of the water. I suspect the latter!
Neil, as nice as the article is doesn't really address the contention made by Chris that many of the holes don't play as designed, and the failure to provide sufficient room to extend them means this will always be the case, most notably with 4 and 18.  If there was ever to be a case for allowing greater elasticity, it is those two holes, where it is not practical to move the bunkers forwards, resulting in them being practically irrelevant not just for the elite players cited in the article but a large proportion of ordinary golfers as well.

Given that even 17E can be reached with a short iron second these days, does it matter if a course doesn't have a long par five?
Yes.  That is an illustration of Green's contention on irrelevance of the elite player.  It is still a superb hole three shot hole for nearly everybody and its inclusion is a significant factor in why the composite course is head and shoulders above the individual courses (as good as they are).

C) b - A discussion of whether Woodlands or KH has the better routing is a far more valuable use of web space than on how many times out of ten you would split a shag between Megan Gale or Jennifer Hawkins.
Thankfully there are none of those smut obssessed, misogynistic bogans here Mark. ;)
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 12, 2007, 12:58:36 AM
Given that even 17E can be reached with a short iron second these days, does it matter if a course doesn't have a long par five?
Yes.  That is an illustration of Green's contention on irrelevance of the elite player.  It is still a superb hole three shot hole for nearly everybody and its inclusion is a significant factor in why the composite course is head and shoulders above the individual courses (as good as they are).

Justin,

I perhaps phrased that one incorrectly.  I too think it 'matters' that a course doesn't have a true three shot hole.

I was going to respond to Mike's earlier contention in this thread about how many world class holes does a course have to have before it is considered poorly routed, by querying why many people consider a course is poorer for not having a great little short par three and four, but not a very good par five.

C) b - A discussion of whether Woodlands or KH has the better routing is a far more valuable use of web space than on how many times out of ten you would split a shag between Megan Gale or Jennifer Hawkins.

Thankfully there are none of those smut obssessed, misogynistic bogans here Mark. ;)

Well, I did detect a stirring... ;)

And by the way - what is your split?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 12, 2007, 01:36:14 AM
I find it hard to accept when you say the main point of your thread is  RMW's fairway bunkers and their relevance to the tee shots. Please re-read your thread opener and while you mention this aspect it could hardly be considered your thread's main point. Surely your main point was that RMW is too short and that Mackenzie's routing did not build in enough flexibility to allow for future lengthening. I think this thesis has been disproven.

We'll have to agree to disagree about what the premise of my thread was - its clear enough to me that my main point was about the fairway bunkering.  Maybe I've been reading Pat Mucci's threads for too long, and aren't capable of writing as clearly as I used to!

Quote
I agree with Mr Clayton's assessment of the bunkering and he has played these holes far more in tournament and other conditions than the rest of us put together I would expect.

What Mr Clayton has said is true, but he's missed the point of the thread again (a point which has been clarified many times now).  The bunkers may be beautifully carved into hills on 4 and 12, but why did he route the course in such a way that the carries would be limited to around 200m with no way of extending the tees further back?  That is less than ideal routing in my mind.

John Green's article was very good, but as Justin said, it doesn't address my point.  I'd also question the relevance of scores from eight club championships between 1999 and 2006, as RMGC is hardly full of top players.  Is there a single player who played in one or more of those tournaments who has had success at an elite amateur or professional level?

The scores from the Aussie Amateur are very relevant though (despite being only two rounds) - can anyone remember what the conditions were like?

Philip, I must admit that I'm very surprised by the level of civility, but disappointed at the standard of discussion - perhaps there is a link  ;D
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Rich Goodale on December 12, 2007, 02:18:14 AM
Maybe I've been reading Pat Mucci's threads for too long, and aren't capable of writing as clearly as I used to!
[/quote

You is right, Chris!
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 12, 2007, 02:22:59 AM
Chris
Seems a lot of us are missing the main point of your thread, first me and now Mike Clayton. Perhaps if you titled the thread differently to reflect what actually is your main point then us golf course architect simpletons would be able to get it a little easier.

RMW is not poorly routed, not even averagely routed. It is extremely well routed. If you are suggesting that there are some fairway bunkers that are now easily carried today on some holes, like 2 and 4, I think that is apparent, however, as Mike has outlined in his analysis, most of the others are still relevant. In the case of the 4th I suspect it wasn't a very difficult carry when the course was first laid out - a case of Mackenzie's 'pleasurable excitement' if ever there was one. All the routings that were done by Mackenzie and Russell from day one allowed for an additional nine hole course, eventually becoming the seven holes that the East course took up on the main block. So there never were unlimited land opportunities and both Mackenzie and Russell would have to juggle fitting in those extra holes as best they could. Could they have routed the course differently so that those carries could have been stretched in later years. Perhaps, but at what cost in terms of other holes? And would the course be as good as the course is today? Who can say.

There has been a view expressed on here that the West could be lengthened by around 350m or so and I'm sure if the club had wanted to do it they could. I just hope they don't just for the sake of it. Why Chris, do you think that Tom Crow's course record on the West course has stood until now? If the course plays that much easier than it would have in 1956 given the advances in clubs and balls in those 50 years, why has the course record not been broken? Please don't suggest that RM has no decent players as surely the best amateurs in Vic get to play on it competitively.

