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Ian Andrew

Where can we go?
« on: November 03, 2010, 06:30:13 PM »
Ron Whitten talked about the lack of innovation in golf design theory and the notion that too much of the recent work is rooted too deeply in the Golden Age period. Geoff Shackelford suggested that we are trying to find our footing by embracing the high point in golf architectural history before trying to push out the envelope once again. CB Macdonald believed that there were no more original ideas to be introduced and it was simply up to architects to adapt the best ones.

I think part of the problem we have is the internet. I think it’s too easy to learn what others are doing and far too easy to lift those ideas and present them as your own. It’s almost as if we are entering a copycat era where each “aesthetic” is lifted immediately after being developed and used on the next project by someone who has never done that before. I think what’s really bugging Ron is the work is all looking the same. Rather than a lack of innovation, it’s a lack of imagination.

So who’s going to break the pattern and the million dollar question is how? Are there new theories and themes that have yet to be explored? Has it all been done and therefore is there nothing left but adaptations on old ideas? What would be completely “out of the box” architecturally - ignoring whether it would be accepted or not?

So to get you started I point to concepts in the land that are out of the box in golf architecture, but fascinating all the same. Robert Smithson’s brilliant Spiral Jetty is likely the most famous pieces of landscape art in the world. I’ve been to see it and was as impressed. The recent work by Maya Lin called “Storm King Wavefield” was one of the provocative ideas I’ve seen in some time - and one with more potential in golf.

So what out of the box ideas are there to try?

cary lichtenstein

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2010, 06:38:53 PM »
It will probably take some like a Salvadore Dali to make the break thru you are talking about. Someone brillanty creative and an artist as well. Mike Strands was the closest we had to that and he didn't live long enuf to be allowed to do enuf out of the box design.
Live Jupiter, Fl, was  4 handicap, played top 100 US, top 75 World. Great memories, no longer play, 4 back surgeries. I don't miss a lot of things about golf, life is simpler with out it. I miss my 60 degree wedge shots, don't miss nasty weather, icing, back spasms. Last course I played was Augusta

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2010, 06:43:23 PM »
Ian - I have never bought the template thing, I never ever thought of copying another green and felt that others who designed courses that have a dozen or so greenplans that they just rotated were not being creative at all. Talking to a few GCAs and reading posts, much is about copying. Whilst I agree there are principles of whats great for maintaining the turf and principles of strategy and defence, its quite hard to reinvent the wheel and where some have tried to put bunkers within greens, waterfall backdrops they tend to get mocked
A combination of whats good for golf and good for turf.
The Players Club, Cumberwell Park, The Kendleshire, Oake Manor, Dainton Park, Forest Hills, Erlestoke, St Cleres.
www.theplayersgolfclub.com

Mark Pearce

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2010, 06:54:16 PM »
Ian,

What a great question.  I was just reading Geoff Shackelford's post on his blog regarding Whitten's article and was wandering what "new" architecture might look like.  What would punk, house or rap architecture feature?  I don't think of myself as creative so I'm not surprised that I don't have an idea but I'd love to hear what others think could be done that would still be good architecture but also be new.  I guess that anything new will be controversial and not universally liked.  Does that mean we're unlikely to see it in a time where the market is as constrained by the economy as it is now?  Or will the recession create the ground for a new form of architecture to grow in the way that Punk grew from the recession of the early '70s?
In June I will be riding the first three stages of this year's Tour de France route for charity.  630km (394 miles) in three days, with 7800m (25,600 feet) of climbing for the William Wates Memorial Trust (https://rideleloop.org/the-charity/) which supports underprivileged young people.

TEPaul

Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2010, 06:55:48 PM »
"What would be completely “out of the box” architecturally - ignoring whether it would be accepted or not?"


Ian:

I've mentioned it before on here but some years ago; to me one of the most interesting "out of the box" applications architecturally would be to go completely without sand bunkers on sites that have no natural sand. That idea occured to me years ago when I read Max Behr who described sand bunkers as that odd vestige of original linksland golf that just completely hung on when golf emigrated to areas with no natural sand extant.

