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Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #25 on: December 02, 2002, 09:39:52 AM »
This subject is fascinating to me, and I'm still trying to explore how changes in technology, etc., might be either completely negating strategy for the top players, or better yet, looking to find ways of creating a "new" idea of strategy for them.

I guess my definition of "strategy" is more like the "heroic" school than RTJ Jr.'s definition of a simple "safe route" that I posted above.

To me, it still comes back to the Old Course, the Mother of all Strategic thinking.

Yes, on almost every hole one can play safely on the tee ball by going left.  However, that route inevitably leaves a problematic approach, usually requiring the next shot to be played over a bunker, partially blind, or to an oblique angle, or some combination of all three.

However, the golfer who successfully challenges the bunker complexes and gorse down the right is inevitably given a favored route for the approach.

Lest one begin to think of TOC as one dimensional, the best holes actually begin to move the bunker complexes into the center of the fairway, creating even more options.  I'm thinking here of holes like 12, 14, 16, where the far right side is still the dangerous, risk/reward route (with OB a newer more dangerous consideration), but those center complexes also have to make the player think of playing short, or attempting the carry on the "center route".

Such multi-optional holes tend to be the most interesting to play over time and in differing conditions.  

But, to get back to my original point, I don't think anyone would call TOC "heroic", yet it offers enormous risk/reward options from the tee, and with second shots on par fives by providing advantage to the player who succesfully confronts and negotiates those hazards.  The player who takes the safe route finds their next shot enormously complicated, and might choose or have to play "safe" again on their approach to another "safe location that might be a far distance from the hole.  

In my mind, a "safe" route that offers no problems to solve other than a bit longer detour is pretty damn boring.  :P

What's more, if there is little reward for challenging a hazard on a hole where one only gains limited "advantage" of some decrease in distance but none (or a more complicated approach) in terms of positioning, wouldn't even the best player almost always take the safer route, as well?  WHERE is the TEMPTATION??  

Now you have two classes of players out there just playing "away" from hazards all day, not exactly scintillating
enjoyment, in my opinion.   ::)

NGLA is quite another good example of what I'm trying to explain, as is Merion.  At Merion, for instance, challenging the OB boundaries leaves one with a much preferred advantage for the subequent shot.  At NGLA, taking the daring aggressive route on holes like 1, 2, 3, 7, and many others and succeeding provides "an advantage" in no uncertain terms!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:12 PM by -1 »


Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #26 on: December 02, 2002, 11:10:30 AM »

I've been reading your posts and I can see you're sort of struggling to answer this question on this thread.

I think it would help you to consider just who you're talking about when you consider something like 'What consitutes an advantage'?

You mentioned, for instance, that in your opinion, "at Merion challenging the boundaries leaves you with a much preferred advantage for the subsequent shot".

I would say to you that really isn't true, but only depending on who you're talking about. Maybe to you or me that might seem like a real advantage and it very well may be to you and me but to a touring pro, for instance, that makes very little difference.

I'm not sure why I've never mentioned this before but Nick Faldo mentioned this very thing--and even as soon as his approach to the second green.

He said that today the touring pros including him really aren't challenged by that type of thing much anymore and don't consider them that important, except.......!

But the reasons why he said that became more interesting a little later. As he got to the 4th green he asked if the course ever really speeded up and firmed up their greens.

When he was asked a hole or so later why he asked such a thing since Merion's greens are generally pretty fast anyway, he said because that's when today's touring pros really start to take notice and look for strategies and their nuances!

He said basically these guys are so long today and are so capable of flying the ball over almost anything a green offers that they don't really think much about angles to have to avoid playing over bunkers, hazards, whatever!!

Except--and I think this was a big exception to him when there happens to be something about the greens that throws them off or puts a good deal more pressure on them.

And clearly to him that meant fast surfaces and also very firm surfaces. That's when you take them out of their comfort zones of just flying the ball relatively close to pins all day which they're good at! That's when they start considering angles to do things like give themselves more room to maneuver the ball on a green with an approach.

