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Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #75 on: August 15, 2009, 10:38:56 AM »
Sean:

I agree completely with your last thought, that pushing the envelope too far keeps many courses from being great.

However, I disagree completely with the thought before.  Places like Merion and Muirfield have become so accepted now that not many would question their bona fides, but to say they don't push the envelope is nuts. 

Merion is almost certainly the hardest 6,500 yard course in the world.  The last three holes ALL push the envelope, and they're far from the only ones.  And Muirfield is probably the most severely bunkered course in the world ... if you took a hole like 4 or 8 or 9 or 13 and put it on an average course, the members would riot.

Kirk Gill

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #76 on: August 15, 2009, 11:34:04 AM »
Pushing close to the precipice seems to create one thing in the mind of a golfer that would point towards greatness, and that is memorability. On other thing, perhaps, and that is a desire for repeat play.
"After all, we're not communists."
                             -Don Barzini

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #77 on: August 15, 2009, 11:50:17 AM »
Sean:

I agree completely with your last thought, that pushing the envelope too far keeps many courses from being great.

However, I disagree completely with the thought before.  Places like Merion and Muirfield have become so accepted now that not many would question their bona fides, but to say they don't push the envelope is nuts. 

Merion is almost certainly the hardest 6,500 yard course in the world.  The last three holes ALL push the envelope, and they're far from the only ones.  And Muirfield is probably the most severely bunkered course in the world ... if you took a hole like 4 or 8 or 9 or 13 and put it on an average course, the members would riot.

Tom

I guess my tolerance for the edge is either differently defined from yours or much higher.  I don't see the any of the final three holes at Merion as pushing ANY envelop whatsoever.  16 is a great hole using the terrain and quarry wonderfully without making bogey a hard score to acheive.  It may be the best hole on the course.  17 is harsh if strictly viewed as a long par 3, but again, it is not a hard 4.  As for 18, yep, its long, but not a difficult 5.  If the club keeps the greens running in double digits and firm, then yes,  can go wth that being over the edge, but nothing about the design is remotely over the edge imo.  It is all doable.

As for Muirfield, I would call it great bunkering to make up for not a terribly exciting piece of land.  It is one of the few championship courses which I really like the bunkering despite the vast quantities of it.  However, as I have said before, if the best thing about a course is its bunekring then there is something inherently wrong or lacking about the design.  Like Merion, the only ott aspect of Muirfield is a maintenance issue - the rough.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Hankley Common, Ashridge, Gog Magog Old & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Jeff_Brauer

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #78 on: August 16, 2009, 01:34:38 PM »
With just a bit of time today I will offer some thoughts on this.

First, I doubt I would rarely design a course from the concept of putting it right on the edge of being too difficult.  And this from a guy who currently has two courses that top their states in course rating!  In truth, statistically (i.e. 95%+ golfers with 20 handicaps) there is little need for many courses to go over the edge on difficulty.

And I don't think the "precipe" is too hard to determine.  While most are against this kind of analysis in favor of a more organic, flowing design, the truth is that with the Slope system, PGA Tour Stats, etc. its not hard to determine what size target area, what percentage of different type of hazards, what slope/speed of green will put an individual hole over the top for difficulty under average conditions for a given area. 

Yes, the PGA tour stats for TPC Jacksonville or any course might have to exclude the worst weather conditions and perhaps the best to be useful.  But, the USGA course and slope ratings were developed in the field, measuring selected courses in different areas over time (and thus different conditions) to figure out what type design made for difficulty. 
And frankly, for the organic crowd, most gca's sort of intuitively know when this line is crossed, even when they do it anyway!

I believe its quite possible to design most holes with some flexibility in difficulty mostly related to the Sunday Pin location.  I played one of my courses yesterday and on the 11th hole, which I had built on the Dustpan concept of Fox Chapel's 10th (?) hole, the pin was back up in the "panhandle" and thus very difficult, which was noticed by Lou Duran.  But, a pin position in the front of the green, built to collect shots, would have made that hole much easier.

If most of the greens are of that nature, a coruse can be set up to the precipe or set up for ladies day.  Of course, set up can relate to rough, narrowing fw, and a lot of other things to make it hard.

I consciously limit the number of holes with a penal approach where only a perfect shot would do, as would most of the golden age guys who favored the option of playing for the pin rather than a perfect shot.  IMHO, there should be a minimum of one green of that type, for change of pace, preferably two.  Any more than that, makes the course over the edge of playability, and many would argue that this is two too many.  I design narrow fw, wild greens, deep bunkers, etc. etc. etc.  on about the same concept - a few are okay, but not too many. 

The real question is, IMHO, how many of these forced difficulty features can one course stand before it gets over the edge.  That can vary with the role of the course, the site (with my Quarry as a destination resort on a site lending itself to tough sand hazards an example of when to go over the top) and the wind on that site.

