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Harvey Dickens

Somebody help the new kid out.....
« on: July 02, 2009, 10:48:24 PM »
I admit that I don't understand architecture....I don't know what makes a course great.... I don't know what people look for in a course. I have a passion for this game that goes back a long time and know what I like when I see it, but I don't know what experts are looking at or for.

In thinking about this I realize that I like architecture in general...buildings, ballparks and homes. I also realize that I like old school better than modernistic. I have seen other topics on this board where Kentucky is not considered to have much in the way of golf course architecture and yet I have enjoyed golf in this state as much as anywhere I have played. Are there only a handful of great courses in the states?

I would love to know what makes a course considered as a good/great course. What are you looking for and at? I am going on a trip to TPC Sawgrass, Ocean Hammock and the Conservatory next week. What do I need to look at. How do you judge a course?

Thanks in advance for any advice and for putting up with the newbie asking silly questions. Gotta start somewhere right.

Michael Dugger

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Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2009, 11:04:26 PM »
I'm glad to get an early crack at convincing you WHAT I THINK is great, Harvey.  Welcome to GCA!!!

Dude, it's like when you look at a naked woman.  How do you go about describing her architecture, all you know is how it affects you.

Same with golf course architecture.  First and foremost, a great course is about the feeling it leaves you with.

Did the 'walk in the park' thrill you?  Could you have taken that walk and NOT PLAYED golf but still enjoyed yourself?  A truly great course MUST possess incredible land.  This is the spice of golf course architecture, some great courses are atop cliffs overlooking the ocean, others run across tree-lined meadows, others occupy the nastiest scrub land you've ever layed your eyes on.  

A round of golf should be a thrilling journey.  Was every club in the bag asked for, did you hit a wide variety of shots, did the course test your entire set of skills, did the course require thought and strategy, in addition to execution?

Once you've experienced the feeling, then you can begin to study how different kinds of holes and different architectural features help propogate "that" experience.  It is possible to have an incredible architectural achievement over a boring plot of land. (Texas Tech)

Just like the biggest crime in golf course design is wasting a plumb piece of property with a dog of a golf course (Sandpines)
« Last Edit: July 02, 2009, 11:06:43 PM by Michael Dugger »
What does it matter if the poor player can putt all the way from tee to green, provided that he has to zigzag so frequently that he takes six or seven putts to reach it?     --Alistair Mackenzie--

Andy Troeger

Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2009, 11:06:28 PM »
Harvey,
Don't sell yourself short--when you say that you know what you like when you see it--what features do those courses have?

To me the real question is "what makes a course fun to play?" This can be re-worded in a number of ways but I think most of the time it comes down to that one point. As you probably have learned from reading this board, even that question won't necessarily get a consensus answer.  My comment would just be to think of what makes a course fun for you--you can read what others say and that may make you think more critically about your views, but I believe there's always some aspect that's subjective.

John_Conley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2009, 11:09:41 PM »
Harvey:

For me a great course will offer variety in many forms.  Short and long holes.  Balance - up/down, right/left, fade/draw, etc...  Interest.  I pretty much think a flat course can be good or even pretty good, but never great.

Ocean Hammock is a real treat.  Much is made about the oceanside holes, but I think you'll find several good holes inside too.  Conservatory is long and manufactured, but you'll see one real good uphill par 3.  I believer #8.

I'm not a fan of the TPC.  Many consider it great.  A pretty horrible site - innovative at the time.  Kind of cramped in on a flat, swampy plot abutting a hotel and busy road...just not my thing.

Have a nice trip.

Harvey Dickens

Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2009, 11:16:41 PM »
Micheal,
I have no problem describing the architecture I like in the female form!!!!!!! Golf courses seem much more difficult. Of course I have not studied golf courses as much as I have the female form.

Michael Dugger

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Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2009, 11:25:02 PM »
Harvey,

Like any "geeky" subject, you have a whole new vernacular to pick up on.

Perhaps I should expand upon my original post

Consider the following:

Was every club in the bag asked for?
Did you hit a wide variety of shots?
Did the course test your entire set of skills?
Did the course require thought and strategy, in addition to execution?

Combine all those qualities with a beatiful, awe inspiring setting and you have great golf.