I think golf courses and architecture that does not have that stark visual distinction and demarcation between sand and grass would actually serve to force golfers to engage more with the land and its architecture just to figure out what really is going on out there in front of them.

« Last Edit: November 03, 2010, 06:57:32 PM by TEPaul »

Peter Pallotta

Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2010, 07:12:16 PM »
Ian - my honest answers, straight from the gut:

1) Re what Whitten has written: That's a classic case of pyschological PROJECTION. That is, HE has no new IDEAS to WRITE about, but instead of recognizing that fact he projects the problem onto ARCHITECTS and suggests that DESIGNERS have no new CONCEPTS.

BUT:

2) Re architects: There ARE new areas to explore, but NOT A SINGLE ONE OF YOU have ever had or have now or will have the clout and/or independence of mind and/or stupidity to try them (and please, no more mentions of Mike Strantz; his is totally conventional work)-- eg. Make a 400 yard Par 4 that is as WIDE AS IT IS LONG, with a green as wide as the widest part of the fairway and without a bunker in sight. (Now THAT's a new idea - why hasn't THAT ever been tried before?). Or, make a Par 3 that CANNOT ever possibly be birdied save for a miracle, in that it is 380 yards long and has a green that is 4,500 square feet. (How about THAT - a hole where one TRULY must scramble for PAR, EVERY SINGLE TIME).

SO:

3) You want something NEW, a truly new design? Then hire as your architect a NON-GOLFING, NATURE-LOVING, 85 YEAR OLD SPINSTER LIBRARIAN WITH A PEG LEG, ONE BAD EYE, AND A DRINKING PROBLEM. THEN GIVE HER AN UNLIMITED BUDGET AND A CREW OF TWO: A DRYWALLER FROM IRAN AND A TILE-SETTER FROM PAKISTAN. 

Carl Rogers

Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2010, 07:16:34 PM »
Then how does one evaluate the late Mike Strantz's work?

Peter Pallotta

Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2010, 07:25:13 PM »
My point: I'm very tired tonight of hearing over and over again, about movies and books and music and golf course architecture, that what we need is something new and innovative.

How about doing what's old and common, but doing it more often, and better?

Or maybe I'm missing something.  Maybe there are already too many movies that enlighten and elucidate and entertain all at once. Maybe there is already too much music that soothes and charms and insipires.  Maybe there are too many books out there today that engage and enoble and challenge and heal.  Maybe the world is already full of golf courses that are fun and challenging and that are affordable to play and inexpensive to maintain -- yes, maybe the world is much too full of those great old average English courses that have served their communities and members for decades and decades in a quiet and unobtrusive way.  

No, I don't think so. Not yet.

Rob Rigg

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2010, 07:31:40 PM »
How about someone builds a truly engaging course on a flat site without creating a different landscape by moving a ton of dirt around for no reason - Has that been done a million times before? No.

I agree with Peter.

There are a lot of crap golf courses out there - how about the industry just starts by building enjoyable and FUN golf courses that will bring people to the game. Those are NOT in overabundance.

Kris Shreiner

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2010, 07:34:38 PM »
Ian,

A thought-provoking post to be sure. I would think the sheer cost and time to create anything design-wise makes it difficult to really push what one might put on the canvas. Courses with better, interesting ground, might offer the golf architect some advantages, but they could get ripped for "not delivering" on a quality site if they went for something provocative.

Many of us would like to see some bolder work, but where does it begin to venture into the bizarre, or worse? That process leads to an expensive proposition, and few can afford to lose an economic debate with their golf facility. It's tough enough for strong, quality facilities right now to make a go of it.
A wild card entry would take some major brass in what appears to be austere times for golf in the near term. Of course, if you pull it off, you 're a hot item. 8)

Tom,

You make an interesting observation with your thoughts on bunkerless design. I 've read some of Gil Hanse's thoughts on use of very subtle features...creases and folds on certain ground to create strategic options around greens. Others no doubt look for similar opportunites. It would seem to be a significant factor, in challenging architects to keep the visual excitement for golfers, while providing the mystery and uncertainty, when designing holes devoid of bunkers.

