News:

This discussion group is best enjoyed using Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.


Mark Bourgeois

"[T]he highest merit in a golf course consists in the number of problems in strategy that it can set the player.  That, at any rate, is the merit of St. Andrews, that there are always problems to be solved, that there will always be a difference of opinion as to the best way of solving them, and that the problems themselves are always varying against the wind." -- Bernard Darwin

Questions:
1. How would you count the number of "problems in strategy?"  What does that mean to you?
2. Are links inherently better at this than other forms, and if so, why?
3. What courses, not necessarily the usual suspects, meet this standard best?

Some that come to mind:
Hoylake
Royal Melbourne Composite
#2 (not under USGA setup)

Others I have heard meet this test but can't corroborate:
Royal Worlington
The NLE ANGC (not the current one)
Riviera

Mark

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
The aspect of Darwin's thoughts I like best and believe have the most merit is "that there are always problems to be solved, that there will always be a difference of opinion as to the best way of solving them".  I don't necessarily think that the number of problems in strategy is worthy of high merit.  I spose this ties in exactly with my thoughts on simplicity of design.  It isn't the umber of problems which matter as much as the quality and diversity of problems. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Rich Goodale

The trouble with these strategery questions is that those of us without Wardean/Morrisettish abilities to nail how a course plays on the very first go are limited in terms of the courses we can confidently discuss to those few we know very well (i.e. have played 50+ times, in all conditions).  I'm confident that of the 5 such courses I know, only Dornoch fits Bernie's criterion, and it fits it to a tee (as it were....).  So, for Dornoch, the answers to those questions are:

1.  To me at Dornoch the number of strategeric problems which I face are essentially infinite, to the extent that each and every stroke I have played there (with the exclusion of 6" or less tap-ins) involve a strategic choice specific to their particular situation.  Academically, this could possibly said of other courses I am very familiar with (e.g. Aberdour), but the difference is that at Dornoch the risk/reward metrics for most of these shots are much more robust than at the other courses.  Maybe this is why, at least to me, Dornoch is "great."

2.  Yes, due to the effects of gravity (forces affecting motion in the vertical plane) and wind (forces afecting motion in the horizontal plane).  Can't remember where I got that idea....?

3.  Regardless of what I said above, Aberdour has interesting strategeric challenges due to the highly sloping and firm (in season) greens as well as a seaside, windy location.  However, because it is short the risk/reward metrics are not as robust as on a longer course such as Dornoch.  They are, however, possibly more subtle and may actually lead to a higher Crosby Quotient (score dispersion) that Dornoch or other "Championship" courses.  I think this is due to expectations--at Dornoch even the best players expect bogeys and treasure bkirides.  At Abderour they expect pars and birdies and are appalled by bogeys, and yet the best laid plans of mice and men, even scratch players, are gang aft agley.......

Mark Bourgeois

But, Sean, doesn't the concept of "strategic problems," as Darwin defined them and as you remind us, have inherent merit, so that one can't grade them on a scale - it's an either / or, and therefore it is appropriate to count?

What's the difference between a great "solvable strategic problem" and a crappy "solvable strategic problem"?

Mark

Mark Bourgeois

Wow, Rich, you should write a book!

Although that could be the end of this thread, and a good end it would be, what about how many plays it takes to see that a strategic problem is offered versus the number of plays required to figure out whether it is solvable and the risks and rewards of each decision?

As an aside, isn't this why TOC should be taken off must-play lists? Nobody says we should read "Finnegan's Wake" before we die, do they?

Mark

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
But, Sean, doesn't the concept of "strategic problems," as Darwin defined them and as you remind us, have inherent merit, so that one can't grade them on a scale - it's an either / or, and therefore it is appropriate to count?

What's the difference between a great "solvable strategic problem" and a crappy "solvable strategic problem"?

Mark

Mark

I spose there are two differences.  First, some problems have more solutions.  I think these are better problems, but that isn't to say that problems with fewer solutions are necessary for good design.  In fact, it is necessary to have the odd problem that doesn't have a "solution".  This is the sort where one just does as he is told or mark an X down.  Second, some problems are more used than others.  Even if they are great problems, they can become tiresome if encountered too often on a course (surprise, surprise I will name bunkers as one such problem).  Thus the importance of problem diversity being a contributor to overall quality of problems.  