What does it matter if the poor player can putt all the way from tee to green, provided that he has to zigzag so frequently that he takes six or seven putts to reach it?     --Alistair Mackenzie--

Peter Pallotta

Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2009, 11:43:44 PM »
And yet, Harvey, if you've followed the site for a while, you'll have noticed that every second thread is some variation of "Best Course in [name the state]", "Greatest Opening 4 [or 6 or 9] Holes in Golf", "Golf Digest's [or Magazine's, or yours, or mine] Top 100 of All Time [or of last year, or this week, or next month]", "Worst [or best] Course by the Best [or worst] Architect," etc, etc, etc.  It's enough to make a guy start thinking there must be something "objective" about this whole golf course architecture thing, and somethng important behind this constant desire for rankings, and it's enough to make you start feeling that maybe everyone except you knows exactly what the rules are [oh, sorry, no rules] but just aren't telling.  But then, start asking about, say, the fundamental principles underlying great golf course architecture as manifested in the classic links courses of the British Isles, and watch the conversation dry up, and really quickly too.  Not really a criticism of the site, mind you -- I too would like to know what the good work is, and I personally have no insight into the fundamental principles underlying great golf archtecture.  But just to say, what the hell -- why not just pick a perspective, any one you want and that feels right to you.  It just may be a brilliant way to analyze a golf course.  Me, I tend to think in terms of the "sound" a golf course makes....

Welcome aboard
Peter
« Last Edit: July 02, 2009, 11:53:45 PM by Peter Pallotta »

Richard Choi

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2009, 11:47:45 PM »
How about a list of "MUST READ" books on golf architecture to start a novice off on?

Harvey Dickens

Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2009, 11:54:41 PM »
Peter,
Please expand on "the sound a golf course makes". That has really piqued my curiosity.

ed_getka

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2009, 12:06:15 AM »
Micheal,
I have no problem describing the architecture I like in the female form!!!!!!! Golf courses seem much more difficult. Of course I have not studied golf courses as much as I have the female form.

Harvey,
    From what I have heard over the years you will get a fair sampling of some good architecture at Ocean Hammock. It is on my list of courses to see one day. There are so many factors that go into great courses. Often the land has interesting movement and the architect has utilized that movement to greatest advantage. I just played Holston Hills recently and it is a great example of a course that has some pretty good land and Ross seemingly used every square inch of it to great affect.
    Contours of greens can add great interest to approach shots and the short game around the greens. Slopes of the greens can dictate a preferred angle to approach from. Placement of bunkers in the fairway and line of charm is another area. Use of diagonals to dictate how much of a carry one cares to take on, a longer carry giving an advantage for the next shot. Or think about a straightaway par 4 with a green that is open in the front with bunkers protecting the right and left sides of the green. Now rotate that green and bunkers 45 degrees so now the opening of the green is at 4 o'clock and now there is a fronting bunker that must be carried if taking the direct route to the pin from the middle of the fairway. Now it becomes obvious why one would want to have their tee shot out to the right, so that the green is opened up for the approach, and that is where width comes in. There are just hundreds and hundreds of examples like this that can add to your appreciation of golf.
    Get out to play with some GCA'ers when you get a chance and not only will you meet some great people you will learn a lot about what we are so passionate about here.
    I think the biggest attribute of the great courses is that you will learn something new even after dozens of rounds.
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

ed_getka

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2009, 12:08:45 AM »
How about a list of "MUST READ" books on golf architecture to start a novice off on?

Search the archives since this usually comes up about once a year. Geoff Shackelford's books are a great, affordable place to start and Tom Doak's Anatomy of a Golf Course is still pretty easy to find. Look in the bibliographies of those books and that should turn up dozens more that are worthy of checking out.
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

ed_getka

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2009, 12:14:20 AM »
Peter,
Please expand on "the sound a golf course makes". That has really piqued my curiosity.

I believe Peter is talking about the firmness that most great courses present due to their maintenance practices. You will often not find pitch marks, or very small pitch marks on courses that are firm and fast. There is a marked thump that a ball landing on one of these greens makes. Add some contour to greens like this and where you land the ball becomes very important. It is not just a matter of being 150 yards out on your approach and pulling the club that goes that far. A lot more thinking has to go into playing the shot to get near the hole.
"Perimeter-weighted fairways", The best euphemism for containment mounding I've ever heard.

Adam Clayman

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2009, 12:16:34 AM »
My advice would be to read the reviews on this site. Try to understand what is being said, and, knowing Ran and Ben, what isn't.

Then I would attempt to understand what your feeling when you see a hole or course for the first time (or the 1000th). When and why you feel it, is important.  Since you are an admitted novice, seriously look at your opinion and just assume it's all wrong. Do that until you are no longer a novice and you should stand a chance to be somewhat objective.