Cobbs Creek Old has some superb natural holes with little or no bunkering. Are there other noteworthy examples of tracks that use minimal bunkering, yet provide sporty play?
"I said in a talk at the Dunhill Tournament in St. Andrews a few years back that I thought any of the caddies I'd had that week would probably make a good golf course architect. We all want to ask golfers of all abilities to get more out of their games -caddies do that for a living." T.Doak

Sean_A

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2010, 07:43:36 PM »
I am with Pietro.  Partly because I don't think there is much under the sun archies haven't done and partly because a lot of good stuff under the sun hasn't nearly been exhausted yet.  

Personally, as a fan of affordable, grade level architecture with wow factor slapped in here and there, I would like to see a vast reduction in bunker numbers and an vast increase in centreline hollows, humps (and bunkers) with sloping greens (rather than contoured) and the odd wild green.  I can't see why a course combo of say Huntercombe, Kington, New Zealand, Wolf Point and Lederach can't be employed more to great effect.  Essentially, throw out the "natural" playbook and just create fun golf shots that are easy to maintain and are cheap to play.  This sort of design can be done anywhere.  

The other idea I would love to see is using the above principles on a site blown to smithereens then a course laid on top of the mess.  Create wierd terrain without the obvious shaping to look natural.  Essentially, I think archies are to caught up in the natural look and not enough caught up in making cool courses.  Of course, it takes an oddball client to allow an archie to run free with this sort of thing, but I am sure there are guys out there who can pull off this sort of thing if given the opportunity.

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

Bill Seitz

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2010, 07:56:20 PM »
When I think of innovative design, I think of the greens at Lost Dunes, particularly the fourth hole.  I'm not sure it's what Doak had mind when he designed it, but I look at that hole not as a "get in there in three and two putt" par five, but rather a "get there or real close in two, and good luck getting it down in three". It's 511 yards from the blue tees, and if you take the right line off the tee, it can play a fair amount shorter than that.  Normally par fives of that length are easy birdie holes, but once you get there, you face arguably the most difficult green I've ever seen.  I've played it twice, been on or very near the green both times, and felt very lucky to escape with par both times.

Regardless, the problem is that artists can afford to be innovative.  They sit down in front of a canvas and paint what they want to paint.  Musicians play what they want to play.  If they've got the creativity, they are at their own liberty to forge new ground.  Golf course architects, on the other hand, have bosses.  They invest a lot of money into building a facility.  I don't care how creative or innovative an architect may be, at the end of the day, he has to provide the product he was commissioned to provide.  A course owner who lets an architect run with his own ideas isn't at risk of losing some canvas or some studio time.  He's at risk of losing a lot of money.

Tim Martin

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2010, 08:05:34 PM »
With Old McDonald jumping to the head of the class in all the recent polls and garnering the most effusive praise imaginable why do we need new design principles just for the sake of newness? Is different better? Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and Doak and Urbina seem to get that without worrying if anyone is going to question their lack of design innovation. Isn`t Lester George involved in a project that also pays homage to C.B. McDonald? There is a reason why so many of the ODG`s courses are on all the Top 100 lists, that is because they are that good. Being different just to be different does not ensure a winner.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2010, 08:28:57 PM by Tim Martin »

Colin Macqueen

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2010, 08:14:53 PM »
Ian,
Why can't we go to a goodly number of nine hole courses. Wherever an 18-hole course is going under GCAs could propose that a 9-holer be created out of a portion of the existing terrain.  Short courses with wide gently undulating fairways and fun greens could well attract the swathe of baby-boomers now turning sixty who had never entertained the idea of playing gowf.  Clubs would not have to worry so much about solely attracting the younger generation. There is a whole world of chaps and girls who have the time and probably the dosh to play this sort of golf.

Cheers Col
"Golf, thou art a gentle sprite, I owe thee much"
The Hielander

Adam Clayman

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2010, 08:43:32 PM »
I'm with Peter and don't agree with Whitten.

What principle is going to risk pushing the envelope, that far, to appease Mr. Whitten's whim?

Desmond went off the deep end, in response to his dealings with a certain big name.

 It  doesn't take a genius to understand what Mr. Whitten is reacting to.

