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Jason Topp

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Really Fast and Firm - 2 recent experiences
« on: July 06, 2010, 01:36:24 PM »
Two recent experiences with firm and fast showed me both the advantages and the limitations associated with such maintenence practices.

Hazeltine is killing its fairways and greens today as a part of a project to try and eliminate Poa Annua.  Because of that effort (or because there was no need to worry about the long term condition of the course), they dried out the course significantly and had the greens stimping at 12 (according to their sign) over the weekend.  The greens were so firm that shots landing on the green would make the slightest dent and would make nothing resembling a ballmark.  Fairways were similarly firm and fast so that for one day I was a big hitter. 

On Saturday I played the course in 20 MPH gusty winds with gusts in the 30-40 MPH range.  It was an interesting experience that probably did a good job of showing how difficult Pebble played in the US Open (without the rough and with greens 2-3 times as large). 

On the first hole, I had a greenside lob wedge over a bunker to an uphill green.  I chunked it a bit and it just carried onto the green and rolled uphill 35 feet to snuggle next to the hole.  On many holes, I had short approach shots but a very difficult time making par.  One half wedge rolled to the edge of the green, bounced off the fringe, took a left turn and wound up about 12 feet from the hole.  Other shots were impossible - On 7, I had a 70 yard downwind wedge to a back pin over water.  Even with 70 feet of green to work with, I do not think I could have possibly stopped the ball on the green.  Putts were extremely challenging but generally playable.

Needless to say - scores were terrible.  My net score was 79 (86-7) from around 6600 yards and of 8 people I know that played the course that day, most of which had lower handicaps than me, I did not hear of another net score that broke 80. 

I think this experience highlights the limitations and the advantages of firm and fast approach we discuss here:

1.  The experience was different from links golf only in the sense that the course was not designed as a links and I do not think it would be possible to maintain such green speeds in links weather conditions.

2.  If a course is going to be maintained in this fashion, it needs to be designed with that in mind.  The course was no firmer than Bandon Dunes courses but the combination of green speeds, elevated greens and flanking front hazards made the course difficult, but presented challenges for which few, if any, had answers.  The greens at Hazeltine are actually better at high speeds.  The slopes generally are gentle enough that you have a chance unless you are completely out of position.

3.  I think the course would have been really playable, if the greens were at slightly more reasonable speeds.  Most of Hazeltine's holes allow some sort of run up approach. but where it did not, the experience was brutal.

4.  High handicaps struggle mightily around the greens in such a situation.  If you do not hit putts solidly you have no chance.  If you cannot control the trajectory of a simple chip or pitch around the green, you are unlikely to even get the shot on the green.   

5.  It is really fun to hit tee shots in such conditions.  My drives went farther than normal into the wind.  Downwind, I rarely had more than 120 yards on a par four, normally the hole are more than 400 yards in length.

I played Minneapolis Golf Club with the greens maintained similarly earlier in the week. I will write about that experience when I have the chance.

Jeff Shelman

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Re: Really Fast and Firm - 2 recent experiences
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2010, 03:54:30 PM »
Jason,

How was the rough. Usually by this time of the summer it is long, think and brutal. I can only imagine that long rough + super fast and firm conditions would have been close to impossible to keep a ball on the green.

Jason Topp

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Re: Really Fast and Firm - 2 recent experiences
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2010, 04:45:21 PM »
Jason,

How was the rough. Usually by this time of the summer it is long, think and brutal. I can only imagine that long rough + super fast and firm conditions would have been close to impossible to keep a ball on the green.

They cut it short so it was not a big deal.  It was still impossible to stop the ball from the rough and you needed to hit a wedge solid or it would bounce and the ball would go way over the green.

RJ_Daley

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Re: Really Fast and Firm - 2 recent experiences
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2010, 11:49:29 PM »
Jason, I never played Hazel, but trying to remember when spectating, it seems to me there are a fair share of open green fronts there, although many of the greens are elevated.   But, the aprons on some of them seemed to me to be open moderate slopes up to the green.  Given that, and the firmness you describe, would you consider taking a crack at playing it from a totally different mindset than the normal modern way we play the aerial game and could one hoan a snazy little texas wedge sort of along the ground game with the firm and fast (and windy) maintenance meld that is the result of their goal to dry it out? 
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Ronald Montesano

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Re: Really Fast and Firm - 2 recent experiences
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2010, 05:52:57 AM »
"On 7, I had a 70 yard downwind wedge to a back pin over water.  Even with 70 feet of green to work with, I do not think I could have possibly stopped the ball on the green."

Jason...so what DID happen with this shot?  Your words suggest nothing good...
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Jason Topp

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Re: Really Fast and Firm - 2 recent experiences
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2010, 11:36:11 PM »
Jason, I never played Hazel, but trying to remember when spectating, it seems to me there are a fair share of open green fronts there, although many of the greens are elevated.   But, the aprons on some of them seemed to me to be open moderate slopes up to the green.  Given that, and the firmness you describe, would you consider taking a crack at playing it from a totally different mindset than the normal modern way we play the aerial game and could one hoan a snazy little texas wedge sort of along the ground game with the firm and fast (and windy) maintenance meld that is the result of their goal to dry it out? 

Dick - definitely - if you are short of the green and between the fronting bunkers.  I didn't have that option very often.  I did hit runners into 6 and 16 for my approach shots.  Made par on those holes.  Didn't really have the option anywhere else.

Jason Topp

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Re: Really Fast and Firm - 2 recent experiences
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2010, 11:38:18 PM »
"On 7, I had a 70 yard downwind wedge to a back pin over water.  Even with 70 feet of green to work with, I do not think I could have possibly stopped the ball on the green."

Jason...so what DID happen with this shot?  Your words suggest nothing good...

Landed in the middle of the green, superball bounce over the green.  Tried to bounce a 30 foot pitch twice in the rough to get it close.  It bounced twice but hung up in the rough.  Almost made the next chip but it slipped 5 feet past.  Yanked the putt.  Double bogey.

PCCraig

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Re: Really Fast and Firm - 2 recent experiences
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2010, 08:46:24 AM »
Sounds like a heck of a day to play Hazeltine! I played their for the first time this past May and when I played the course was pretty darn F&F considering it was still early spring. The rough was also pretty low and made the course fun and playable. I couldn't imagine it wet and with super high rough...

It will be interesting to see if they make any big changes to the course during the recent work. For the most part it sounded like they were just updating the greens and fairways to current USGA specs. Can't imagine they are going to add many more tees... :) ;)
H.P.S.

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