Many come on here and let their passion for the game rule them. The DG is addicting. Resist the need to be humorous. Ask questions when you don't understand. Read, learn opine. Appreciate the differences.

"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

Ben Sims

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Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2009, 12:20:57 AM »
Many come on here and let their passion for the game rule them. The DG is addicting. Resist the need to be humorous. Ask questions when you don't understand. Read, learn opine. Appreciate the differences.


Adam,

I felt like you were talking to me. Great advice and one of the truest posts ever on this site.  I should pay attention...

John Mayhugh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2009, 12:57:19 AM »
My advice would be to read the reviews on this site. Try to understand what is being said, and, knowing Ran and Ben, what isn't.

Great advice.  Try to find courses you have either played or are familiar with (e.g. watched a tournament there).  You might also search the discussion group for discussion on courses you have played and see what others like & dislike.

Then, if none of this helps, take a ride over to Holston Hills with me sometime and I'll show you.  ;)

Sean_A

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Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2009, 02:02:04 AM »
Harvey

Yes, do all the above, but remember five things.  All architecture is site specific.  One element may be cool on one site and just so so on another.  Why this is the case is as open to conjecture as anything in architecture and it doesn't really matter.  Second, pay attention to the land.  Most of the best holes are created on the best land.  One of the biggest shortcomings of archie eval is to forget this.  To a large degree, the archie is only as good as the land he works on.  Third, try and step into another man's shoes when looking at architecture.  Four, think for yourself.  None of these guys, no matter how experienced and learned, are bullet proof when it comes to a subjective topic like architecture.  I hear what I think is crazy drivel from some of the most respected guys around.  Finally, and related to the fourth point, remember that this is a website.  There is bound to be an element of nuance, sometimes crucially important nuance, which is lost due to the necessary form of communication we use.  Give folks the benefit of the doubt and ask questions.


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

Anthony Gray

Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #16 on: July 03, 2009, 07:45:32 AM »

The DG is addicting. Resist the need to be humorous. Ask questions when you don't understand. Read, learn opine. Appreciate the differences.



  And for God's sake don't enjoy yourself or make friends.

  Anthony


 

Jason Topp

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Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2009, 08:09:18 AM »
I admit that I don't understand architecture....I don't know what makes a course great.... I don't know what people look for in a course. I have a passion for this game that goes back a long time and know what I like when I see it, but I don't know what experts are looking at or for.


Harvey:

No need to think people on this site are experts on what makes a course great.  The fact of the matter is that it is all opinion.  You are entitled to yours.  I try to express mine and then listen to those that disagree.  I always learn something even when I think the person is wrong (see the Lundin Links discussion right now).

My definition of a great course is one that creates interest through effective use of challenges but also gives hope.  Preferably it does so for all classes of golfer from the tour professional to a person that shoots 120.  Finally, a great course has something magical about it.

For example - If I stand on a tee of a 440 yard straight hole with a narrow fairway pinched by forest on both sides of the hole and a green guarded by deep bunkers and elevated 30 feet from the fairway - I stand on the tee knowing that I will not measure up to that challenge very often and will likely take a 5 or worse.  Take the same hole, widen the fairway and create an opening that allows a run up shot to the green and a shorter approach if one hits a downslope located on the left edge of the fairway .  Suddently you might have a great hole - even though in scoring terms it plays as difficult as the first hole.  The slope tempts the player to hit to the edge of the fairway.  At the same time it gives hope to the player because everyone can hit an accurate tee shot at times.

As for other definitions, I highly recommend you find and read Alistar Mackenzie's 13 Priniciples.  They are probably the best summation of what an architect should try to achieve in a golf course that I have seen.  As for books, the big three in my mind are Shackelfords "Grounds for Golf"  Daley's Golf Architecture - A Worldwide Perspecctive - Vol. 1 and Doak's "Anatomy of a Golf Course."  I also recommend reading Jeremy Glenn's Reverse Old Course piece in the "In My Opinion" section.  While not directly discussing what makes a great golf course it teaches through example about as well as anything I have read on the site.

