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Ally Mcintosh

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We talk a lot about the “ground game” but I think this can mean different things to different people. I think some courses fit one of the following descriptions and not the other.

Broadly speaking, I think the ground game can refer to:

1. Approach shots: Where the need is to land the ball short of the green downwind, to hit the ball low in to the wind or to use any natural slopes to feed a ball in to a green.

2. Around the green: Where heavy undulation, tight lies and firm conditions can promote a putt or a bump and run from 50 yards in.

Do you think that some (or many) courses fit one of these descriptions and not the other? What do you think makes a course fit one description and not the other? Which courses do you see as good examples of each (or both)?
« Last Edit: January 12, 2011, 09:00:08 AM by Ally Mcintosh »

Jamie Barber

Re: What makes a good "ground game" course?
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2011, 08:36:10 AM »
I think there's another element to this, the firmness of the green.

With soft greens, it removes elements of the ground game because you can play an aerial shot and know the ball will stop quickly, regardless of the wind. When the greens are firm and not receptive, then you've got to think more about a ground game.

I think links courses in particular shouldn't have greens that are too soft.

Mac Plumart

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course?
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2011, 08:37:33 AM »
I'm not an expert, but I think turf makes a huge difference.

Fescue vs. bermuda for example makes a huge difference on what is do-able.  I'll never forget visiting Nebraska/Colorado and seeing Eric Smith putt from 100 yards away and pull off a good shot and then I tried that same thing in Georgia just to see if I could do it.  NOPE!!!  Not in Georgia with our turf.   :-[
Sportsman/Adventure loving golfer.

Eric Smith

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Re: What makes a good "ground game" course?
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2011, 08:53:47 AM »
I'm not an expert, but I think turf makes a huge difference.

Fescue vs. bermuda for example makes a huge difference on what is do-able.  I'll never forget visiting Nebraska/Colorado and seeing Eric Smith putt from 100 yards away and pull off a good shot and then I tried that same thing in Georgia just to see if I could do it.  NOPE!!!  Not in Georgia with our turf.   :-[

I can still hear Bogey Hendren laughing after I tried to putt from well off the first green at Holston in my first round back after that trip. 

Ally Mcintosh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course?
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2011, 08:55:22 AM »
I was taking turf and firmness as given.

I'm looking more at the topography and design of the course. I am really thinking of sub-categories within links courses.

Jamie Barber

Re: What makes a good "ground game" course?
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2011, 09:10:01 AM »
Give us an example then of a course which fits one of your categories, but not the other.

Phil McDade

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Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2011, 09:10:06 AM »
Width.

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: What makes a good "ground game" course?
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2011, 09:34:41 AM »
Give us an example then of a course which fits one of your categories, but not the other.

I’m only thinking this through myself…

But I’ve noticed recently that I will be much more likely to land balls short on approaches to greens that are at grade level… Whereas links courses that rely on raised greens, plateau greens, heavily guarded greens are more likely to receive an aerial approach.

I wonder sometimes if we look at a course like Ballybunion (which I love) and say that it is good for the ground game when in fact it more often than not demands an aerial approach. However Ballybunion excels at requiring ground game attributes in the shots around the green because of the way it can blind side you with contour and gives you run-off areas.

Maybe I am tying myself in knots and this is only clear in my own head?

Bill_McBride

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Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2011, 09:38:02 AM »
Obviously have to have greens that are open in front.

Huntercombe is a great example, only 17 has fronting bunkers.

Ross Tuddenham

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Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2011, 10:23:52 AM »
A slope at the front of a green will often make me opt for the ground game.  The logic being that a ball running at the green has more chance of getting up the slope even if a little miss hit.  If you go the aerial route there is every chance a short shot would come back down the slope.

On example of this is the 16th on the TOC.  The combination of the open front of the green and the need to clear the slope make me want to get the ball rolling on the deck.  Although the topography is crumpled before the green I would imagine the change on elevation from the right to the left side of the fairway must be minimal.


Mark McKeever

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2011, 10:49:50 AM »
I would say the quality of the turf has a relatively large impact as well.  If I am going to run a shot up, I dont want it to take wierd bounces because of inconsistant grass.

Mark
Best MGA showers - Bayonne

"Dude, he's a total d***"

Melvyn Morrow

Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2011, 11:11:30 AM »


A good Designer who knows what the Ground Game is all about and certainly something on the history of the Game, plus Land Fit for Purpose could possible help.

I thought the Ground Game Designers disappeared after the last visit of Halley’s Comet, so you may need to ‘Phone Home’ to find one – they are as rare as Hen’s teeth, apparently.

Melvyn

Chris Johnston

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2011, 12:05:44 PM »
A slightly different take...

Wind makes a good ground game course! 

Mac Plumart

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2011, 12:58:48 PM »
Chris J...

Yeah, baby!!  I played Inwood in some FIERCE wind and out on those penninsula holes the ground game was forced upon me.  Good thing I had just returned from your neck of the woods a month or so before then. 

I must say I get weird looks from my local golfing group when I say I love playing in the wind.  They don't like it because it is hard to score in.  Score?  Pfft...  Fun, that is what it is all about.

