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Kyle Harris

Strategy in Golf
« on: March 26, 2011, 05:59:12 PM »
A few weeks back on the Galloway thread, I engaged in a stimulating discussion that touched on some of the aspects of strategy in golf. This primed me to post on my webpage about the topic in greater detail as the essay format doesn't work too well for discussion group posts.

In the spirit of the shameless plug, I'd like to encourage comments on my essay as well as further the discussion here. Here is the link to my webpage: http://kylewharris.com/

Robert Mercer Deruntz

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Re: Strategy in Golf
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2011, 06:31:26 PM »
Spot on essay.  People can keep trying to attribute strategy to Fazio, but there is very little there.  After watchinf the Fazio s on the Trump show (couldn t resist), I am more convinced than ever that anything of a strategic quality is from an idiot savant occurance!

JNC Lyon

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Re: Strategy in Golf
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2011, 05:19:52 PM »
Kyle,

This is a really interesting essay, and I agree with a lot of it.  The main premise that width = strategy really strikes a chord with me.  I run into this problem all the time at tree-lined, Northeastern courses where the only "option" or "strategy" is to fit a drive into a 25-yard-wide fairway.  Width solves this issue, and it makes the test mental rather than physical.

My example of a strategic hole that most people despise is the 6th hole at CC of Rochester.  This hole was thrown into the property by Robert Trent Jones in the 1950s, and Gil Hanse redid it nicely in 2004.  It is a very sharp dogleg right, turning about 220 yards off the tee.  A long bunker protects the inside of the dogleg.  The golfer has the choice of driving left into a wide part of the fairway with a fairway wood.  This leaves about 190 yards into the green that is shallow and difficult to hit with a long iron.  If the golfer challenges the bunker, he runs the risk of either finding the bunker and having a difficult recovery or going long into the valley on the far side of the fairway.

In the past, the valley was filled with willow trees, keeping the corridor near and thus all but eliminating the choice to attack the hole with a driver.  Recently, the club cut down the trees on the left, creating a much wider corridor.  A drive that finds the valley will not be ideal, but it will still have a shot into the green with a shorter club than if he had laid up.  Hanse's redesign creates a short-game swale short-right of the green.  This means that a player who lays back off the tee will have to make up for his choice through excellent short-game play.

If the golfer is successful with his tee shot that challenges the bunker, he will have a short iron into the shallow plateau green and will have a huge advantage over the golfer who drives out to the left with a fairway wood.  Because of the width of the hole and the opportunity to cut off the dogleg (especially if the golfer can shape the ball from left to right), the golfer faces two distinct choices that offer drastically different consequences.  Most people dislike having to face a real choice such as this.  I see many good players attack the hole with driver, miss it right in the bunker or farther right in the woods, and condemn the hole as an abomination.  This reaction shows the greatness of the hole and insistence that the player make an actual decision.

The coolest thing about this strategy is that I once saw it play out in a match.  I was caddying in the CCR Invitational, which consists of the best amateur players in the Rochester area.  My man was playing one of the two or three best players in the area in the top bracket.  My man laid back off the tee, while his opponent attacked the corner successfully with a beautiful drive that he shaped perfectly.  The difference on the second shot was stunning, as our opponent was a good 50-60 ahead off the tee.  My man had to work hard for a four and a halve, and he only got the halve due to a good short game display.  One elected to attack and reaped the reward of an easy par, while the other laid back and had to work hard to compete.  It was very cool to see that strategy play out.

One question: you talk a lot about width as being key to strategy.  Does the severity of the hazard have anything to do with strategy?
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

JNC Lyon

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Re: Strategy in Golf
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2011, 05:23:55 PM »
Spot on essay.  People can keep trying to attribute strategy to Fazio, but there is very little there.  After watchinf the Fazio s on the Trump show (couldn t resist), I am more convinced than ever that anything of a strategic quality is from an idiot savant occurance!