With respect, John Green's article does answer your point - you premise suggests that RMW is poorly routed as it has no elasticity and is woefully short. I believe he does address this by saying that length is not a magic criterion by which you can judge a course like RMW alone. Its not so much the point of the quality of the RM membership playing in their championship each year as thats a relative thing when you compare scoring over a number of years. I think you have missed the point of John's article. John has played the course for over 50 years as a single figure marker and is very well placed to judge these issues. He is strongly against lengthening the course just for the sake of it or because you can on some holes.

The quality of discussion might be better if you started a better thread! ;)
Seriously though, it is a good discussion point.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 12, 2007, 02:44:29 AM
All the routings that were done by Mackenzie and Russell from day one allowed for an additional nine hole course, eventually becoming the seven holes that the East course took up on the main block. So there never were unlimited land opportunities and both Mackenzie and Russell would have to juggle fitting in those extra holes as best they could. Could they have routed the course differently so that those carries could have been stretched in later years. Perhaps, but at what cost in terms of other holes? And would the course be as good as the course is today? Who can say.

If only you and others had stuck to this point, which I'll concede has some validity, instead of throwing up red herrings.

Quote
Why Chris, do you think that Tom Crow's course record on the West course has stood until now? If the course plays that much easier than it would have in 1956 given the advances in clubs and balls in those 50 years, why has the course record not been broken? Please don't suggest that RM has no decent players as surely the best amateurs in Vic get to play on it competitively.

The best players in the golf haven't played the West course in competitive conditions for years, and even the best amateurs don't play it regularly in strokeplay competition.  I don't see how a course record is a valid measuring stick anyhow.

Quote
With respect, John Green's article does answer your point - you premise suggests that RMW is poorly routed as it has no elasticity and is woefully short. I believe he does address this by saying that length is not a magic criterion by which you can judge a course like RMW alone.

My premise (with a sensationalist headline that has attracted 972 page views!) is that on one criteria, RM is poorly routed.  In every other respect the routing is a work of genius.

Quote
Its not so much the point of the quality of the RM membership playing in their championship each year as thats a relative thing when you compare scoring over a number of years.

Scoring wasn't the point of the thread, it is how the holes play and the challenges presented by particular shots.  The scores don't address the issue one way or the other.

Quote
I think you have missed the point of John's article. John has played the course for over 50 years as a single figure marker and is very well placed to judge these issues. He is strongly against lengthening the course just for the sake of it or because you can on some holes.

I am also against lengthening merely because you can, which is why I'm not advocating additional length on the holes where it could be done, but the hole would not improve.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Andrew Summerell on December 12, 2007, 03:50:05 AM
We all look at RMW as a course that has been Australia’s number 1 and well regarded internationally for over 50 years. I dare say Mackenzie, although he thought it was going to be pretty good, could not have envisaged the hype that has built up around many of these courses over time. As much as he understood technology would require courses to be lengthened, I’m sure he was just designing the best course he could for the members of the Melbourne club.

There are many courses with lakes or ocean requiring a carry of 200m and that seems a fair thing. Maybe Mackenzie thought some angry bunkers could give the members the same thrill.

If the course was as closed to pro tournaments as Cypress Point, would we be having this discussion?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Justin Ryan on December 12, 2007, 04:38:54 AM
I was going to respond to Mike's earlier contention in this thread about how many world class holes does a course have to have before it is considered poorly routed, by querying why many people consider a course is poorer for not having a great little short par three and four, but not a very good par five.
That is a topic in itself.  The whole RMW is a tough par 68 course perplexes me as its effectively acknowledges it no longer has a par five.  I'd surmise this would be seen as a major weakness in any other course, but it is glossed over at RM with the tough par 68 argument.  If it was a par 68 with a couple of excellent par fives it would be another matter.  Without doubt it has an amazing collection of green complexes, but time has not been kind to much of the fairway bunkering and I fail to see how there can be any serious argument with the broad thrust of what Chris has advanced.

If the course was as closed to pro tournaments as Cypress Point, would we be having this discussion?
Yes, because the discussion is about the relevance of the bunkering as it relates to 12 markers, not pro golfers.

Well, I did detect a stirring... ;)

And by the way - what is your split?
That is a stirring that must quickly be stomped on.  As for the question, well you clearly under (or over) estimate me.

Chris, you are now seeing how reason can go out the window when you challenge soneone's belief system. ;)

Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 12, 2007, 05:05:38 AM
Chris
A couple of points that I can infer from your last post:

If you start a thread can you criticise posters for not following the direction you think they should? Interesting notion. And what are the red herrings in particular? This is a thread that has stayed on subject (apart from Gale vs Hawkins that is).

So RMW's routing is simultaneously poor and a work of genius.

Scoring is surely one of the criteria to be considered when you are raising the issue of the lack of length of the course and its inflexibility. If the purpose of golf is just to play shots and have challenges then how can you compare how one player copes with that challenge to another without any form of scoring (be it stroke or match play)?

I hope you are not using scoring (number of page views) as a criteria to judge the quality of your thread? Shame on you!