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

Mike Sweeney

Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2010, 08:47:13 PM »

So who’s going to break the pattern and the million dollar question is how? Are there new theories and themes that have yet to be explored? Has it all been done and therefore is there nothing left but adaptations on old ideas? What would be completely “out of the box” architecturally - ignoring whether it would be accepted or not?


12 hole courses where you can repeat 6 holes to get to 18 when you have time.

Jim_Kennedy

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2010, 08:55:08 PM »
No one seems to agree with Ron Whitten that some new ideas need to be injected in the arm of golf, but you all have been trying to suggest them.

Seems to me that Whitten knew the condition of the patient.
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

Mike_Young

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2010, 08:55:37 PM »
I think you will see some new ideas and I think it will evolve just like automobile design...where it goes from fenders and flash to a very subtle streamlined look....maybe invisible tees with no defined shape merging from greens complexes and greens complexes merging from approaches etc....flow will be smooth and IMHO possibly one HOC thru out the course except for greens....will be efficiently maintained....sort of a "melted" look....
I do think Jim Engh has tried one type of look....it might not be my thing but you have to credit the guy with getting out of the box...
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Dan King

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2010, 09:10:29 PM »
The most imaginative course I have played over the last dozen years would be The Sheep Ranch in Bandon. I'm guessing Whitten would not agree, since it is a throwback and not something new.

Cross-country golf is also imaginative, but the problem is nobody gets rich specifying where the tee and hole are and leaving the rest up to the golfer.

Cheers,
Dan King
Quote
It's hard to describe how liberating it is to play golf without par, without distances, without people, without any expectations for an 18-hole round because you don't even know how many holes you've played or might play.
 --Blaine Newnham (on playing the Sheep Ranch)

TEPaul

Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2010, 09:36:40 PM »
Ian:

I'm not so sure where Ron Whitten was going with his comments in GD but in my opinion Geoff Shackelford's comments on Whitten's comments may be a whole lot more thought provoking. I have no real idea where Geoff Shackelford is going with his comments either (or do I? ;) ) but I think they may be far more worthy of discussion than Whitten's.

Shackelford's comments:

"'If phone engineers thought like golf architects, our cell phones would still be attached to the wall."
It's a slow time for golf news, so let's dine on Ron Whitten's provocative "rant" from the November Golf Digest. Tom Dunne read it a few weeks ago and went all Benihana chef on it in one post.

The premise is spot-on: golf architects have shown almost no daring or creativity since the Golden Age of the 1920's. Ron is correct. The art has been wallowing for a long time. So for today's discussion, let's look at this graph:

The problem is, every architect worships the past -- the 1920s or teens or even earlier -- and molds designs to those ancient templates. Nobody has an original thought. As Pete Dye says, every hole's a copy of some other hole. There is no hip-hop, rap or even jazz in golf architecture; it's all Stephen Foster and John Philip Sousa. Which means modern-day courses are gussied-up reproductions, with strategies conjured up by Old Tom Morris or Old Macdonald, bunkers styled after Alister Mackenzie or George Thomas, and greens patterned on relics like the Redan, Biarritz and Eden. In 150 years, nobody has been able to come up with a new concept for a green? If phone engineers thought like golf architects, our cell phones would still be attached to the wall.'"

"He's right. Thomas and MacKenzie both said they were at the beginning of a new era and that their designs would look primitive some day. Both hinted--and Thomas executed the beginnings of his vision with his LA North redo in 1928--a vision for course designs invoking all sorts of strategic possibilities in the vein of the Old Course. That didn't happen because of the Great Depression and the succession of architects like Trent Jones, Dick Wilson, Joe Lee and others who failed to build on the ingenious work of the 1920s.

So Whitten may be correct that there is too much worship of the past, but much of that worship stems from a desire to merely get architecture back to the level that we saw with those great old guys. Once order is restored, then you progress.