In the end, only a few think a hard just to be hard course is also a great course, don't they?  If we say that about older RTJ course, for example, I wonder why designers of any new course tend to think theirs will be different. ???

Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

BCrosby

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #79 on: August 16, 2009, 02:00:16 PM »
This is a very good thread with lots of interesting thoughts. But the best part for me is that there is no talk about "unfairness".

Rather the discussion has used the terms that ought to be used. Which is that sometimes designs and/or setups can be too difficult to enjoy playing. It's good to see that people aren't trying to make that "precipice" into something to do with "fairness" or "unfairness".

Please carry on.

Bob

Lyne Morrison

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #80 on: August 16, 2009, 09:14:09 PM »

I caddie for one of our accomplished members at state events. In doing so I hear repeat feedback about a few member courses that have undergone extensive remodelling. Typical observations include the belief that play is now far more difficult for the majority.

The players at these events are definitely up for a challenge - club champions, talented juniors; they know and play the game well enough - yet after 36 (or more) holes I have observed many walking away completely beaten and demoralised. Meantime the officials ponder and quietly discuss why entries have dropped significantly over successive years. Perhaps the setup should be reviewed, perhaps the events I’m referring to no longer fit these courses particularly well. If the latter is the case I’m not sure it is a good thing.

If a noticeable reduction in play by members is evident, have things been pushed too far? And if the talented youngsters - who really do need the experience on these courses - are choosing to stay away to protect scoring aggregates how should this be addressed by the administrating body? The future progress of these juniors should reveal lessons learnt on courses such as these, not the least of which would be clear thinking, patience and perseverance.

With a game played by participants of such vastly different abilities how far to push is an ever present question. Polarizing course designs are interesting for a variety of reasons - they do have a place, but as has been suggested their reality has limitations and most wouldn't want to play such a course on a regular basis.

Finding the elusive balance – there in lays the challenge. I say by all means raise the architectural integrity of our golf courses - but in so doing lets be mindful of providing a setup that employs a degree of perspective and accommodates the majority.

I was coincidently rereading Bill Coores feature interview just the other day and note here one of his comments on lessons learnt from Ben Crenshaw - that a subtle contour or the consideration of a wind angle will serve the purpose of good golf more than any heavy handed creation could ever achieve.

Cheers - Lyne


« Last Edit: August 16, 2009, 09:32:14 PM by Lyne Morrison »

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #81 on: August 16, 2009, 10:07:50 PM »
Most of the responses here assume that "the precipice" is only related to the difficulty of the course, but I did not mean to insist upon that.  There is a similar theoretical line between "fun" and "goofy" which is also a precipice of sorts, and which also depends on the observer.

For some observers, courses like North Berwick and Cruden Bay (and some of Jim Engh's, I think) fall on the wrong side of that line.  For some reason my second course at Stonewall has also been singled out as excessively tricky, even though I don't really see it being much different than a lot of other things we've built.

Peter Pallotta

Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #82 on: August 16, 2009, 11:20:39 PM »
I have a feeing that if a golf architect tries something once, the golf hole will be judged harshly (i.e. deemed as going too far) much more readily than if the architect repeats his approach several times, starting early in the round and getting progressively closer to the edge.  In the former case, the precipice can seem arbitrary; in the latter, it will seem part of an overall and coherent plan/ethos.  I think the 'audience' wants to follow (and will follow) the 'author' wherever he wants to lead them, but they want to feel that their effort is warranted -- and if they get the sense that the author hasn't delivered what he promised (impicitely or explicitely) right from the start, they get upset, and blame not themselves (for their unwillingnes to be surprised) but the author (for not having a handle on what he wants to say).  

Peter  
« Last Edit: August 16, 2009, 11:30:40 PM by Peter Pallotta »

Jeff_Brauer

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #83 on: August 19, 2009, 08:40:09 AM »
Reading the Grosse Isle (Ross) thread and looking at the pictures I was struck by the notion (and common phrase) that it would be a course you could play every day and not get tired of it.

What would be wrong for striving for "the precipice" of being enjoyable every day for the rest of your life?  Frankly, I strongly disagree with Melvyn's take on what golf "should" be.  At least, I don't see to many golfers who want their course to be on something other than "the precipice" of being an opportunity to have a great day, decent score, and some comraderie and friendly competition.  Golf is NOT life, as the tee shirt says, nor is it some kind of metaphor for its struggles. Its a release for most of us.

So, if TD really means what he says in his last post, I am already there!