Justin
If you fail to see how there can be any serious argument with Chris' premise that is fine, but I'm not proposing that RMW is a par 68 and I'm sure Mike is not either. Plenty of ways to run up five or six or worse on all the par fives there. Its par is what it is and it is a challenge to break it. While time may not have allowed some of the fairway bunkers (your argument cannot be that it is "much of the fairway bunkering" surely? Mike has clearly dispensed with this line of thinking) to influence play directly they still have some impact, albeit visual and intimidatory as Mike and Andrew have both suggested. There is usually more than one role a bunker can play.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Justin Ryan on December 12, 2007, 05:39:40 AM
If you fail to see how there can be any serious argument with Chris' premise that is fine, but I'm not proposing that RMW is a par 68 and I'm sure Mike is not either. Plenty of ways to run up five or six or worse on all the par fives there. Its par is what it is and it is a challenge to break it. While time may not have allowed some of the fairway bunkers (your argument cannot be that it is "much of the fairway bunkering" surely? Mike has clearly dispensed with this line of thinking) to influence play directly they still have some impact, albeit visual and intimidatory as Mike and Andrew have both suggested. There is usually more than one role a bunker can play.
Neil, sure fairway bunkering can play multiple roles, but too much of it on RMW these days is of the visual type and no longer influences strategy to any great extent for a large proportion of golfers.  The bunkering on 2,4,12 and 18 is much of the fairway bunkering, accounting for 50% of the bunkering mentioned by Mr Clayton.  Par or the scores you might run up or the overall course difficulty as written about by Green is not how I see the question.  The question relates directly to the ground hazards no longer being in play and thus diminishing the strategy.  MacKenzie foresaw that additional length would be required, yet left no room behind a number of bunkers that would be unable to be moved forward.  Whilst Kevin Pallier suggests it would not have been possible for MacKenzie to foresee the distance advances that have occurred, I'm not convinced

And if anything, Mr Clayton strengthened Chris's argument, not dispensed with it in his 6:16 post.  2, 4 & 18 are all boxed in as a result of the routing and the bunkering is now eye candy.  I'd be fairly certain that MacKenzie would never have intended the bunker on 18 to serve a visual purpose only.

Perhaps if you titled the thread differently to reflect what actually is your main point then us golf course architect simpletons would be able to get it a little easier.
Just curious, but what exactly are the qualifications required to become a golf course architect?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Matthew Mollica on December 12, 2007, 06:32:36 AM
A number of interesting responses here.

Shane, I won't bore you with 18 measurements, but holes 1,3,4 and 5 could all be lengthened by at least 15m, and in some instances 35m without impinging on any other hole. You've illustrated really well how 2 can be lengthened (thanks for the picture - it's great). I accept that any new Tiger tees could look unsightly, and some holes don't require lengthening.  I also accept that holes such as 9,12,15 and 18 can't be lengthened and aren't what MacKenzie would refer to as elastic in their current form.

Chris, you assert that some of the ground hazards are no longer in play for many single figure markers let alone pro players, and that course lengthening is unable to rectify this, therefore the routing is flawed? Please forgive me if I read you incorrectly.

I think some participants in this discussion realise that the hazards on some of these holes were always intended to be more fearsome than they actually appear. MacKenzie wrote of the thrill obtained in carrying a hazard of impressive appearance, which in reality, was not as daunting as it seemed. He no doubt attepted to evoke the sensations he experienced when "sailing over Hell" while at St. Andrews, when designing hazards such as those on RMW 4 and 18 and to a lesser extent, some other holes.

I'd be fascinated to know how far Mike Clayton hit a 3 iron let alone a wooden club during his pro days with a wound ball. I suspect that he would have carried the drive bunkers on 4 and 18 with a long iron, pre-1990. In that instance, one must accept that the hazards always possessed more bark than bite to put it somewhat crudely.

In this case, by strict definition, some of these hazards were never truly "in play" (gobbling well struck shots) for some golfers, even around the time of the second world war. Especially if they hit a hickory like Ogilvy!

A note regarding the drive hazards on 4, 18 and some other holes. Their appearance is fantastic, their location perfect and any alternate site nonsensical. These hazards don't need to be moved, and SHOULD NEVER BE MOVED. The tees can be pushed back if need be, and more than some here realised. I'm still not sure they need to be moved back as it certainly does not provide the greatest pleasure for the greatest number.

A final note on the hazards at 4,6,17 and to some extent 18. Raw unbridled length doesn't work on these holes, as we know. On how many other courses must one clear a hazard, but not by too much? On many occasions on these holes, one bounds through the fairway into an unpleasant or very difficult spot. Balls race down the hill into rough on 4 and 18, across the fairway into rough on 6 and 17. Surely this can't happen on a course where the routing and design are questionable.

Matthew

P.S. Neil, Thanks for the John Green piece. I never tire of reading his words.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Matthew Delahunty on December 12, 2007, 07:16:51 AM
A year or two back I authored a post which outlined the changes to the composite course

Quote
The West Course now is only 6589 yards now. The composite course is about 400 yards longer at around 7000 yards. The length of both courses has not changed very much in the past 25 years. The 2nd (4W) was lengthed by 23 metres (but often played a par four in pro events before being lengthened), the 4th (6W) by about 10 metres, the 13th (11W) by 14 metres and the 18th (18E) by 10 metres, but I can't recall any other significant changes.

The one I missed was 12W which has been lengthened at both ends.

