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Ira Fishman

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Best Contour for Golf
« on: April 22, 2023, 02:28:48 PM »
Thunderstorms canceled us out today so I thumbed through Volume 3 of the Confidential Guide and stumbled across in the back a list of courses under the category of the subject line. I have zero idea of the criteria or whether the other Volumes include it. But it strikes me as an interesting concept because it seems to meld the quality of the site and the quality of the design.


Ira

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2023, 02:40:46 PM »
The best contour for playing golf is not always the same as the most attractive contour to look at.

Sean_A

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2023, 03:59:17 PM »
The best contour for playing golf is not always the same as the most attractive contour to look at.

Ain't that the truth.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Clyne, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate, West Byfleet, North Foreland & Ladybank

Tom_Doak

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2023, 09:34:27 PM »
As part of a new project, I have had occasion to commission topo maps of several famous courses, and the most interesting thing I've noticed from the maps is how relatively flat most of the golf holes are, through the line of play.


In hindsight, this makes perfect sense . . . anywhere there is a rise of more than five feet on the incline between the player and the target, the shot becomes blind, and most great courses have very few blind holes.


I have always noted the human tendency to draw too many contours and too much "stuff" when designing something, but poring over these maps really drove the point home.

V_Halyard

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2023, 10:28:41 PM »
The best contour for playing golf is not always the same as the most attractive contour to look at.

Ain't that the truth.

Ciao


Is it fair to say the land of St. Andrews would be relatively unremarkable with out the golf course?
"It's a tiny little ball that doesn't even move... how hard could it be?"  I will walk and carry 'til I can't... or look (really) stupid.

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2023, 10:34:03 PM »
What St Andrews proves is that it is _undulation_ not _elevation change_ that is at the heart of great golfing land.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2023, 02:25:00 AM »
Iím not sure I agree, Adam. In fact my point was that cool looking undulation is often not directly related to great golf.


What really makes TOC great is the greens and the perfect mix of how they are approached. Those greens have relatively large, flat pinnable areas. The undulation in and around the greens is almost perfect, partially because it is not too violent and partially because it is somewhat predictable. Sure, that undulation adds immeasurably to the quality of the course but only because it works. The undulation from tee to green is - for the most part - just eye candy. It works in creating different lies to play from and that certainly adds to the unpredictability of the game. We mostly like that kind of thing on this websiteÖ but the reason I really prefer short grass micro-undulations is that they look better than flattish fairways, not that they play better.


Where does undulation cease being called undulation and become more elevation change? I donít knowÖ. What I do know is that I just played Delamere Forest for the first time and it has the best topography for golf that Iíve seen on an inland course in GB&I.


St Patricks undoubtedly has some of the greatest looking fairway undulation of any golf course, old or modern. Mix in the elevation change and it - in theory - is the poster child of this thread. The key should always be a golf course that makes each and every golfer think about different ways they could play each shot. Violent contour does not always promote that, it sometimes restricts it. I am still working out whether St Patricks asks me to play loads of different shots when my intention is scoring. If it does (and it probably does), then I will also be declaring that it should be Top-5 Ireland and then some. But until Iím 100% sure that it asks me more than Ballybee or Lahinch, then it sits just behind them.


Ditto these one timers who come in and state that The Island is better than Portmarnock. If great golf is the aim then that is just the wrong conclusion. For a golfer of my ability (4 handicap but moderate swing speed), I tend to fly my balls in to the greens at The Island. They are receptive and the approaches are too unpredictable. At Portmarnock, I find myself with far bigger conundrums. For higher handicappers, using the ground at The Island is fun on the first few spins. But once you are focusing on scoring for the monthly medal, that unpredictability also becomes a hindrance. Those undulations and dunes and contour sure are great to look at though.


For instance, Iím just back from a weekend where I played Formby for the first time. What a fantastic course. Huge variety. My favourite part of the round were those holes from 11 to 16 where you come back in to the open and you have these wonderful, heaving fairways. Do those fairways make for better golf? I donít know. I know they made me try and carry my ball all the way to the greens. It could be argued that cool looking micro-undulations effect our perception of how good a course is without having an effect on the golf, just as the weather or how well we played has the same result.