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Bart Bradley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Mark:

The problem that I have with the notion that golf courses present "solvable strategic problems" is the implication that knowing where to hit the ball somehow allows us to do it...almost as if you pick up your chess piece and move it to the proper square.  The game of golf itself is too variable and elastic for me to completely visualize this way of breaking down the game....If I play a course dozens of times I might play a hole the "ideal" way a few times, what about the rest of the times?  Even the greatest players in the world will have different lengths and angles and lies...etc...

To me, all 18 hole courses supply nearly the same number of strategic problems...it is in the variety, uniqueness and fun of the problems that I think establishes the value of the course.

Ok, my brain hurts after that.

Bart

Rich Goodale

Wow, Rich, you should write a book!

Although that could be the end of this thread, and a good end it would be, what about how many plays it takes to see that a strategic problem is offered versus the number of plays required to figure out whether it is solvable and the risks and rewards of each decision?

As an aside, isn't this why TOC should be taken off must-play lists? Nobody says we should read "Finnegan's Wake" before we die, do they?

Mark


I remember being threatened with the stockade when my platoon commander found me reading "FW" during basic training at Ft. Dix.  In that his name was Lt. Finnegan I could see his point......

Extending that to TOC, one could make your argument, but if and only if your goal for every game of golf is the quantity of learning rather than the quality.

I personally have a set of strategies for each course I have played before, each entailing gut feel risks and rewards, but they are obviously much richer for the courses I have played often than those I have not.  For courses like Aberdour and Dornoch that I have played a lot and continue to play often, I continuously learn, but at a declining rate.  I think that better players have a smaller set of options, as they do not spray the ball as much as poorer players like me.  I think it was Mackenzie who mentioned how Joyce Wethered played one of the early holes on the Old Course the same way every time, and a way which was unique to her and perfectly consonant with her game.  I wish I were so good, even though the game would be a lot less fun if it were more predictable.  Not!!!

Merry whatever

Rich
« Last Edit: December 13, 2008, 12:20:54 PM by Rich Goodale »

TEPaul

On the whole Darwin's criteria is pretty good but it would be more respected if the guy had some idea how to write!! When air-headed people want to feel good about architecture they read Darwin but when incisive and intelligent people on architecture want something really good they read the laser-beam like clarity of Max Behr's writing.





 :-*

BCrosby

  • Karma: +0/-0
"I personally have a set of strategies for each course I have played before, each entailing gut feel risks and rewards, but they are obviously much richer for the courses I have played often than those I have not."

I think that is true for most of us on good courses we play frequently.

Slightly tangential to this excellent thread, Simpson, Croome, Bobby Jones and others said that any course on which local knowledge did not give a player a distinct advantage was not a very interesting (read: good) course.

That was Simpson's problem with Colt's redo of Muirfield. He thought Colt had made the playing strategies there too obvious. That was Bobby Jones' criticism of many US championship courses. He said they called for a finite set of playing strategies day in and day out, weather or no weather.

Why do links courses generally do a better job of overcoming these issues? I think because players expect links courses to be less finished, more irregular than inland, "scientifically" designed courses. Their strategic variety flows from those irregularities, many of which would not be tolerated on inland courses.

So funky stuff that is a glitch in Chicago is a feature in Dornoch.

Bob

P.S. Did I hear someone ask for a recapitulation of the BCrosby scoring spread conjecture? ;)    
« Last Edit: December 13, 2008, 01:13:32 PM by BCrosby »

TEPaul

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2008, 01:40:36 PM »
Bob:

Wow, what a great post there, particularly this:

"Slightly tangential to this excellent thread, Simpson, Croome, Bobby Jones and others said that any course on which local knowledge did not give a player a distinct advantage was not a very interesting (read: good) course."

You know I've been telling you about how you really took some great argument, logic and clarity in your essay right into the enemy camp and just put it at their feet for all to see and appreciate----well this post is another fine example of that.

There are a whole lot of old saws and assumptions hanging around in golf and golf architecture including on here that need to be shaken up alot and you're doing it with posts like this one.

Trying to design local knowledge right out of architecture probably isn't any different than trying to take luck and the inherent mysteriousness of it right out of golf.

BCrosby

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2008, 02:08:58 PM »
Tom -

There are lots of directions this topic could (gotta love GCA, no?), but let me throw out one thought.

I had assumed for years that people were concerned with perfect conditioning solely because they thought it made their courses look better (fill in your own definition of "better"). And no doubt aesthetics is an important part of it; the ANGC syndrome and all.