Sportsman/Adventure loving golfer.

Melvyn Morrow

Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2011, 01:25:01 PM »


Mac

You got it, its all about fun and enjoyment. Wish someone would tell the modern designers, our Governing Bodies and some on this site.

Many think the ground game is penal, so not keen, as it makes them THINK and that is just too much to cope with as well as play golf.

Keep having fun

Melvyn

Bill_McBride

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2011, 01:49:11 PM »


A good Designer who knows what the Ground Game is all about and certainly something on the history of the Game, plus Land Fit for Purpose could possible help.

I thought the Ground Game Designers disappeared after the last visit of Halley’s Comet, so you may need to ‘Phone Home’ to find one – they are as rare as Hen’s teeth, apparently.

Melvyn


Melvyn, come to Bandon Dunes with us and play Pacific Dunes and Old Macdonald.  The ground game lives!

Lester George

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2011, 02:16:12 PM »

Options.  Not being forced to play one shot or another.  Alot of these options should be dictated by wind if possible, but some can be set up by using the correct terrain and situations of "feeding" the ball into certain places.  Those who have played Ballyhack will attest that you CAN'T go to ground on every shot, but noe would you want to.  We tried to make it an option in the places we thought ot worked, but did not design any holes with the ground shot being dictated.  I think good ground game courses provide options that are really options.

Lester

Niall C

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course?
« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2011, 02:19:18 PM »
Give us an example then of a course which fits one of your categories, but not the other.

I’m only thinking this through myself…

But I’ve noticed recently that I will be much more likely to land balls short on approaches to greens that are at grade level… Whereas links courses that rely on raised greens, plateau greens, heavily guarded greens are more likely to receive an aerial approach.

I wonder sometimes if we look at a course like Ballybunion (which I love) and say that it is good for the ground game when in fact it more often than not demands an aerial approach. However Ballybunion excels at requiring ground game attributes in the shots around the green because of the way it can blind side you with contour and gives you run-off areas.

Maybe I am tying myself in knots and this is only clear in my own head?


Ally

You mention Ballybunion but equally I think you could have mentioned Dornoch. Thats the main reason why it wouldn't be near the top of my list of the best links in Scotland, far too many plateau greens that not only demand an aerial approach but means the putting surface is totally blind on a lot of those holes meaning judging distance becomes a lottery.

I much prefer the first type of course which I think is well typified by some of the flatter links like Gullane. When I think of a lot of the greens/fairways there, there isn't huge amounts of the severe undulations that many associate with links but which most (?) don't have. Thats not to say that you don't have to allow for a fall or a bit of borrow or indeed allow for landing the ball in a slight incline or decline. Just enough to make the trajectory and spot where the ball is landing count. In saying that I'll state that I do have a preference to use a 7iron for chip and run shots round the green rather than putting so heavy undulations do nothing for me by and large.

The other thing you need for this type of course, is the room to land a ball short and run it on.

I know you said that the turf and ground consitions were taken for granted however its worth re-iterating that you need consistency btween tee and green to work well IMO.

Niall

Doug Siebert

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2011, 01:46:01 AM »
Chris J...

Yeah, baby!!  I played Inwood in some FIERCE wind and out on those penninsula holes the ground game was forced upon me.  Good thing I had just returned from your neck of the woods a month or so before then. 

I must say I get weird looks from my local golfing group when I say I love playing in the wind.  They don't like it because it is hard to score in.  Score?  Pfft...  Fun, that is what it is all about.




Funny looks from your local golfing group?  Hell, I get funny looks from some people on this board when I've explained that I value fun over score when I play (wind or no wind, ground game or no ground game)  For the Pat Muccis of the world, not caring about one's score is inconceivable, and he challenged whether what I was playing could actually even be called golf ;D
My hovercraft is full of eels.

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course?
« Reply #19 on: January 13, 2011, 04:20:25 AM »
Give us an example then of a course which fits one of your categories, but not the other.

I’m only thinking this through myself…

But I’ve noticed recently that I will be much more likely to land balls short on approaches to greens that are at grade level… Whereas links courses that rely on raised greens, plateau greens, heavily guarded greens are more likely to receive an aerial approach.

I wonder sometimes if we look at a course like Ballybunion (which I love) and say that it is good for the ground game when in fact it more often than not demands an aerial approach. However Ballybunion excels at requiring ground game attributes in the shots around the green because of the way it can blind side you with contour and gives you run-off areas.

Maybe I am tying myself in knots and this is only clear in my own head?


Ally

You mention Ballybunion but equally I think you could have mentioned Dornoch. Thats the main reason why it wouldn't be near the top of my list of the best links in Scotland, far too many plateau greens that not only demand an aerial approach but means the putting surface is totally blind on a lot of those holes meaning judging distance becomes a lottery.

I much prefer the first type of course which I think is well typified by some of the flatter links like Gullane. When I think of a lot of the greens/fairways there, there isn't huge amounts of the severe undulations that many associate with links but which most (?) don't have. Thats not to say that you don't have to allow for a fall or a bit of borrow or indeed allow for landing the ball in a slight incline or decline. Just enough to make the trajectory and spot where the ball is landing count. In saying that I'll state that I do have a preference to use a 7iron for chip and run shots round the green rather than putting so heavy undulations do nothing for me by and large.