I think Matt has identified one of the design features of MacKenzie's work - visual intimidation and deception. On holes like 4 and 18 there simply is nowhere else to put fairway traps. So do you not put them in at all? Whether they are an easy carry or not now, they have messed with a lot of golfers' minds over the years.

In any event, I don't agree that they are not in play. Over the years I've seen pros in the traps on 4 and 12 (although, admittedly not recently). At a Johnnie Walker Classic in the late 80s they had to move the tee forward on 4W.

If the wind blows, the fairway traps on at least one of 2, 4, 12, or 18 will inevitably come into play for all but the longest golfers. The beauty is that the holes play in different directions so on the days when the breeze is a factor  one will provide an easy carry but one will be a challenge. I consider myself an above average golfer and I have found myself in the traps on 2 and 4 in the past with a less than perfect drive.

The beauty in the routing of RM is that it "finds" so many great holes. MacKenzie may have been able to build elasticity into the course, but it would come at the expense of so many fantastic holes and green locations. In any event, under his design there was room to extend 1,2,3,4,6,8,9,11,12,13, albeit not by enormous yardages - in many instances they have now been extended to their limit. But could anyone back then have envisaged the modern pro golfer driving the ball 40-50% further than they did in the 20s with modern metal drivers which have enormous margin for error. If you compare that to courses built today you would have to allow room for an 800-850m par 5.

As many others have said, the answer is not lengthening but in reeling in the technology.

2 final points:
1. The tee on 18W could be moved back towards the 17th fairway. There's currently a maintenance shed in the are on the google map. I seem to recall though that the spot is earmarked for a water storage dam.

2. To Chris - how do the issues as Royal Melbourne compare with, say, Swinley Forest (another course which you rate highly)?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Andrew Summerell on December 12, 2007, 04:56:30 PM
2. To Chris - how do the issues as Royal Melbourne compare with, say, Swinley Forest (another course which you rate highly)?

Matthew, I don’t want to answer for Chris, but I was going to ask him the same question. Swinley Forest is one of my favourite courses as well and when I thought about the question, I realised how different the bunkering at both courses was. I’m not just talking style & appearance, but the strategy of SF is achieved quite differently to RMW.

Interestingly, SF could play as a par 67 (if par was important) & often plays as a par 68 with the 15th reduced to a par 4.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 12, 2007, 05:31:50 PM
Justin
Firstly there is no qualification necessary to be a golf course architect as its not a regulated profession like architecture, engineering, medicine or the law. If you can convince a client to give you some work you can call yourself a golf course architect. It just seemed curious that both Mike and I, who do this for a living, apparently did not get Chris' main point.

I can't see how on reading Mike's last post that you can take that to support Chris' thesis. Certainly there are holes that can't easily be lengthened to bring the bunkers into play for decent players from the tee. There is still plenty of overall hole strategies on these holes regardless of whether the bunkers are in play or not. I thought it would be a good exercise to go back to the early plans and see what it was that Mackenzie and Russell intended for these holes. I've looked at the two coloured plans in RM's possession, as well as the routing plan published in "The Sporting Globe" newspaper in Melbourne on January 21, 1931 which accompanied a review of the about to open West Course by experienced golf writer Jack Dillon, a man who interviewed Mackenzie a number of times back in 1926 and knew Russell well. Some of his comments are also quite enlightening.

Examination of these plans for holes 2, 4 and 18 show that the fairway bunkers on these holes were planned to be easily carryable even then. They were never at the limit of the drive - THEY WERE NEVER MEANT TO TRAP GOOD PLAYERS DRIVES! Right from day one! So how Chris and Justin can suggest that is a weakness today is unsustainable if they were never intended to do that task back in 1926. Please see the holes I've extracted from one of the coloured plans and the newspaper report and see what you think. I believe these address Chris' thesis directly, without a red herring in sight!

Coloured plan (hanging on wall of clubhouse) of Hole 2. The solid line is presumably the good player's line while the dashed line is that of the shorter hitter.
(http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t65/Saabman2005/RMWWallPlan2.jpg)

Sporting Globe plan of Hole 2 just prior to opening
(http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t65/Saabman2005/RMW2SportingGlobe.jpg)

Coloured plan of Hole 4
(http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t65/Saabman2005/RMWWallPlan4.jpg)

Sporting Globe plan of Hole 4
(http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t65/Saabman2005/RMW4SportingGlobe.jpg)

Coloured plan of Hole 18
(http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t65/Saabman2005/RMWWallPlan18.jpg)

Sporting Globe plan of Hole 18
(http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t65/Saabman2005/RMW18SportingGlobe.jpg)

Since I wrote this text last night I notice that Matthew Mollica and Matthew Delahunty have also made posts critical of Chris' thesis. Perhaps they didn't get the point either!

And to finish with, some extracts from Jack Dillon's 1931 article in which he discusses the 4th hole:

"To Ivo Whitton was given the credit for many of the features of the fourth hole (448 - 394 yards) by Alex Russell. This is, perhaps, the best hole on the course, It is distinctly dog leg, with a big, natural hazard up on the rise on the right to be carried from the tee, and as much of the corner near the woods has to be cut off as is safe."