Most of what I talk about above is through the green. I think thereís no doubt that extended short grass and contour around the edges and back of greens can add to recovery options for missed approaches.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2023, 05:05:49 AM by Ally Mcintosh »

Thomas Dai

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2023, 04:18:02 AM »
Descriptions as evolved from the earliest days when the game was more one dimensional ... smooth, flat areas = 'fair'ways, scruffy, undulating areas = rough?
atb

Charlie Goerges

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2023, 11:17:01 AM »
As part of a new project, I have had occasion to commission topo maps of several famous courses, and the most interesting thing I've noticed from the maps is how relatively flat most of the golf holes are, through the line of play.


In hindsight, this makes perfect sense . . . anywhere there is a rise of more than five feet on the incline between the player and the target, the shot becomes blind, and most great courses have very few blind holes.


I have always noted the human tendency to draw too many contours and too much "stuff" when designing something, but poring over these maps really drove the point home.




It makes sense, that makes for an easier walk. Personally I love the way an Eastward Ho! or WBYC looks, that's my ideal. I know I'd be dead at the end of a round with the shape I'm in though. (If I had to walk)
« Last Edit: April 24, 2023, 12:01:07 PM by Charlie Goerges »
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Ira Fishman

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2023, 11:38:20 AM »
List from Volume 2


Abaco Club
Black Mesa
Cypress Point
Desert Forest
Diamante Dunes
Hot Springs (Arlington)
Hillcrest, OK
LACC North
Mid Ocean
Nanea


Volume 3


Rock Creek
Cape Breton Highlands
NGLA
Sand Hills
St Georgeís, Ont
Pacific Dunes
Sylvania
Oakland Hills South
Prairie Dunes
Dismal River


I have not played enough of them to draw a through line.


Too bad Volume 1 doesnít include the category.


Ira

Matt Schoolfield

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Re: Best Contour for Golf
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2023, 02:33:19 PM »
Quote
I have zero idea of the criteria or whether the other Volumes include it. But it strikes me as an interesting concept because it seems to meld the quality of the site and the quality of the design.

When I think of "Best Contours" I think of optionality.

I'm a member at San Francisco's Gleneagles, and there is a hole (#7 / #16) where players have two options on the approach because of the contours. It's not so clear in the illustrations, but players with a good number can attack the flag fairly easily. However, because the green is built into a steep hillside, players with a much more challenging shot (or higher handicappers), can play the ball high-right of the hole, take the nasty bunkers out of play and have a pretty good chance of trickling down onto the green. The option here is to trade reward for a good shot, for a reduction in worst-case-scenario risk. A perfect shot to the high-right side can easily get caught up in the grass, but a missed approach to the green (ending up in a bunker or off the left side) is disaster.

The same type of optionality can be seen in the small undulations, notably MacKenzie discusses how Ted Blackwell used the undulations on Corner of the Dyke at St Andrews by playing to the edge of a valley past the Principal's Nose that allowed him to funnel the ball to the championship pin position.

The principle is the same for both types of land forms in providing alternative routes to the player. Contours that do not give players optionality may test a player's club selection, or create semi-blind shots, but I find they usually only provide a bit of extra cardio.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2023, 03:24:01 PM by Matt Schoolfield »
Let's map every course on earth and give the course books away for free: Golf Course Wiki
Some strong opinions on golf: Wigs on the Green

I really think golf culture should be more like beer culture than wine culture

Sean_A

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Re: Best Contour for Golf New
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2023, 03:22:44 AM »
What St Andrews proves is that it is _undulation_ not _elevation change_ that is at the heart of great golfing land.

Cha ching. Elevation change in the main creates a heightened need to control ball flight and runout. Undulation can deliver the same result due to awkward lies. We don't need 25 feet of up and and down on most holes. It's simply the case that land as we find at TOC and Deal is much more rare than relatively hilly properties.

The obvious answer is contour, slope and elevation change are essential for good golf. One is not more important than the other.

Ciao
« Last Edit: April 25, 2023, 03:36:22 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Clyne, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate, West Byfleet, North Foreland & Ladybank

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