The other thing you need for this type of course, is the room to land a ball short and run it on.

I know you said that the turf and ground consitions were taken for granted however its worth re-iterating that you need consistency btween tee and green to work well IMO.

Niall

Niall,

Although Dornoch has plenty of plateau greens I dont think that means that they demand an aerial approach shot? I'd say that on all but 5 and 10 which have bunkers across the front of the green, you have a chance to run an approach shot up the ridge, false front or plateau. With the famous Foxy I'd even say that its pretty much your best chance of getting on the putting surface as anything pitching the green is likely to run through?

But maybe thats a key factor with Ally's question? If you have a long iron in your hand when approach a hole like Foxy, unless you can hit some towering high shot, the odds are most of us will be naturally running the shot in anyway, so its about having the skill to make sure that the shot doesn't just land short but actually will stay low and run out to where you want it. With a short iron in hand there will be times when landing it short is the order of the day but often most people will think they can hit and hold a green, though perhaps these are the cases when a low half shot with more club, comes into play, often landing some way short and running a long way.

So a green doesn't need to be grade level to allow for the ground game, but it does need to be short grass rather than bunkers or rough, or enough room to land the ball short as you mention.

Cheers,

James
2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #20 on: January 13, 2011, 04:56:18 AM »
This is a strange question because the most important aspect of the ground game is the turf.  There is no specific requirement in terms of width (jeepers, often times because a course is narrow I want to keep the ball on the ground), bunkering and grade level vs plateau greens.  Of course, some courses are more open to the ground game than others, but I can't think of any on good turf that exclude the ground game.  At worst its probably 50-50 in terms of the best type of shot for an okay player.  One thing I do like to see on courses kept firm is angles of run-out leading to trouble.  Meaning unless one is laying up, the best line requires a very straight, well judged distance shot or the ability to shape the ball away from the trouble (trouble being gathering bunkers, rough of just a poor angle for approach).  Often times all that is required is an ever so slight bend in the fairway or a ridge cutting in etc etc.  This would also include the far side of greens.  Too many holes seem to end at the end of the green.  On a f&f course this part of the hole is often ignored rather than hammered as a bad miss - especially on greens with front to back slope.  Its good to make a guy control is run-out.

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

Scott Warren

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #21 on: January 13, 2011, 05:18:00 AM »
If a shot is going to present an attractive ground game alternative, I like to see some shaping to work the ball with or against, some interest around which to let the imagination run wild.

A flat, even approach to the green, sure, with firm, fast surfaces it might in theory fit all the technical requirements for a running approach, but unless there is a bit of artistry involved I just can't get excited about it.

It doesn't need to be wild, but there needs to be something.

Just my two cents.

Steve Lang

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #22 on: January 13, 2011, 06:25:03 AM »
 8) Crowned greens and faiway features with some bathtub surrounds or framing
Inverness (Toledo, OH) cathedral clock inscription: "God measures men by what they are. Not what they in wealth possess.  That vibrant message chimes afar.
The voice of Inverness"

Ally Mcintosh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #23 on: January 13, 2011, 06:37:34 AM »
Sean,

A strange question it may be...

The obvious ground game neccesities are firm/fast conditions and wind. These are less to do with design and more to do with agronomy and natural conditions of the site.

I'm trying to find what aspects of design might promote or hinder the use of the ground game...

Ally "Patrick Mucci" McIntosh

Melvyn Morrow

Re: What makes a good "ground game" course? - Aside from turf / firmness
« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2011, 07:54:28 AM »

Ally (Who)

I fear that we could be mistaken and that design DOES contribute a great deal to The Ground Game, perhaps more so than we think.

I would agree that the Wind is indeed a major factor helped but not necessary by firm /fast conditions as this is where I believe the importance of the design input is forgotten. Routing a links course is by far rather complicated, well in the observation of not just the daily weather conditions but also the Seasons as well.

I would say that from my experience the design intent was well known and used to its full extent by the earlier designers and perhaps like blind holes and penal hazards, their usage has nearly been forgotten through the last couple of generations in the drive to make courses more accommodating for the less skill players or is that players in general?

There is a skill in designing courses suitable for the ground game, more so than a conventional course that takes a mix erring on the side of the aerial game.

You want to hinder the ground game, then look to modern designs incorporating Island Greens, shallow bunkers, Greens surrounded by bunkers.  All designed are for the aerial game, the Man’s Game of long drives (with sod all real skill- just grunt and hit drives).

Looking to design a course (let’s say on a sensible budget) then we need to get back to basics, seek first land fit for purpose – money can always detract/alter the argument but in current times with money tight common sense seem to advocate conventional design. I would also question the amount of soil movement and extent of ground drainage, perhaps a little over the top for a golf course which is meant to represent Nature, not built upon manmade drainage foundations.

As we work with Nature we need to remember our past in case of repeating old errors. We can over engineer a product that may result in bankrupting its manufacturer and itself into extinction.

Melvyn     

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