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Ivan Lipko

Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« on: September 14, 2010, 11:48:05 AM »
It took me some time to start this thread. The reason is that I keep reading all those threads discussing various golf courses (incl. some of the well-known and highly appreciated ones) and keep finding out that I am totally clueless when it comes to the reason why people say something is great.

Let me explain you that I am from Russia, a country where  there are some 2000 golfer and like 4-5 golf courses. The whole history of golf in our country is like 10-15 years.

So I beg you to explain me what is good and bad in GCA or if this is WAY too complicated give me a basic idea of it or at least some pointers like links to the books which I can read and get the knowledge from.

Before I found this site I believed that a good golf course is something perfectly kept/prepared, with holes that have a clear strategy (like left side of the fairway gives better approach to the green but has more bunkers), are varied and also something very beautiful (like being in the beautiful forest or by a gorgeous sea).

If this is true I can't get why people don't like Torrey Pines and Royal Birkdale. In one of the latest threads some people mention  that even a place like Pine Valley isn't really good because it is a number of isolated and tough holes.

What IS good then? ???

At the very same time I hear that a wind-affected course is good. But I can't get this. First of all, wind is obnoxious. Than, you can't control and/or foresee it. How can something uncontrollable be good or beneficial for  a player?????

So, please, help a total golf noob get around.  ;)

Thanks

Melvyn Morrow

Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2010, 11:52:34 AM »

Ivan

Wind is not just good is part of the game, its important, its a friend, its theer to be used by the designer and golfer alike.

Wing is golf - from a man of the links

Melvyn

Chip Gaskins

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2010, 11:53:48 AM »
this might go down as the best thread on GCA....this is going to be good!

Eric Franzen

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Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2010, 12:03:30 PM »

What IS good then? ???


Any kind of golf course that you will find fun to play. No more, no less. (IMHO).

Jeff Fortson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2010, 12:05:45 PM »
Ivan,

I have to agree with Melvyn here.  

Wind is golf's most improtant natural asset.  I would argue that it is just as, if not more, important than the ground the game is played on.  Without wind the game becomes static and redundant.  Wind creates challenges in both the player's mind and execution and adds an element of uncertainty and randomness that make the game special.  Learning how to hit the golf ball in a vacuum is very one-dimensional, but learning how to play shots in the wind is truly an art form.  


Jeff F.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2010, 01:25:16 PM by Jeff Fortson »
#nowhitebelt

Mike_Young

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2010, 12:09:09 PM »
Ivan,
You are fortunate to be able to bring a perspective that not many can....look at all of it as good and you decide the bad as you go along....have fun
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Garland Bayley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2010, 12:09:29 PM »
I played a course yesterday that was set up "beautifully". It had holes that exposed the greatest scenic views in the area. However, when I finished the round I found I had one golf ball left in my bag. I had set it apart in a different pocket than the others. I actually thought I was on my last ball on 18 where I successfully made the forced carry for the first time in the four times I have played the course. Therefore, I am here to witness to you that pretty doesn't do it on a golf course. One criteria that is certainly very important to me is the course allowing the weaker golfer to get around without ruining his day and make him mutter this is the worst golf course he has ever played. The scoring challenges should be placed where the scratch golfer will interact with them, not just everywhere. As the saying goes, anyone can make a difficult golf course. It takes real talent to make a good one.


"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

JNC Lyon

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Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2010, 12:29:03 PM »
Ivan,

First of all, this thread is phenomenal.  Your question is very simple, but it is a very difficult one to answer.  I hope some of the great GCA posters weigh in here.  I would like to see how varied people's opinions are on the subject.