He later concludes that:

"The single feature that made the biggest appeal to me was the contouring and undulating of the turf on the ideal spot to which the drive over the rise to the 448 yard fourth should be sent. From this location there will usually be required a wooden club, but the ball will be lying on on an up or a down slope. or the stance will not be quite normal, or the ball will be above or below the feet. This feature contributes considerably to the making of this hole the best on the course."

Dillon is describing the contour hazard of the 4th fairway in the landing area as the making of this hole - not the hazard to be carried from the tee. Clearly the fairway bunker was viewed then as secondary, as it is today.

Dillon also made some general remarks about the bunkering of the West Course, saying that:

"Shaping of the fairways and rough has been most intriguingly, pointedly and attractively done, and thereby has the need for trapping, particularly through the green, been made unnecessary to a notable degree. The economy of bunkering, most marked around the greens, is a big feature of the layout. Every natural point of the country has been marshalled to do its work, and the actual making of traps has thus been reduced considerably."

His remarks about the uniqueness of the West Course are worth repeating:

"While great courses like Metropolitan, Commonwealth and the others named above (Kingston Heath, Victoria, Yarra Yarra and Woodlands), are in many respects quite separate, and have personalities of their own, there is undoubtedly a similarity, and they may be included, with the possible exception of Commonwealth, in the same class of links archtecture. The West Course at Royal Melbourne - to date I have not had an opportunity of seeing in detail, even in the rough, The East Course, which I am informed on the best authority will be the equal of its twin - has a character and personality all its own in golf in Australia.

Essentially this character comes from the manner of the making of the new course. Mostly in the cases of the holes of the other courses, the bunkering and features were added to the holes. At The West Course the holes were superimposed on locations selected as ideal for those holes. Natural golfing features on simply wonderful seaside golfing country (possibly this is melbourne's first seaside lay-out) were seized upon with brilliant skill, and in the making exploited to a degree that has not anywhere else here been equalled. Above all the holes look natural."

Dillon suggests that:

"However, I am convinced that the links which will universally be classed as the finest golfing possession Australia has, is one that is not yet included for playing purposes in our game.....Definitely Australia is soon to see in play the finest championship layout in the land. That lay-out is The West Course of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club at Sandringham. It will be opened for play about the middle of this year."

A big call to rate a course that had not even opened the best in the land, but time has proven that Jack Dillon was right on the mark.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Justin Ryan on December 12, 2007, 06:20:44 PM
Thanks Neil, some good stuff there.  Accepting the thesis that the bunkers were never meant to trap good players drives! would the course have been better if it had been routed so these dramatic bunkers had a much greater impact on the decision to be made from the tee.  I'd suggest that a designer today would be flayed by the posters on this board for creating so many largely visual ground hazards.  It would be criticised as style over substance.

The top coloured plan also shows the 1st looking more interesting with a centreline hazard.  Do you know who was responsible for that one?

Definitely Australia is soon to see in play the finest championship layout in the land. That lay-out is The West Course of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club at Sandringham.
My RM histories are in storage, but wasn't the East course designed to be the 'championship' course of the two?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 12, 2007, 06:47:05 PM
...would the course have been better if it had been routed so these dramatic bunkers had a much greater impact on the decision to be made from the tee.

That must mean Woodlands is poorly routed, then.  

Or the bunkers are poorly placed.

I'd suggest that a designer today would be flayed by the posters on this board for creating so many largely visual ground hazards.  

That would say more about the posters than the designer.

Assuming that a designer cares one iota for what anyone posting on the Internet has to say, anyway.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Justin Ryan on December 12, 2007, 06:59:55 PM
That must mean Woodlands is poorly routed, then.  

Or the bunkers are poorly placed.
At least these thread got to 65 posts but you ran it off the rails taking stupid cheap shots.  Congratulations.

That would say more about the posters than the designer.

Assuming that a designer cares one iota for what anyone posting on the Internet has to say, anyway.
The evidence is clear that some designers do care what is posted on the internet.  Exhibit A - http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forums2/index.php?board=1;action=display;threadid=32436
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mike_Clayton on December 12, 2007, 07:20:30 PM
Could MacKenzie have realistically known that the ball would go 70 yards further - 40 with a drive and 30 with a 3 wood second - within 70 years??

I'm not sure what the answer is but 50 of those 70 have happened in the last ten years. No one predicted that.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 12, 2007, 07:32:52 PM
At least these thread got to 65 posts but you ran it off the rails taking stupid cheap shots.  Congratulations.

It is only a stupid cheap shot if you have an overly sensitive disposition and wish to deny any discussion by immediately labelling any point raised a stupid cheap shot.

Which I guess is pretty much your standard M.O.

We both know the tee on 2 is going back, but the fairway bunkers on 4,10,13,14 and 16 aren't really in play, with little to no room to expand.

6,7,9,15 and 18 of course don't rely on fairway bunkers to challenge from the tee, so it would appear Woodlands doesn't ask much of players from the tee?  

Maybe you could provide an intelligent answer, instead of a mindless snipe.

I await your considered reply with great interest.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 12, 2007, 09:51:38 PM
Matthew M
Glad you enjoyed John Green's piece.

Justin
I am pleased you can see my point that these bunkers were always meant as carry bunkers - the historical visual evidence can't be wrong. No sign of Chris though.