BTW, I played with two gca'er on one of my courses this weekend, which includes some greens on "the precipice" of being goofy, including a scaled out replica of the Road Hole green on a driveable par 4.  While polite, I coudl see from their grimaces that negotiating the bunker and deep swale in the green front were clearly painful.  If some dedicated architecture buffs wonder about that stuff (and think it may be goofy) then what is the line for the population in general?
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #84 on: August 19, 2009, 08:55:14 AM »
Jeff:

I'm all for a course that will be fun every day for the rest of your life.  For me, North Berwick fits that bill as well as any ... and yet lots of people I know dismiss it, as too short or too quirky.

I agree with you that Melvyn's position comes off as too strident, but I think it has to be seen in the perspective of a Scottish golfer.  The Scots don't go out by themselves to post a score.  They play matches -- and frequently foursomes, where half the time you are just watching your partner or opponent deal with those nasty hazards Melvyn defends.  They would love your nasty Road hole green.

In the end, there has to be a balance between the two.  If you never go up to the precipice in 18 holes, you'll never enjoy the view.  But if you stay there for too long, you might fall over the edge.

Jeff_Brauer

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #85 on: August 19, 2009, 11:27:42 AM »
Tom,

I agree a few holes on any course need to go to the edge - even my ex, who was the typical 130 shooting gal, liked a forced carry or something difficult every once in a while, or she felt the course was too condescending.  And, something like the island green at TPC, where you are thinking about that hole in the back of your mind on the first tee,  makes the course, even if the rest of the course isn't/shouldn't be TPC difficult.

I guess that ties the precipice discussion to the rythm and flow of the course discussion.  On each course, its probably better to weave from easy to hard than it his to hit the accelerator and make every hole anywhere near the precipice.  A few - 1 to maybe 6 holes - might be okay, depending on a lot of other factors.

I understand the match play difference, and the thrill of recovery from somewhere not so nice.  But, Melvyn sounds like he not only wants to beat his opponents in golf, but body slam them on the ground to rub it in!  (just kidding)
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Bill_McBride

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #86 on: August 19, 2009, 04:00:20 PM »
Sean:

I agree completely with your last thought, that pushing the envelope too far keeps many courses from being great.

However, I disagree completely with the thought before.  Places like Merion and Muirfield have become so accepted now that not many would question their bona fides, but to say they don't push the envelope is nuts. 

Merion is almost certainly the hardest 6,500 yard course in the world.  The last three holes ALL push the envelope, and they're far from the only ones.  And Muirfield is probably the most severely bunkered course in the world ... if you took a hole like 4 or 8 or 9 or 13 and put it on an average course, the members would riot.

That's funny about Muirfield.  As soon as Sean mentioned Muirfield, my thoughts immediately went to two holes:  #10 with those cross bunkers that can be tough to carry in a breeze that far in front of the green on a par 4, and #13, with that skinny steep green up in that hillside with all those DEEP bunkers!  Edgy indeed.

Matt_Ward

Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #87 on: August 19, 2009, 05:54:07 PM »
Tom D:

When you mention "fun" and "goofy" -- try to realize that many people will accept -- sometimes embrace strongly -- the "goofy" elements provided they fall on the other side of the pond and are thought to be part and parcel when playing the game there.

Throw the same situation here in the States and the exact opposite interpretation can and often does happen.

I've used the analogy before -- many people think they want spicey Thai food -- in most instances they'll likely be happy with steak and potato type items.

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #88 on: August 19, 2009, 09:37:40 PM »
Matt:

I don't think that double standard you cite is really about which side of the Atlantic you're on.  I think it's about the age of the course.  An old course can get away with some really wacky features, but a modern course might be called into question for the same feature.

There are two reasons for that.  The first is just that on a modern course, you can question the architect directly on why he would put in a feature like that, so everyone does question it.  On an older course the architect is long gone so people tend to be more accepting.

The second reason is just that if the quirky feature is on a 75-year-old course and it has survived for 75 years, it has probably proven over time that it works okay, no matter how funky you think it is.  And a new feature does not have that defense.

Ben Sims

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #89 on: August 19, 2009, 10:09:09 PM »
Matt:

I don't think that double standard you cite is really about which side of the Atlantic you're on.  I think it's about the age of the course.  An old course can get away with some really wacky features, but a modern course might be called into question for the same feature.


Tom,

You're on to something there.  13 green at Crystal vs. 13 green at Kingsley.  Both very, very tough in certain situations.  But I would think that the perspective that each hole gets analyzed on is very different. 

Melvyn Morrow

Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #90 on: August 20, 2009, 12:16:41 AM »

Jeff

“But, Melvyn sounds like he not only wants to beat his opponents in golf, but body slam them on the ground to rub it in!  (just kidding)”

I have no interest in beating anyone and certainly no intention of hurting a soul. However, I do want a game of Golf to be a challenge with options. I am certainly not interested in a course that is the equivalent to a weak and wet handshake.