As Kyle points out, the lack of strategy is not always a bad thing.  There is still a lot to like about the 4th hole at Galloway (the blending of the sand hazard into the pines, the plateau green exposed to the wind), but it is frustrating that he could have built a more strategic hole in that particular location.

I guess I'm starting to see now why folks really don't like Fazio, and it is not just because he desecrates classic courses or moves a lot of earth (those were always my reasons).  His focus is not on strategy but aesthetics, which proves boring after awhile.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Kyle Harris

Re: Strategy in Golf
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2011, 07:37:01 PM »
One question: you talk a lot about width as being key to strategy.  Does the severity of the hazard have anything to do with strategy?

I don't know. I've thought of it and the nearest conclusion I've reached is that hazard severity is still a tactical demand.

JNC Lyon

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Re: Strategy in Golf
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2011, 04:22:58 PM »
One question: you talk a lot about width as being key to strategy.  Does the severity of the hazard have anything to do with strategy?

I don't know. I've thought of it and the nearest conclusion I've reached is that hazard severity is still a tactical demand.

Maybe, but wouldn't a hazard's severity change the hole's width requirements?  For example, 20 yards of fairway is okay if the defending hazard is a flat, lifeless bunker, whereas a much wider fairway is needed to create strategy if the defending hazard is a ten-foot-deep bunker.

I'm a little disappointed that other folks have not weighed in here, especially with all of the Max Behr/Joshua Crane issues flying around here.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Kyle Harris

Re: Strategy in Golf
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2011, 04:27:02 PM »
One question: you talk a lot about width as being key to strategy.  Does the severity of the hazard have anything to do with strategy?

I don't know. I've thought of it and the nearest conclusion I've reached is that hazard severity is still a tactical demand.

Maybe, but wouldn't a hazard's severity change the hole's width requirements?  For example, 20 yards of fairway is okay if the defending hazard is a flat, lifeless bunker, whereas a much wider fairway is needed to create strategy if the defending hazard is a ten-foot-deep bunker.

I'm a little disappointed that other folks have not weighed in here, especially with all of the Max Behr/Joshua Crane issues flying around here.

That is one possible outcome John, and a very interesting premise.

There's a good example at Lederach at the 11th hole. A wetland area has been since filled in and replaced with a well-considered area of higher grass. The risk is still present in that a ball may find an awkward stance but the play down the right side is much more enticing too.

Rob Bice

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Re: Strategy in Golf
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2011, 04:56:35 PM »
"Therefore, the nature of a strategic hazard lies in how the hazard influences play between the A and B options, not how the hazard influences the risk of employing that option."

Great stuff.  I am probably a little dense so can you elaborate on this point from your essay?  Am I reading your point correctly in saying that all hazards influence the risk of employing a certain strategy but not all hazards impact the strategic decision?

Also curious about your thoughts on cross bunkers?  It seems they would be similar to the bunker on the inside of the dogleg of a heavily tree lined hole.
"medio tutissimus ibis" - Ovid

Kyle Harris

Re: Strategy in Golf
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2011, 06:04:34 PM »
"Therefore, the nature of a strategic hazard lies in how the hazard influences play between the A and B options, not how the hazard influences the risk of employing that option."

Great stuff.  I am probably a little dense so can you elaborate on this point from your essay?  Am I reading your point correctly in saying that all hazards influence the risk of employing a certain strategy but not all hazards impact the strategic decision?

Also curious about your thoughts on cross bunkers?  It seems they would be similar to the bunker on the inside of the dogleg of a heavily tree lined hole.


Rob:

You've got a good handle on the idea, and that's a great, clear way of wording it.

Cross bunkers are what they are. As there is more available width to manuever around them, the strategic decisions become more complex. The essay is an analysis on the complexity of strategy for the hole, and how hazards influence that complexity. When a bunker is situated such that it increases the risk of one strategy, such as inside a narrow doglegged hole, it does nothing to actually make the strategy on the hole more complex. 

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