Should they have done them this way from the start? Well they did and who are we to criticize? Jack Dillon certainly thought that the landing area for the tee shots on number 4 over the bunkers was more than difficult in terms of contour to test the next shot. What would today's designers do if presented with a piece of land like RMW? It's likely that the hazards would be designed to be more in play but I'm sure there still would be some carry hazards that many golfers could fly. I don't think this is a basis from which to criticize the work of Mackenzie and Russell.

Mike
Who knows. Mackenzie certainly was aware of the increasing distances over time that balls were flying but could he have projected out 80 years into the future? Hard to do it. Are you doing it with your designs? I'm not. Maybe 10 or 20 years but 80? Hard to imagine the distance golf balls will travel in the year 2087. Anyone hazard a guess? And be held to account in a GCA Discussion Group?

As for Woodlands' routing - I'll let that one through to the keeper!

Neil
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 12, 2007, 11:09:34 PM
Neil, your posts #55 and #64 were a breakthrough, because you actually addressed the point I raised.  I am happy for my thesis to be disproved etc etc, but only through intelligent debate, not resorting to the tired arguments which have been used time and time again (and are completely true) but were largely irrelevant to the thread.

If you start a thread can you criticise posters for not following the direction you think they should? Interesting notion.

People can say whatever they want, but they need to address the issue if they want to claim they've rejected my premise.

Quote
I hope you are not using scoring (number of page views) as a criteria to judge the quality of your thread? Shame on you!

Please tell me you didn't take that facetious comment seriously.

Quote
It just seemed curious that both Mike and I, who do this for a living, apparently did not get Chris' main point.

You don't need to be a golf course architect to understand (or fail to understand) the question.

Quote
No sign of Chris though.

So to not respond within a couple of hours means conceding that my premise was invalid?  You said the same thing after the mostly irrelevant John Green article - you are better than that.

2. To Chris - how do the issues as Royal Melbourne compare with, say, Swinley Forest (another course which you rate highly)?

I'll try to find my Swinley Forest guide book tonight, and will respond when I have it in front of me.



Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 13, 2007, 01:23:48 AM
Chris
Your continued determination with your thesis forced me to go back in time and examine the early plans of RMW that I have copies of. So for that I thank you as I think a more detailed examination of these plans will reveal a lot more interesting information as well as the info about these carry bunkers.

I think my comment on page views was equally as facetious as yours in the first instance! My attempt at levity.

I don't think John Green's article was "largely irrelevant" as you described it, but hey, if you see it that way, then fine. I thought it went quite clearly towards discussing many of the things you raised in your opening post.

It has been an interesting thread and has revealed some interesting information as a result.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Shane Gurnett on December 13, 2007, 02:43:48 AM
Neil, do you think Mackenzie wanted those hazards to be "just carried" or carried by 50-80 metres?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Justin Ryan on December 13, 2007, 02:53:48 AM
Justin
I am pleased you can see my point that these bunkers were always meant as carry bunkers - the historical visual evidence can't be wrong.
Neil, I can't say I'm completely convinced MacKenzie wouldn't be disappointed at the disdain with which they are treated from the tee if he saw them today.  

Would you agree the first hole would be improved if they had a crack at implementing the strategy suggested on the plan?  There are no topographical impediments there.

It is only a stupid cheap shot if you have an overly sensitive disposition and wish to deny any discussion by immediately labelling any point raised a stupid cheap shot.

Which I guess is pretty much your standard M.O.
Mark, the topic was about RMW.  Woodlands has perhaps one example of the bunkering the discussion centred on.  Why would you choose Woodlands which is topographical remote from RMW rather than say Peninsula or Victoria?  If you really believed such an off topic premise was worthy of discussion then you should have started a new thread and seen where it went.  Unless you actually wanted to provide Rich Goodall with a couple of chuckles.

We both know the tee on 2 is going back, but the fairway bunkers on 4,10,13,14 and 16 aren't really in play, with little to no room to expand.

6,7,9,15 and 18 of course don't rely on fairway bunkers to challenge from the tee, so it would appear Woodlands doesn't ask much of players from the tee?  

Maybe you could provide an intelligent answer, instead of a mindless snipe.

I await your considered reply with great interest.

Mark, it was summed up fairly well earlier in the thread.  I suspect you believe it is a very intelligent answer.

And if you have ever driven it into gorse -or the horrendous blackberries, old TV sets, rusted-out cars, burnt goats   and other assorted crap sprouting off many links' dunes - you wouldn't be saying that bunkering is the only true means of challenging a tee shot.

Isn't the use of tea-tree and scrub as a driving or tee shot hazard rather widespread on National Old? :) (2,3,7,16 at least).
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Brian Walshe on December 13, 2007, 04:02:06 AM
Thanks for the invite to join the thread Mark.

Neil,

Great diagrams of some of the holes in question and probably the most compelling evidence to support Chris and his premise.  Look at where Mackenzie planned for the ball to finish from the tee shots of both the "good" and "average" player.  Yes the "good" player would carry the hazards but the landing area for today's "good" golfer would be 60m past where he indicated and never present even the slightest issue.  Likewise the "average" player today does not have to play away from the hazards because they are unable to carry them.  They hit the ball to about where the "good" player was supposed to.  Had he left room behind the tees perhaps today we would still see the ball landing in the areas Mackenzie planned for them to.