There is more to golf than the modern easy options, to hitting the Green with a single drive from the Tee. There is so much talk of slow play yet we often describe the guys who hits a long ball from the Tee, then using all forms of distance aids get near the Green/pin, how can we have slow play when most try and drive the Greens, it just does not make sense. Nevertheless, we here seem to achieve a 3 hourish round combating our hazards and walk away from our courses with generally a big smile upon our faces. Perhaps we just try to play the course, with no need to prove that we are better, bigger, longer or whatever than the next guy. Nor do we rub people’s faces in anything. Instead, we buy them a pint and have a good time remembering the round.

I fear you have me all wrong, I just want to play golf as I know it and as far as I am concerned is the way it was intended to be played on these great shores of ours. Alas, I hear you do not have many Links courses in the States, that is indeed bad news if true.

Did you know what all the old reports have in common when advising of a new golf course, words saying the new golf course “There are plenty of natural hazards to make the game interesting and test the skill of the player”. This one description comes from the report I recently posted on Turnberry. I think that seems to convey the way we play our game with some additional man made hazards to add just that little more spice to our game.

I repeat I have no interest in beating anyone either in a game of golf or physically. It’s just that IMHO golf should not be made easy, to do so is a total misunderstanding of the game.

Melvyn 


Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #91 on: August 20, 2009, 05:30:41 AM »
Jeff:

I'm all for a course that will be fun every day for the rest of your life.  For me, North Berwick fits that bill as well as any ... and yet lots of people I know dismiss it, as too short or too quirky.

I agree with you that Melvyn's position comes off as too strident, but I think it has to be seen in the perspective of a Scottish golfer.  The Scots don't go out by themselves to post a score.  They play matches -- and frequently foursomes, where half the time you are just watching your partner or opponent deal with those nasty hazards Melvyn defends.  They would love your nasty Road hole green.

In the end, there has to be a balance between the two.  If you never go up to the precipice in 18 holes, you'll never enjoy the view.  But if you stay there for too long, you might fall over the edge.

Tom

North Berwick (and a great many UK courses) has a few things going for it which make the funk easier to take on a long term/weekly basis.  Its a beautiful spot.  The course is for the most part flat, shortish with short green to tee walks and therefore an easy walk.  Something I appreciate more and more.  The funk really comes on holes which aren't long or terribly difficult.  The course can yield low scores for a moderately talented golfer - say 10 capper.  In many ways, the West Links is the ideal course.

Jeff

There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating that course which doesn't really push the envelop, but is still wonderful to play on a weekly basis.  These are the sort of courses that most golfers gravitate to for membership especially once the travel bug has subsided. 

Ace

I still contend that the edge of Muirfield is the rough in combo with the bunkering.  I blame the rough, others think the bunkering is on the edge.  But we must also view Muirfield in the context of its purpose and that is to serve two masters - the membership and the R&A Championship Comm. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Hankley Common, Ashridge, Gog Magog Old & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Matt_Ward

Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #92 on: August 20, 2009, 09:55:31 AM »
Tom:

I see your point -- but also consider this -- so much of modern design follows the maxim of "me too." That is -- developers simply want a golf course design similar to what they have seen and UNDERSTAND because they feel it will sell more houses. Unfortunately, so much of modern design is akiin to big box stores you see today -- they fill a general need but lack any real depth / character or personalized nature -- even if it's edgy and controversial.

I like designs that clearly are meant to rub people in a variety of ways. Wolf Creek in Mesquite, NV does that. Is it a course for the masses? No. Is it fun to play? Yes. Can the masses play it periodically and enjoy what it offers. I think so.

I like what DeVries did at Kingsley because you see elements that sometimes go over the heads of people who have always had a steak and potato type diet plan.

The issue you raised about a long time course from across the pond having survivied such features is a good one. So much of what calls itself architecture today is conformity. Unfortunately, the "classic hold your nose in the air types here" are often the main culprits in asking for different types of designs and when presented with them here in the States then cry foul for they don't apply to their extremely narrow vein of acceptability.

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Going To The Precipice
« Reply #93 on: August 20, 2009, 10:04:15 AM »
Matt:

I have never been to Wolf Creek but let me ask a question about it.

Are the severe parts of the course deliberate attempts by the architect "to rub people in a variety of ways" -- I guess that is legal in parts of Nevada -- or are they just the reality of a difficult site which gave no good way to avoid some severe holes?

A lot of the stuff in the UK is the latter.  Perhaps some quirks could have been avoided [for example, they could have shortened the 14th at North Berwick to a par-3, and then walked over to 15, instead of playing the blind shot over the hill], but for practical purposes of getting a decent yardage and keeping the greens and tees close together, they had to use the feature which resulted in a blind shot.

To me, that is MUCH different from when an architect builds a really quirky green where you might have to putt around a bunker.  However, most people do not seem to make that distinction when they talk about quirk -- maybe because they can't tell which features were optional and which were compulsory.

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