But there is another dimension to the issue that I am just beginning to appreciate. Part of the motivation for immaculately conditioned courses is that such conditioning minimizes exactly the sorts of irregularities that Darwin and others thought made courses more enduringly interesting. That is, part of the agenda (usually unstated) for better conditioning is the minimization of luck and arbitrary playing outcomes.

Bob   
« Last Edit: December 13, 2008, 02:16:26 PM by BCrosby »

TEPaul

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2008, 02:21:25 PM »
"Part of the motivation for immaculately conditioned courses is that such conditioning minimizes exactly the sorts of irregularities that Darwin and others thought made courses more enduringly interesting."


Bob:

Precisely. And that apparently a guy like Crane thought DID NOT make courses more enduringly interesting because those irregularities failed to serve another purpose (and apparently to Crane a  more important purpose)-----eg the idea of greater predictability of results ("Equitableness") to better isolate, highlight AND REWARD the physical skill of human opponents and competitors during their simultaneous but always parallel (unvied for I&B) contests against a single golf course.

« Last Edit: December 13, 2008, 02:26:33 PM by TEPaul »

Mark Bourgeois

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2008, 02:42:55 PM »

Why do links courses generally do a better job of overcoming these issues? I think because players expect links courses to be less finished, more irregular than inland, "scientifically" designed courses. Their strategic variety flows from those irregularities, many of which would not be tolerated on inland courses.

So funky stuff that is a glitch in Chicago is a feature in Dornoch.
 

This must be a good post as it sets forth more problems in strategy; the excerpt above is really interesting to me.

Earlier this year I started studying camouflage as a doctrine.  In a series of email exchanges with the world's leading experts on camouflage, one in particular really stood out.  I had been trying to explain the application of camouflage doctrine to course design, and more broadly the importance of "naturalism" or hiding the hand of man.

Ah, he wrote back, "To paraphrase Claude Levi-Strauss, cooking it but serving it to look raw."  This is a critical point!  If you are familiar with Levi-Strauss's concepts, then this insight opens up a whole world, at least it did for me.  I have spent a lot of time working through how design really does take the cooked and serve it raw.  It's an elemental thing that draws in a lot of other disciplines and concepts.

Nobody really believes "nature" is the architect of TOC, do they?

Links design takes the cooked and serves it raw.  Somehow this is very important to people's enjoyment -- most people's anyway -- of golf courses.  It's like a fundamental need, much like Levi-Strauss's point about modern cultures not really getting away from the "raw" mythemes, just cooking them so they become acceptable.

We think we want our golf raw, but what we're really eating is cooked but served to look raw.  It's the rationale hiding behind naturalism, camouflage and "deep architecture" (inaccessible architecture).

Bob, so your Reply #11 somehow is related to this, in that one could argue ANGC et al are taking the cooked and serving it...cooked.  That it appears to be very popular tells us that something in people's preferences may have changed.  Levi-Strauss would say most golfers have moved from a primitive culture to a modern one; they now want designers to take the raw and serve it cooked.

Personally, Bob's post is what sets links golf on a higher plane: to have the cooked served as though it were raw is a far more palatable meal.

Mark

TEPaul

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2008, 03:08:39 PM »
Mark:

It looks like you feel you have learned much of what you were looking for in Mackenzie's theories on and application of camouflage to golf course architecture----eg your analogy (or the camouflage expert's analogy) is that it is cooked but appears to be raw.

Your next step should be to try to analyze and understand why the likes of Mackenzie (or Behr et al and other so-called "naturalists" in GCA) think or thought it is important that golf architecture should somehow look raw----ie like some facsimile of raw nature.

Max Behr gave his own reasons and explanations why he felt golfers would feel it should be that way.

I think it is up to us now to look back to see how right or how wrong he may've been to presume most all golfers should or would feel that way. We have at least had the benefit of seeing what has happened to GCA and the opinions of golfers in the many decades since he wrote those things.

BCrosby

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2008, 03:16:13 PM »
Mark -

The Raw and the Cooked was on my nightstand through most of college. I was a fan of C L/S, Foucault, Lacan and others for a while. (I assume you know that L/S died about a month ago.)

Your raw and cooked borrowing from L/S makes sense. I think Behr said much the same thing, though less economically.