Anthony Gray

Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2009, 08:13:55 AM »
  Harvey,

  You asked for advice so here it is. Your trip to those courses should include more than golf. Live life to its fullest. Live Love Laugh and enjoy your youth so when you are old you won't be bitter that your best days are behind you. So birdie the 17th at sawgrass and appreciate how the tree on 16 never comes into play for the big boys but can wreck havic with the layup of the average golfer. Do you lay up behind it so you can hit a hihigh shot over it or do you take on the water more and try to lay up past it?
  But by all means ask the locals to direct you to the resteraunt that is behind the trailor park in St Augustine. I do not rember the name but eny bronzed local is sure to know. The cooter there is great.Real men eat cooter. Go to the fort and the fountain of youth. You want architecture than tour the old college in the middle of town Flagler. If you have a lady friend with you dine at La Parisan but relax and do not be in a hurry. Take time to check out the golf hall of fame where you can find such members as the HUMOROUS duo of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Maybe their humor was appreciated by some in the golfing world. Stay busy. Make a few long putts. And return home exhausted and enriched. Sorry no fish bars in Jacksonville.

  Anthony

« Last Edit: July 03, 2009, 08:43:28 AM by Anthony Gray »

George Pazin

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2009, 09:51:37 AM »
Harvey -

DO NOT accept the premise that one knows great architecture when one sees it. This is one of the most overrated statements of all time, in all of its many many forms.

READ about architecture, seeking out the words of the architects themselves. Doak's book Anatomy of a Golf Course is a great start; many or most of the great architects have written extensively about their courses. Pete Dye's Bury Me In A Pot Bunker is a fun and easy to read book offering a glimpse into the mind of a genius.

ASK many questions of the people on this site - there's no such thing as a stupid question, and too many are posting just to hear themselves speak (I don't exempt myself from that observation). Share your own thoughts as well - even if you make a mistake, you can learn from it, if you choose.

And most importantly,

THINK about what you read and hear, and about your own experiences on golf courses.

Oh yeah, have fun, too.

 :)
Big drivers and hot balls are the product of golf course design that rewards the hit one far then hit one high strategy.  Shinny showed everyone how to take care of this whole technology dilemma. - Pat Brockwell, 6/24/04

Emil Weber

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Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #20 on: July 03, 2009, 10:19:47 AM »
I think there is one thing that's objective in Golf Course Architecture - That is the answer to the question 'what do we want from a golf course' : It's FUN. How many of you guys don't play golf for that reason?

HOW the fun is created, that's subjective. For some it's the views, for others difficulty, but for me it is first and foremost the possibility of playing a VARIETY OF SHOTS, which includes a litle bit of the ground game, and the natural beauty of a golf course.

Peter Pallotta

Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2009, 12:42:02 PM »
Harvey - thanks for asking for a follow-up, but I have as much to learn as you do, and Ed's answer (along with the suggestions by Adam and George and Sean etc etc) is better/more useful than anything I can provide.  (I too found Tom's Anatomy of a Golf Course the clearest -- and for that reason, best -- overview of the subject.)  For myself, I was thinking more about the way a course FEELS to me, bold and in-your-face and jagged like a rock anthem, or understated and flowing like a jazz ballad, a muted-trumpet line

Peter 

Tom_Doak

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Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #22 on: July 03, 2009, 02:13:33 PM »
Harvey:

I read all the books I could on golf architecture when I was fairly young, but really the key to my education was getting out and seeing a bunch of golf courses -- average courses and many of the best in the world -- and observing how they worked, and figuring out for myself what was good or not.

The most important thing to remember is that it's not just about how they fit YOUR game -- it's how they work for EVERYBODY.  You may even find out that some of the best courses are just as appealing to non-golfers and to neighbors as they are to the members.

Michael Dugger

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Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2009, 02:50:23 PM »
Harvey,

Live Love Laugh and enjoy your youth so when you are old you won't be bitter that your best days are behind you.


Anthony,

On his introductory thread, Harvey stated he's like 40 something.

I think youth has passed him by already, but he doesn't sound bitter!
What does it matter if the poor player can putt all the way from tee to green, provided that he has to zigzag so frequently that he takes six or seven putts to reach it?     --Alistair Mackenzie--

Dick Kirkpatrick

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Somebody help the new kid out.....
« Reply #24 on: July 03, 2009, 03:40:38 PM »
The most highly regarded golf courses in the world have earned that recocgnition not necessarily because of their design, location or the property they are built on.

What separates the great courses from the lesser ones is that they are enjoyable and memorable.

I was once told by an old architect friend of mine who worked with Stanley Thompson that you remember more golf holes on the courses that you like the most. It could be the layout, the design, the trees and other natural attributes, but it will be memorable (and fun)

Only you can decide for yourself what are your favourite golf courses, and the design will be secondary in many instances.

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