And if you could have seen him you'd understand where he was coming from. Sure, the guy plays golf like a machine, rarely hitting anything resembling what we consider a bad shot. He's not that long by tour standards (flying the ball in the air just over 260 that day). But he was right in the middle of every fairway and ON PURPOSE--except the ones that turned!! That to him was #10 and #14! Obviously he probably couldn't figure out exactly how far out the turns were!

But this example should be very instructive to all of us. And I think there's something else extremely important to consider with golfers of that caliber. That would be the format they're playing.

We all know that a 72 hole stroke play tournament to tour pros is all about "mistake avoidance" and patience! Those who win don't invariably mention patience all the time these days for no reason! And at that level, in that mode, certainly both putting and recovering intelligently and well at the times they do make mistakes has basically gotten to be what it's all about.

But if you put those guys on a course like Merion in a match play format, even at their advanced levels I dare say you might see them going about playing a course like that a little different--maybe quite a lot different--of course always considering what's going on with their opponents.

Something to think about but I think there's an awful lot in those two things he mentioned at that level. I don't know how I could have forgotten to mentioned what he said about faster greens but particularly FIRMER ones!

Maybe that's where parts of this ideal maintenance meld (the ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY FIRMER GREEN SURFACES) particularly on those older more strategically designed courses started to occur to me. I thought it came to me at NGLA but maybe it was a combination of both.

I was very impressed by Faldo's take on things, by the way. He seems to be a very thoughtful man and certainly also about architecture and things relating to it which would be a large part of what he considers "strategies", what's advantageous and what's not necessarily so.

But that's that level. For the rest of us strategies on a course like Merion are obviously more important in mistake avoidance, since we tend to make so many more of them in both thinking and certainly in execution than they do!

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:12 PM by -1 »


Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #27 on: December 02, 2002, 01:01:21 PM »
Tom Paul;

Thanks for your detailed thoughts, as always.

What I'm starting to hear from you and others, perhaps not directly, as well as from my own personal observations, is that unless the greens of any course are firm and fairly unreceptive to all but the most precisely struck shot, then there is almost NO such thing as traditional notions of strategy for today's top players.

That's fairly disheartening to consider...especially when we still probably all hold to the somewhat quaint notion that the best courses should hold interest and challenge for every level of golfer.  

That gap between the best, accomplished players and the rest of us seems to be growing, as well.  When I was mentioning the strategic demands of the Old Course earlier, a point I failed to make is that then you have a Tiger Woods or John Daly come by and just blow it over all the bunker complexes, effectively negating strategy except for the approach shots and considering whether an aerial shot or a running one might work best on that tight, firm turf.

So, what's the answer?  Is it still possible to build new courses (or maintain existing ones) in a way that will test and interest the best players while providing good strategies and playability for the average golfer?  

Length is one factor, but I think we've gone as far down that route as possible and I think the returns are diminishing.  We already have plenty of new courses that "range from 7,300 to 5,200 yards with 5 sets of tees", and it seems that professional level players routinely eat them up pretty well, too.  Unless we are going to start seeing courses over 7,500 yards for all tour events (which is about what we'd need to effectively equal technological improvements), I don't know that the challenge will be acute for top players.  

Maintenance meld is certainly key here, but does that really only factor into approach shots or does it really "trickle down" all the way back to the tee positioning for the accomplished player?

Is that why "anywhere" in the fairway (and even in the assiduously manicured bunkers) seems to be "advantageous" positioning for that level of player?

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:12 PM by -1 »


Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #28 on: December 02, 2002, 01:29:52 PM »
Or, put another way...

Is the swift, certain return of PENAL design, possibly coupled with firm and fast, the only remaining solution to challenge and bring thought-provoking interest to the top 1% of the game??  

Isn't the US Open setup, no matter which course (besides Pinehurst) is used, just penal design to the extreme??

Hasn't the British Open begun to borrow this thinking, with their setups at Muirfield and Carnoustie in recent years?