To address your statements about wind: I think you will get some strong disagreement from many people on here, myself included.  Wind is an asset to golf course architecture for many different reasons.  I think many players would agree that "wind is obnoxious."  It throws you out of your comfort zone and forces you to fundamentally change how you play the game.  However, wind's "obnoxiousness" is what makes it so important.  A course with wind as a factor encourages the golfer to player by feel rather than by the mechanical use of laser yardages and swing tips from the latest Golf Digest.  The wind is also, as you say, uncontrollable, meaning that creates infinite variety for the golfer on a day-to-day basis.  A course with wind will never be boring, even after a player has played the course hundreds of times.  As the wind direction changes, the player will have to adopt new strategies of playing the golf course every time he goes out.  Wind ensures that golf is a mental rather than a physical endeavor.

As for your bigger questions, I think a few things make for great architecture.  I think a course should present the golfer with multiple options and ways to play every hole.  The golfer will need to think, make decisions, and commit on every shot and hole he plays on such a course.  Any combination of features can produce this result.  However, I think wind, firm and fast conditions, and proper placement of hazards are all critical in creating options and variety.

Great architecture will defend par around the greens rather than off the tee and on the approach.  Many modern courses focus on tee to green difficulty, meaning that the courses will eat average golfers alive and will be eaten alive by top players.  Classic courses tend to defend par at the greens because EVERY golfer who plays the golf course will have to deal with the green and its defenses.  It is the most honest way to challenge players.

A great golf course makes maximum use of the natural terrain and surrounds.  A good architect will seek out the best natural features on a property, highlight them in his design, and make use of them in the strategy of the golf course.  This "natural terrain and surrounds" could be anything including water, sand, topography, trees (although these should be used sparingly), or pre-existing manmade features (such as stone walls or buildings).  Golf, after all, is an OUTDOOR sport coexisting with nature.

Most importantly, a course needs to be FUN for all golfers.  It should be challenging for the better player and playable for the average golfer.  The player should be able to play reasonably without losing a golf ball.  The player should be encouraged to hit good shots more than he should be penalized for hitting bad ones.  The golfer should be able to hit all kinds of shots, including ones that he has never hit before in his life.

Finally, all great GCA should be walkable.  Any course that is not walkable and does not have a certain flow to the routing is inferior, no matter how high the quality of the individual holes.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Ivan Lipko

Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2010, 12:32:12 PM »
Good and very interesting points here.

What can you say about "difficult doesn't mean good"?

Does this mean that on a good golf course you confront lots of tough challenges that you can easily overcome?

Jud_T

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2010, 12:34:18 PM »
Ivan,

If you can play the course 100 times and still find it fun, interesting and challenging, that's a pretty good barometer in my book.  If golfers of varying abilities and strengths can say the same thing after 100 plays, then you're getting into some elite territory...Would you want to have the course be your home club and play it every day for the rest of your life?
Golf is a game. We play it. Somewhere along the way we took the fun out of it and charged a premium to be punished.- - Ron Sirak

Mike Hendren

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2010, 12:43:39 PM »
Based upon the following excerpt from wikipedia, I sense that many of us take a much too narrow view of golf course architecture.

Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations.

On this web-site we often emphasize form at the expense of function whether the latter be to provide a playing field for recreation or competition.   For those rank amateur enthusiasts among us, we can easily critique the asethetics, not so much the technical. 

Mike

Two Corinthians walk into a bar ....

Melvyn Morrow

Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2010, 12:49:17 PM »


See what I mean "WIND" but this time man made tainted with some hot air so of little help to the golfer and of courses its from our friend Michael - so no surpirise its par for his course ;)

Melvyn 

JNC Lyon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2010, 12:58:55 PM »
Good and very interesting points here.

What can you say about "difficult doesn't mean good"?

Does this mean that on a good golf course you confront lots of tough challenges that you can easily overcome?

"Tough challenges that you can easily overcome."  That is usually what difficult means for a good player.  The test turns out to be purely physical rather than mental.  These "difficult" courses are often less so for the better player.  Additionally, difficult are often antonymous with good because they are no fun for the average golfer.  Difficult courses take too long to play, do not encourage the player to hit good shots, present little variety or choice, and are very expensive.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Ivan Lipko

Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2010, 01:05:34 PM »
Ivan,

If you can play the course 100 times and still find it fun, interesting and challenging, that's a pretty good barometer in my book.  If golfers of varying abilities and strengths can say the same thing after 100 plays, then you're getting into some elite territory...Would you want to have the course be your home club and play it every day for the rest of your life?