Mackenzie would have seen as much or more increase in distance the ball travels in his lifetime as we have seen, so surely, just like the (apparently unqualified) architects of today he should have thought about leaving a little room on the longer holes just in case?  Isn't that would both you and Mr Clayton would do if presented that commission today?

Crow's course record says more about how extraordinary that one round was than anything about RMW's resistance to scoring.  Might be more interesting to look at the best 10 gross stroke scores in certain events over a period of years.

Oh and Megan 8 and Jennifer 2.  
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Kevin Pallier on December 13, 2007, 04:03:18 AM
Neil

Thanks for the pics of the routings that you've shown thus far - much appreciated. Are you able to show the maps at a greater range so that one can see the routings in greater detail ?
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Rich Goodale on December 13, 2007, 04:29:09 AM
[quote author=Justin Ryan
  If you really believed such an off topic premise was worthy of discussion then you should have started a new thread and seen where it went.  Unless you actually wanted to provide Rich Goodall with a couple of chuckles.
Quote

Hi Justin.  It's Goodale (with an  'e'--think "Goodbeer"), but who's counting.... :)

I really do appreciate these Aussie-centric threads because so many of you guys have the same sort of "I don't give a s**t what anybody else says, no matter how "qualified" or posh they might think they are, I'm going to say what I think, and my opinion is as good as yours, until you prove me otherwise" attitude that we used to have in the USA.  Now, far too many Americans are fawning sycophants who will sell their soul to spend some time at a posh course/restaurant/beach club, with a posh host.  Or buy their way in.

Keep up the good work, antipodeans!  One of these days I'll get down there, and as long as I don't get chucked out of Royal Dornoch in the interim due to blasphemy or poor dress sense, I'll be able to find out for myself whether or not RM--W or E or Composite or any combination of the above--is poorly routed, or not.  Those will be fine days.

Keep up the diatribe!

Rich
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 13, 2007, 06:51:48 AM
Brian
So these plan extracts support Chris' theory do they? As I understood it Chris is suggesting that these hazards no longer present any real challenge off the tee, and by inference, must have at some time in the past. Acccordingly the routing is flawed as there is no space behind the tees on these holes to allow the bunkers to come into play once more.

But they never really were in play, at least not to reasonable hitters and Mackenzie and Russell must have been content with that condition as they built the holes that way. You cannot seriously blame these two long dead gents for not envisaging how far golf balls would travel 80 years into the future. How far into the future would you have them allow for if 80 years has proven insufficient? Ask any architect today if they are building 80 years of length increases into the courses they are designing and they will be calling the men in white coats.

As I've said before, if they were to have left that adequate room for expansion behind every hole, the routing of the West course would have been different and there would have probably been less East course holes that could have been fitted onto the land. Who can say. You would try to leave some room, but how much, and at what cost to the routing and land use etc.

As to Crow's round, certainly it must have been extraordinary, but it still hasn't been bettered despite 50 years of technological improvement. The course must bear some credit for that, even if you argue that the quality of player is down in the subsequent 50 years (not sure how you could prove that one).

Justin
I'm sure there are many things that Mackenzie would despair of if he could see them today, and people carrying his bunkers on 2, 4 and 18W so readily would not be all that high on his list I wouldn't have thought.

Certainly appears that some mounding was suggested centrally in the 1st fairway, perhaps broken ground with some rough maybe. Would certainly make the tee shot a bit more interesting but what distance from the tee would you set it? Remember RMW is a members course!

Kevin
I will try and post the entire coloured plan and the Sporting Globe plan when I get the chance.

Rich
We look forward to your visit down under with anticipation! We will continue our diatribe accordingly with your blessing!
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Justin Ryan on December 13, 2007, 07:12:35 AM
Does anyone know what the Hawtree plan said about the holes that have been discussed, if anything? Or have a copy?  I seem to remember there was talk a few years back about moving the bunker on 4, with John Lindsay involved.

Certainly appears that some mounding was suggested centrally in the 1st fairway, perhaps broken ground with some rough maybe. Would certainly make the tee shot a bit more interesting but what distance from the tee would you set it? Remember RMW is a members course!
Neil, you could stick a bunker out there at a length to challenge the better players, in the 230-260m metre range I guess.  I wouldn't see mounding working.  The vast bulk of members would still have their gentle opener (except maybe the women with the second/third shots!!).  One small possible benefit of the dispersion in distance between the elite and ordinary golfer.  Has it ever been mooted?  

Rich, I'll remember the spelling for next time.  But don't expect an apology. ;)
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 13, 2007, 07:15:46 AM
Kevin
Here are the overall plans that I extracted the hole views from. Hope you find them interesting.
regards Neil

(http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t65/Saabman2005/WallPlan.jpg)

(http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t65/Saabman2005/RMGCWestPlanSportingGlobe.jpg)
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Andrew Summerell on December 13, 2007, 07:23:59 AM
Thanks for those, Niel. It's interesting to see how much the 7th has moved.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 13, 2007, 03:13:22 PM
Mark, the topic was about RMW.  Woodlands has perhaps one example of the bunkering the discussion centred on.  Why would you choose Woodlands which is topographical remote from RMW rather than say Peninsula or Victoria?

Because I haven't played Victoria or Peninsula (North).