Even ANGC and the Masters is moving towards more penal features to control scoring.

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #29 on: December 02, 2002, 01:30:52 PM »

I wouldn't really feel disheartened about this if you were you. I'm not! Sure, things have changed a lot in golf and the way very good golfers go about it.

But don't for a second underestimate this maintenance meld thing. That to me can be unbelievably comprehensive and effective in bringing back the necessary consideration of the strategies of some of these older courses--even if some are somewhat nauncy. And it can bring back these strategies and options very much for even very good players too!

And the HEARTENING thing about it is you just can't imagine how one small factor can have a tremendous influence in that! Of course that would be the exact FIRMNESS of the green surfaces! I do think speed of greens (a whole different and separate factor) has something to do with it too but not anywhere near the extent of the "Ideal" green firmness.

Just take some of the recent Australian tournaments as a perfect example! Not necessarily Victoria in the last few weeks because that was much more about green speed than green firmness.

But some of the others in recent years were a perfect example of the "ideal" green firmness. The pros just couldn't stop their approaches like they're so used to doing and that alone brought back all the nuancy strategic considerations of the golf course to them. They were forced to use all kinds of options available to them although they might not be that used to some of the optional shots these days! But I saw them trying them anyway. These guys who are so good are so much better at understanding how to play defensively than we think they are if they have to!

Kapalua a few years ago was very much the same thing. They very much had the "ideal maintenance meld" for that type of course and design that week and the pros used every available option the course had!

Don't be disheartened. Ideal maintenance meld can do so much more to revitalize all the options and strategies for even very good players and of it all the ideal green surface firmness ALONE is the absolute KEY!!

That right there, to me, is basically the axis around which so much strategic consideration and the whole spectrum of it turns on! The proper and ideal green firmness is the thing that creates so much of the "balance" among most all these available options. It alone does so much to bring them all into "balance", in other words!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #30 on: December 02, 2002, 01:39:18 PM »

Does the effect of this kind of thing (ideal maintenance meld and particularly ideal green surface firmness) trickle all the way back to the tee?

Think of it this way--if you had a much harder time controlling your approach shots (particularly aerial) into greens wouldn't you tend to get more agressive off the tee? Would you rather have a 4 iron in or a 7 iron? A 7 iron in or a wedge?

I sure would and you know you would too! So would anyone!

So yes, you can bet your bippy it will trickle all the way back to the tee!

And even if they don't want to have it trickle all the way back to the tee and they want to play more conservatively then they just might be forced to play some other kind of approach option other than the standard aerial one!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:12 PM by -1 »


Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #31 on: December 02, 2002, 01:47:02 PM »

I'm guessing that you'd agree then that keeping the approaches and green surrounds as firm as the greens themselves is a key factor, as well?

Bunkers playing as hazards again might help as well, I'd imagine.  I was reading George Bahto's CB Macdonald book last night, and I loved his quote where he said he'd like to have a calvary charge go through his bunkers each day.

Evidently, ole CB believed that a player should be able to advance their ball from a bunker a few yards, at best!  Probably tough to get backspin from a hoof print, as well! ;)
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #32 on: December 02, 2002, 02:13:03 PM »

Of course ideally the approaches need to be firm! If you're going to dial down the reliabiltiy of the aerial approach by firming up the green surfaces to the extent that a very good player will think to choose another option (another type of shot) you have to give the other shot to him as another option! You can't take it away from him or what are you leaving him to reasonably choose?

That's what happened last year at Bay Hill! Super firm greens where some really well struck aerial shots weren't holding and soft approaches where the players couldn't even get a run-in to release to the green!

This is the very antithesis of the "ideal maintenance meld".

Basically to get the ideal maintenance meld on these old style courses for really good players you have to get all the options the golf course and its design offers working to their maximum!!

EXCEPT ONE!! The total reliability of the aerial option!!

If you don't dial the reliability of that single option down to the proper extent those good players will use it all day, all week, all month and all year long! And the only way to dial that aerial shot reliability down to the proper extent is to firm up those green surfaces to the proper extent! It isn't even hard to tell! For very good players it's when an aerial shot will hardly even dent the green surface!