That woudl exclude some of my all time favorite courses - Bethpage Black, Kiawah Island Ocean, Whistling Straits - although they are super fun and beautiful they at the very same time are way too long and demanding to be played on a daily basis.

From the courses I have personally played I'd choose the Sunningdale Old to be my home golf course.

JNC_Lyon could you please give me a clear example of a "challenge that constitutes a mental test rather than physical"?

JNC Lyon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2010, 01:09:59 PM »
Ivan,

If you can play the course 100 times and still find it fun, interesting and challenging, that's a pretty good barometer in my book.  If golfers of varying abilities and strengths can say the same thing after 100 plays, then you're getting into some elite territory...Would you want to have the course be your home club and play it every day for the rest of your life?

That woudl exclude some of my all time favorite courses - Bethpage Black, Kiawah Island Ocean, Whistling Straits - although they are super fun and beautiful they at the very same time are way too long and demanding to be played on a daily basis.

From the courses I have personally played I'd choose the Sunningdale Old to be my home golf course.

JNC_Lyon could you please give me a clear example of a "challenge that constitutes a mental test rather than physical"?

Choosing what side of the fairway will give you the best approach into the green.  Deciding whether to fly or bounce an approach into a green.  Trying to figure out how a pitch and run will react when it hits the ground.  These are just three of many.

All of these shots require a certain amount of physical skill.  However, they all require a great deal of mental calculation and commitment, no matter how good your mechanics are.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Garland Bayley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2010, 01:26:01 PM »

What can you say about "difficult doesn't mean good"?


Some examples from the course I played yesterday. Dog leg left. Where are the fairway bunkers that create difficulty? On the right! Who will miss their tee shot and go right instead of left. Me. The two single digit handicappers I played with both hit beautiful draws to perfect position left of the center of the narrow fairway. Again, narrow fairway. Who does that hurt? Me. After escaping the hazard on my second, I am still away, still in the rough hitting my third. I hit about as good a shot as I am capable with my 9 (very high, very straight on target) which landed on the front half of the green and bounded on through to trouble behind the green. Who does trouble behind the green create difficulty for? Me. The single digits hitting short irons from the fairway can control their distance well, so it is no problem for them. The golf hole was absolute crap. Easy for the scratch golfer. Difficult for the bogey golfer. It used to be even worse. It used to be that shots through the green rolled down a hill and OB. The have installed a small berm with waste area that kept me from going OB this time. Did I mention the hole frames the most scenic view in the area? Crap, crap, crap, crap!
 ;D
Thanks for the thread Ivan. I needed to get that off my chest.

"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Ivan Lipko

Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2010, 01:46:50 PM »
Glad I've done at least something good for the community by creating the thread! :D

BTW, Garland's post gave me another thought that evolved into a question.

Who do you think can appreciate GCA better - bogey golfers or scratch golfers? In my experience the better the player the more ignorant he is about the GCA.

And yet one more - does a perfect golf course mean the same for a tour player and a weekend duffer - from the design stand point? That is if we say the Sand Hills are a great golf course does this mean it is equally enjoyable yet mentally tough for a 20 and a 0 handicapper?

Bob_Huntley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2010, 01:52:12 PM »

I think someone has stolen Melvyn's identity; his last rwo posts certainly don't read like anything he has posted before.