I don't think it is topographically remote from RM in the sense we were talking about.

2 W may not, but 4,12 and 18 W run over ridges or rises, with the tees unable to be moved back, and the hazards clearly going to be less useful in the future.  It is interesting that this is the approach used at KH on 1&6 and 8&16, and at Woodlands on 2, 10 and 18. I am not 100% sure, but at Commonwealth, there would only be two such holes routed that way - 6 and 10 - both par fives, which could be/have been lengthened.

From The Confidential Guide, about Yarra Yarra:

"The routing of the holes is not a particular feature - like many of the other Sandbelt courses, the holes march back and forth..."

So you could say it is a 'flaw' at all Sandbelt courses?

Unless you actually wanted to provide Rich Goodall with a couple of chuckles.

I am sure you will find Rich is capable of finding his own chuckles without help from me. (probably from looking in the mirror as he dresses?)
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Bill_McBride on December 13, 2007, 04:11:26 PM
Neil, is that the composite routing in bold on the black / white routing plan?  Or the West?

Thanks.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 13, 2007, 05:55:24 PM
Bill
That is just the routing of the West Course. You will see other holes on the main property that are unnumbered and these belong to Alex Russell's East course. The West Course holes 13-16  in the separate small parcel at the top left are not in the Composite and I think two other West holes (8 and 9) are not included in the Composite and all the East course holes apart from the short par 3 to the right of the 4th West are included to make up. The Composite Course was first mooted and used in the 1959 Canada Cup.
Neil
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: ed_getka on December 13, 2007, 08:16:39 PM
Neil,
   Great research, I learned a lot from the discussion. Your perserverance in the face of obstinancy is admirable.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Kevin Pallier on December 13, 2007, 09:14:27 PM
Neil

Many thanks for the routing plans - much obliged.

KP
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: David_Elvins on December 13, 2007, 09:20:34 PM
Bill,
Traditional composite routing in pink.


(http://i194.photobucket.com/albums/z17/Digby_Jeffrey/RMGCWestPlanSportingGlobe2.jpg)
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 14, 2007, 12:47:16 AM
David
Nice work showing the Composite's routing.

KP
A pleasure and glad you enjoyed them.

Ed
Perserverance is one of the necessary skills of a GCA, also patience is another!

Andrew
For some reason the club was not happy with the 7th which played to the north, and was essentially the old Sandringham 9th hole remodelled. I suspect when the clubhouse did not get built in the location they had planned for, the opportunity was there to build a new hole which played to the west. Ths was designed by Ivo Whitton in the late 30's - what Russell thought of Whitton doing this work heaven only knows. Its a pretty decent hole though!
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: David_Elvins on December 14, 2007, 02:09:58 AM
what Russell thought of Whitton doing this work heaven only knows.
Do you really think he would have been offended or against the idea?  Whitton worked closely with Russell on the East and West course and the article that accompanies the plan you posted quotes Russell as saying that Whitton deserves a lot of credit for 4W.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Neil_Crafter on December 14, 2007, 02:21:57 AM
David
That's a good question and we can only speculate on the answer. Certainly Russell credits Whitton with giving him good advice and suggestions on 4W, but its a different matter when the job of building a new par 3 is taken away from you and given to that adviser. That's all I am saying. I don't actually know if there are any historical records about this and will ask Dr Green if he knows.
Neil
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Sean_A on December 14, 2007, 03:51:32 AM
Did Dr Mac route the East & West so there could be a composite course?  Its remarkable how well the composite fits.  There are minor hitches, but this isn't at all bad considering that essentially a third course was doable.  From looking at the plan, I don't see how Dr Mac can be faulted.  Its a fairly tight property for two courses.  More importantly, there are loads of angles and corners to deal with.  It would be interesting to know what an archie of today might have done differently to given that there are 36 holes and a composite to be considered.

Ciao
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Chris Kane on December 14, 2007, 04:23:22 AM
Your perserverance in the face of obstinancy is admirable.

This is a curious thing to say Ed.  Once Neil addressed the issue - with a well constructed arguments and good evidence - there was no obstinacy that I can see.

Prior to Neil's post #55, no-one had attempted to show why my premise was flawed, instead preferring to avoid the question and performing victory dances without winning the argument.

The real success of this thread is that it wasn't ruined by Mark Ferguson.  This is the first Australian thread for quite a while where this is the case, despite his best efforts.
Title: Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
Post by: Mark_F on December 14, 2007, 05:11:04 AM
The real success of this thread is that it wasn't ruined by Mark Ferguson.  This is the first Australian thread for quite a while where this is the case, despite his best efforts.

I made no such effort.

The fact that you think so shows how insipid you really may be.

Matt Ward had you nailed three years ago on the Barnbougle thread, and you haven't found a spine since.

The question about Woodlands was an honest one. If you believe otherwise, then your legitimacy to post here is questionable, as you are clearly more beholden to what your fellow cadre may think of you than responding to something outside your comfort zone.

So my opinion of David Scaletti's photography in The Sandbelt is different from all of you.  I apologise for having a mind of my own.  

It wasn't me that 'ruined' the thread about Ogilvy's round with hickorys at RM - it was Danny Goss farcically attempting to read something that didn't exist into my response.  Not that I would expect a jellyfish like you to point that out.

Find a soul, Chris.