Behr thought it vitally important that courses appear to be natural because he thought it important that golfers believe they are engaging nature. Whether that "natural" appearance was the result of ten or so passes with a CAT D-6 was irrelevant. What mattered was the appearance.

The "naturalism illusion" or maybe the "naturalism conceit" (I'm sounding like an English grad student, which is not good) was important for Behr because he believed it was the predicate to a range of  golfer responses to the golf course that don't exist when that illusion/conceit doesn't exist.

I think Behr was on to something.

Bob      
« Last Edit: December 13, 2008, 03:27:51 PM by BCrosby »

Mark_F

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2008, 03:16:54 PM »
Like Sean, I don't necessarily see why the number of problems to be solved is as important as the variety of problems encountered throughout a round.

Surely in the name of variety a great course would have several holes/shots which are more pure demand?

Similarly, a simple but unequivocal hole or two woouldn't go astray either - the plan is immediately obvious, it is just a question of how close you are willing to dare a particular hazard at that moment, rather than this line from the tee leads to that line in, or that line from the tee leads to this line in?

Chuck Brown

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2008, 03:21:01 PM »
I was going to say "Dornoch" until Rich beat me to it.  Seminole?  NGL?  On oddball choice might even be Yale?

TEPaul

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2008, 03:31:57 PM »
"That illusion of naturalism (I'm sounding like an English grad student, which is not good) was important for Behr because he beleived it set up a range of relationships between golfer and golf course that don't exist when that illusion doesn't exist."


Bob:

I realize we are now right on the doorstep of what you called 'the eschatological', and I remind you that you did say you weren't going to get into that in this upcoming rollout.

What do you want to do? Do you want to open that door and discuss what was likely in there in Behr's mind or would you prefer to wait? If you want to wait it may take a while and in the meantime I'm getting no younger!  ;)

On the other hand, this one is probably not the thread for this.

Mark Bourgeois

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #19 on: December 13, 2008, 04:02:34 PM »
Mark:

It looks like you feel you have learned much of what you were looking for in Mackenzie's theories on and application of camouflage to golf course architecture----eg your analogy (or the camouflage expert's analogy) is that it is cooked but appears to be raw.

Your next step should be to try to analyze and understand why the likes of Mackenzie (or Behr et al and other so-called "naturalists" in GCA) think or thought it is important that golf architecture should somehow look raw----ie like some facsimile of raw nature.

Max Behr gave his own reasons and explanations why he felt golfers would feel it should be that way.

I think it is up to us now to look back to see how right or how wrong he may've been to presume most all golfers should or would feel that way. We have at least had the benefit of seeing what has happened to GCA and the opinions of golfers in the many decades since he wrote those things.

So far what I've read has been unsatisfactory. It just seems to explain the connection along the lines of "Nature is the best teacher" or "natural looks pretty."

Besides the camo people, Claude Levi-Strauss seems to be a lot closer to what I'm looking for.  The Gestalt movement, Frank Lloyd Wright and even Robert Baden-Powell (interesting Mac connection there) also.

I'm sure I've missed some important Behr piece, though. Any help there?

Mark

BCrosby

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2008, 09:50:39 AM »
I came across the passage below and thought it relevant to this thread:

"Great strategic holes primarily challenge thought.  Knowledge of what to do is not immediate.  It must be sought." -- Max Behr

Mark Bourgeois

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #21 on: December 14, 2008, 10:12:06 AM »
So great architecture is by definition inaccessible (or at least very difficult to access)?

BCrosby

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2008, 10:44:05 AM »
I think Behr is saying something less dramatic. He's saying that great strategic holes are not obvious but require thought.

Nothing terribly profound, but I thought the quote interesting because it aligns with Darwin's quote at the top of the thread.

Bob 

TEPaul

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2008, 11:05:41 AM »
MarkB:

I'm not too sure how you got from this:

"Great strategic holes primarily challenge thought.  Knowledge of what to do is not immediate.  It must be sought."

To this:

"So great architecture is by definition inaccessible (or at least very difficult to access)?"

;)


TEPaul

Re: How Darwin Defined a Great Course; What Would You Say Meets His Criteria?
« Reply #24 on: December 14, 2008, 11:10:38 AM »
Bob:

I just found a description of TOC by a foreign correspondent in an early American Golfer magazine that may be about the clearest explanation I've ever seen of what real strategic architecture is and is about.

Tags:
Tags:

An Error Has Occurred!

Call to undefined function theme_linktree()
Back