But his argument doesn't hold water when you consider he's been a huge proponent of many of the game's most mediocre practitioners. Even as recently as this week, he is celebrating Old Macdonald, a collection of holes culled from CB Macdonald and Seth Raynor's playbook of concepts culled from the best courses of Europe.  Whitten raves about the design in the new Digest. Everyone I know who has played it has loved it. And I have no doubt the architects involved injected all sorts of original flourishes. Yet, on the basis of Whitten's November rant, this statement seems contradictory:

The genius of Doak and Urbina was to create gentle seaside sand-dune versions, instead of steep-sloped geometric ones, of Macdonald's favorite holes, like the Eden, Road, Redan, Short and Biarritz. So Old Macdonald is C.B.'s greatest hits, without the harsh edges.

I'm not seeing the ingeniousness of taking concept holes and putting in a different bunker style, and it certainly isn't vaulting architecture to a higher level. That doesn't mean it's not fantastic fun to play nor anything but world class, but based on Whitten's seeming disdain for another Macdonald tribute course on the way by Lester George and Tom Lehman, is it consistent to be suggesting architects are lacking innovative thinking while praising what amounts to be yet another cover of an old standard?"

« Last Edit: November 03, 2010, 09:41:12 PM by TEPaul »

TEPaul

Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2010, 09:45:48 PM »
"No one seems to agree with Ron Whitten that some new ideas need to be injected in the arm of golf, but you all have been trying to suggest them."


Jim Kennedy:

I'm not sure why you said no one (on here?) seems to agree with Ron Whitten or that no one agrees that some new ideas need to be injected in the arm of golf.


TEPaul

Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2010, 09:53:44 PM »
ColinM:

I just don't see more nine hole golf courses being the answer to anything. Maybe they were more common years ago and particularly in this country when golf was getting going but it seems in almost all cases the idea for clubs that had them was to get to 18 holes as soon as they could.

And I sure don't buy the time constraints of golfers getting into the game today as a reason to have more nine hole courses. If golfers getting into the game today feel they don't have time to play 18 holes they certainly can just play nine holes of any 18 hole golf course.

Jim_Kennedy

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2010, 09:59:22 PM »
TEPaul,
I read the thread on Whitten, most thought he was wrong.  On this thread he's accused of 'psychological projection', or whimsical behavior.

Geoff Shackelford's piece accuses him of being inconsistent because he can find things to like about work that's being done at this moment in time while also expressing a desire to see some architecture that employs new ideas.


p.s. there aren't as many 18 hole courses that sell 9 hole rates as you might think there are.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2010, 10:02:01 PM by Jim_Kennedy »
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

TEPaul

Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2010, 10:21:41 PM »
"TEPaul,
I read the thread on Whitten, most thought he was wrong.  On this thread he's accused of 'psychological projection', or whimsical behavior."


Jim Kennedy:

I just read through this thread again and I can't say I can see that most thought he was wrong or at least that most said they thought he was wrong.

I can certainly see that Adam Clayman and Peter Pallotta seemed to say they thought he might be wrong but earlier in this thread (Post #16) you said no one agreed with Ron Whitten and then later as reflected by your quote in this thread you said 'most thought he was wrong.'

I'm not sure you're right in either case. But perhaps some or most don't even understand the issue or the question proposed by Ron Whitten or even Geoff Shackelford's comments on Whitten's remarks in GD.


PS:
Many years ago Shackelford mentioned to me that he felt that some of the best of the ODGs (presumably as late as the late 1920s) felt that when technology (I think he meant construction technology and such) reached another or more modern or more advanced level that they (or golf architecture) would then have the ability to do things that were really imaginative and advanced and adventurous and perhaps far better than anything that had ever done before!

And I remember my response to that comment of his----eg it was: "Don't you think that they should've perhaps realized that the likes of PV, CPC, ANGC, NGLA et al are about as good as it can ever get?"

My recollection was his response was silence!


Mike Nuzzo

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Re: Where can we go?
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2010, 10:49:09 PM »
Ian

When are you coming to visit?

Our course has some of everything mentioned above - in spades.
The magazines don't care to see because it won't sell magazines.

It was built new and old
It is maintained new and old
The design has new and old

I do agree about everyone saying the same thing and trying to build the same bunkers and same replica courses.

Cheers
Thinking of Bob, Rihc, Bill, George, Neil, Dr. Childs, & Tiger.

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