And I think we've already shown, as Faldo said about Merion, when they're able to use that single option all the time the golf course's inherent and multiple strategies cease to have much meaning to them--except for the heretofore ever present aerial option of course!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


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Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #33 on: December 02, 2002, 05:04:38 PM »
Tom -

Your Faldo story is great.

I think you are onto something.

What F&F does - essentially - is make a course play for the Tour player they way it plays for normal golfers under normal conditions.

F&F requires them to worry about bounce and roll, just like us mortals. It reinstates some of the strategy of the course that they would otherwise just fly over.

The problem is that you can't always count on F&F being there. If it rains before or during a tournament, or if there are turf issues or if Tour players whine enough, F&F conditions can be difficult to maintain. Even with the best of intentions.

Then you are left with a defenseless course that the pros will butcher.

I'm coming to think that we need to build special golf venues. These aren't really golf "courses". You and I wouldn't play them. We wouldn't want to paly them.

They would be large open spaces where Tour players' shot making skills are tested. Forget bunkers, water hazards, hills, angled greens, etc. None of that stuff matters to world class players anyway. Just set up a large open field with tees and pins and give points for distance, accuracy, closest to the hole, etc. Par would be irrelevant. It is anyway, isn't it? Then you go to a large putting green and have putting contests from different distances and slopes. A mega skills challenge. Most points win.

Saves messing up otherwise perfectly good golf courses to suit the Woods, Loves, Garcias, etc.

I'm being facetious of course, but I think that is not very far from the way a Tour player sees a typical course these days. Strategic elements are irrelevant to him; the course is just a large field where you test who is hitting it the best that week. Bunkers, schmunkers.

He perceives absolutely no pay off to "understanding" the strategic choices intended for a hole. It's merely a matter of getting his yardages right.

All of which is to say that we are heading down the wrong path if architects worry too much about designing courses that a Tour player will have to respect. Ain't gonna happen. Not if they want people like you and me to play it too.

Which takes me back to Jeff's original post. I hope in his designs and in those of others, how a Tour pro might play a course is given little, if any, weight. And then maybe this inside/inside stuff will be less attractive.


« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


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Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #34 on: December 02, 2002, 05:14:27 PM »

     Are the greens at Merion and NGLA bentgrass?  If they are, then how do they get them "firm" ?  By rolling them?  By not watering?  Here in Texas if we stop watering bentgrass and the wind blows a little bit, the bentgrass turns blue then turns brown and then dies.  So I would love to see and play your "ideal maintenance meld" but I beleive that in my part of the country "firm" greens just aren't in the superintendent's vocabulary.
     Now we have this Tiff-Eagle bermudagrass that gets pretty firm and can handle the heat fair, but you get one of those hot windy days it will turn off color and start stressing.  Then here comes the water to relieve the stressed green and then there goes your frim and fast.  I guess that's why we have this aerial type game now, the superintendents want to keep their jobs.

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »

Eric Pevoto

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Re: What Constitutes an advantage?
« Reply #35 on: December 02, 2002, 06:19:04 PM »
I'm hung up on the fact that the inside/inside scheme seems to be the line of instinct in practice, yet it also seems to go against strategic design (except as defined by RTJ, Jr.) I think I'm being stubborn.  :-/

The elite player today plays solely by yardage book.  So then, how fun would it be to see the tour play a course chock full of angles, diagonals and cross bunkers with the fairways screaming firm and fast?  Turn it up enough so that the roll is hard to control;  make it very hard to get the right yardage.  This, coupled with the perceived need to be aggressive off the tee would certainly bring temptation into play.  


They've already built those "special golf venues."  Have you tried to play any of the 7500+ yard layouts from the back tees?  You're right, they are no fun. ;D

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »
There's no home cooking these days.  It's all microwave.Bill Kittleman

Golf doesn't work for those that don't know what golf can be...Mike Nuzzo


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