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Chris Kane

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Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« 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?  

wsmorrison

Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #1 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.

ed_getka

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #2 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.
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

Chris Kane

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #3 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.

Quote
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.


Bill_McBride

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #4 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!

Noel Freeman

Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #5 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..

Jim Sullivan

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #6 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?

Chris Kane

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #7 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.

Bill_McBride

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #8 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!

Noel Freeman

Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #9 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!

Mark_F

Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #10 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?


ed_getka

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #11 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?
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

Mark_F

Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #12 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.

James Bennett

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #13 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
Bob; its impossible to explain some of the clutter that gets recalled from the attic between my ears. .  (SL Solow)

ed_getka

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #14 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.
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

Chris Kane

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #15 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.  

Quote
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.

Quote
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.

Quote
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.

Quote
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
« Last Edit: December 10, 2007, 04:41:56 PM by Chris Kane »

ed_getka

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #16 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.
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

ed_getka

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #17 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.
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

Chris Kane

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #18 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.

Mike_Clayton

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #19 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.




Chris Kane

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #20 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?  

ed_getka

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #21 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?
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

ed_getka

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #22 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?
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

Chris Kane

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #23 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.

Quote
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.

Neil_Crafter

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Re:Has time shown that RMW is poorly routed?
« Reply #24 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
 

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