Bob

astavrides

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2010, 01:52:30 PM »
Off the top of my head, the Golf Club Atlas (not necessarily mine) conventional wisdom:
(We can add to this as we think of other stuff, but this should get you started)

Good:
firm and fast
old dead guys
Doak
Hanse (mostly)
wind
walking
good quirk
blind shots
wide fairways
links courses
whatever Ran writes in his course profiles
bringing your dog on the course with you

bad:
water
carts
raked bunkers
bad quirk
Jones and sons
Hills, Palmer, Fazio

We haven't decided yet:
Nicklaus
Pete Dye
high fescue


Garland Bayley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2010, 02:25:47 PM »
...
Who do you think can appreciate GCA better - bogey golfers or scratch golfers? In my experience the better the player the more ignorant he is about the GCA.
...

Well low handicappers have this reputation of yelling unfair. ;)
Yesterday, three tier green. 3 handicap on bottom tier. His putt does not top the rise to the third tier and rolls back to his feet. He yells unfair. I respond that's not unfair even I (it was clear by that time I was going to shoot over 100) can make that shot. After that hole they began to refer to me as ornery.

Come on you guys. I'm sure no one on this site thinks I'm ornery.
;)
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Fred Yanni

Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #20 on: September 14, 2010, 02:33:27 PM »
I love your question about who can appreciate GCA better, the bogey or scratch golfer.  

Well we know from this site players of all levels appreciate GCA.  Personally I think the best designs are ones were players of all abilities can agree the place is special because it offers fair and interesting challenges for everyone.  I think of courses like TOC, Shinnecock, NGLA, PB, Merion, Friars Head, Yale and the great Ross courses.  (I think PV offers this as well but that will stir a debate we don't want to have here...)

I have to say the worse I play the more I take notice of the architectural features around the course, especially around the greens.  This is a direct result of having to deal with those features during the round and gaining an apreciation for what it takes to overcome those challenges.   When I go out shoot par and hit a bunch of fairways and greens, I will always notice, but may not initially appreciate all of the features the architect has designed as I am not having to overcome many of the challenges the architect has presented.   For example, can you imagine playing The Old Course and not being in a bunker?  My guess is you will still love and aprreciate the course (and may post a good score) but are missing some of the genius of the design on that playing.  

  

Harris Nepon

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Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #21 on: September 14, 2010, 02:39:37 PM »
I like Jud's reference. I judge every course I play on whether or not I would like to play the course every day or have it as my home course.

I'm in the wind doesnít matter camp. I played Ballyneal in the wind, rain, and in sunny perfect (IMHO - no wind) conditions and enjoyed it every way I played it. I personally don't believe wind can make or break a course. Thatís cool with me if others do.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #22 on: September 14, 2010, 02:43:01 PM »
Ivan:

One of the best experiences of my life was getting to spend a full year in Scotland, England and Ireland right after college and studying the golf courses there.  The best part was to sit down and watch people play some of the famous holes, and decide for myself whether they were good holes or not.

I found that many of the generalizations that people make about what's good or not good, become meaningless when golfers are out there actually playing golf.  Further, that a great hole for a 2-handicap is sometimes a lousy hole for a 14-handicap ... and a great hole for a 14-handicap can be a lousy hole for a 2-handicap!  So, do not believe what everyone tells you.  As they say on Wall Street, everyone is talking their book.

Dr. MacKenzie wrote [sorry, I have to paraphrase here] that the best golf architecture is that which provides the greatest enjoyment for the greatest number of players.  I think that's a very good way of looking at it, but that is not the standard which most people use.




George Pazin

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Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #23 on: September 14, 2010, 02:43:55 PM »
To me, good golf presents interesting choices. Bad golf presents boring choices.

Bad golf is still pretty damn fun, but good golf is just better.
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

Mike Nuzzo

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Re: Good and bad in GCA (in brief)
« Reply #24 on: September 14, 2010, 03:04:27 PM »
Ivan
Welcome
Please read the following article I wrote about what good means to different types of players
http://www.mnuzzo.com/pdf/GAV5.pdf
I agree with what Tom Doak wrote for myself, but not for others with different tastes.
Golf has other flavors.
Cheers

(You remind me of a friend no longer on GCA)
Thinking of Bob, Rihc, Bill, George, Neil, Dr. Childs, & Tiger.

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