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Adam Clayman

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Why Subtle is Better?
« on: July 14, 2011, 09:02:03 AM »
From Shaq's quote o' day...

Quote
A golfer who knew only Sandwich golf would find himself at Hoylake much in the position of a child entering for an Indian Civil Service examination. Sandwich golf is simple and bold, but it requires no great variety of play; the Hoylake course is not so attractive at first sight, but the golf it affords is more subtle.   JOHN LOW

In a recent review of Colorado golf club, the poster didn't care for the flat terrain holes. While I found the subtle holes to be exceptionally well done.

Is the reason subtle golf course architecture is so good is because of the challenge the architect has in creating interesting golf on what could be described as bland terrain?

If you feel differently and feel that dramatic golf is preferred, please, by all means, convince us?
"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

Andy Troeger

Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2011, 09:09:41 AM »
I think this is one of those questions that comes down to personal preference more than a rational explanation that the other "side" is going to accept. It reminds me a bit of the posts Phil McDade has made comparing Lawsonia/Milwaukee CC to Blackwolf Run. H

Most of my favorite courses are over what's considered dramatic terrain. Its not necessarily the case that the architecture itself is overly dramatic--the landscape provided for interesting golf features. Personally, I enjoy architecture that presents at least the occasional "heroic" opportunity to carry/challenge a dramatic hazard for the chance to make birdie/eagle. Subtle holes often don't have hazards fearsome enough to allow for this. I also think dramatic holes are by their nature more memorable, which is important to me. Subtle holes often blend together from one course to another, even if they are well done.

JNC Lyon

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2011, 09:10:47 AM »
Subtle golf architecture is golf architecture that takes time to learn.  If a golf course is subtle, it will get better with repeated plays.  It will only the golfer to unlock its secrets after careful and extended study.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Andy Troeger

Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2011, 09:15:05 AM »
JNC,
That's a good point as well. Some of this depends on whether you're looking at a resort one-time play course or a local place that you're intending to play regularly.

Adam Clayman

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2011, 09:16:03 AM »
John, I believe you nail the compelling interest in all courses, the ability to keep a golfer engaged, time after time. The syaing playing it everyday for the rest of your life, is most apropos.

Andy, At CC
GC, C&C created hazards that require heroic and demanding shots. What I liked so much, was how they didn't try and wow the golfer, by building up features that are eye jarring. This subtleness is a big part of the art of gca, imo.
"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

Mike_Young

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2011, 09:18:35 AM »
Rarely does subtle golf design make the magazines....one of the greatest detriments to subtle design is the contrast of sand to grass.  So many American golf courses would be better if were not for bunkers.
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Andy Troeger

Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2011, 09:19:37 AM »
Adam,
That is true, but I'm not thinking of CGC as being especially subtle. Perhaps its a good example of a "hybrid" between the two. There are a few more subtle holes, especially in the middle of the front nine, but other than #7 I didn't those holes to be the better ones on the course. And I wouldn't call #7 subtle either.

BCrosby

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2011, 09:24:02 AM »
Doing subtle is hard. It also takes courage, because it is not something you can photograph and put in a developer's advertising brochure.

Bob  

Andy Troeger

Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2011, 09:29:10 AM »
Isn't it often better to use both and combine the two? In my mind, there's no question that high quality subtle features can be used to enhance ANY golf course, regardless of whether it has dramatic features to start with.

Keith OHalloran

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2011, 09:48:26 AM »
I am guessing  t hat Mac will disagree and point to the Extreme golf IMO?

Tom_Doak

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2011, 10:18:40 AM »
I remember when we were starting the third course at The Legends in Myrtle Beach, Gil and I were trying to build a course that was more subtle than the first two.  The client just hated it, kept shaking his head and wanting the bunkers bigger and bolder. 

In hindsight, Myrtle Beach probably wasn't such a good place to try that, but it is always a tough sell.  The best courses are sometimes subtle designs in dramatic settings.  That's what Sand Hills is, for sure.

Keith OHalloran

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2011, 10:28:38 AM »
Tom,
I wonder if you could give some insight to you definition of subtle? While I wouldn't call Sand Hills extreme, the huge deep bunkers and greens like 2 and 3, remove the course from what I had been visualizing as subtle.

George Pazin

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2011, 10:48:13 AM »
Isn't it often better to use both and combine the two? In my mind, there's no question that high quality subtle features can be used to enhance ANY golf course, regardless of whether it has dramatic features to start with.

Undoubtedly true, but one problem with this is that the subtle features are then missed or overlooked, and the holes that best utilize these subtleties end up being called the bland holes or lesser holes. The only thing one can really do is hope there are enough to appreciate them to make it worthwhile.
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

Adam Clayman

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2011, 12:44:34 PM »
Thanx all. Good food for thought  Mike Y. I will never forget going with Ben on a pitch to sell mini discs to replace bag tags at a Norman course in Florida. The guy was right up front with how poorly the course photographs.      Andy, Geo. That's why I think CGC is a good study on the subject. Both topographies co-exist. Mountain golf is hard to come up with new looks. Imo, but the subtle land always seems to have auniqueness about its movement. 
"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

Niall C

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2011, 02:13:27 PM »
Adam

In my book subtle is usually better as in most cases (thinking here of flatter links courses for instance) it offers more variation. To me the likes of Gullane 2 and 3 are perfect examples. Gently sloping links with simple bunkers left and right of the green can and do provide great golf with loads of different ways to play a hole. Courses/holes with bolder more obvious features can sometimes be restricted in to either/or type choices.

I think there is something in the suggestion that subtle holes take a bit more learning and are therefore underappreciated initially. Again I wonder if that is why the flatter holes at Royal Troon get no love on here for instance. 

Niall

Andy Troeger

Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2011, 03:38:18 PM »
Isn't it often better to use both and combine the two? In my mind, there's no question that high quality subtle features can be used to enhance ANY golf course, regardless of whether it has dramatic features to start with.

Undoubtedly true, but one problem with this is that the subtle features are then missed or overlooked, and the holes that best utilize these subtleties end up being called the bland holes or lesser holes. The only thing one can really do is hope there are enough to appreciate them to make it worthwhile.

With a one-time play (or even 2-3) I can see how subtleties can be missed--although it depends on what the golfer is looking for. Sometimes subtleties are very dependent on maintenance too--subtle slopes need some level of firmness to affect play at all.

The challenge, however, is that one guy's "subtlety" is another one's "bland." I haven't seen a course that I really liked that didn't use its subtleties as an enhancement instead of the main attraction. I found Talking Stick North to be rather boring with the exception of a couple holes--others claim it to be subtle genius.

Sean_A

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2011, 03:43:41 PM »
Adam

You won't find many bigger fans of subtle architetcture than me, but I have never believed subtle was better than dramatic or anything in between. Subtle usually works best as a contrast to dramatic to create an ebb and flow to a course.  Hoylake is a great example of this, but I think Burnham is an even better example as its flat holes are terriblly undervalued precisely because people don't really know the holes well or they are looking forward (and back) to the more dramatic holes.   That said, there are some wonderful subtle courses, or at least I am told so. Perhaps the best I know of is Princes (a seriously under-rated course) or perhaps Northamptonshire, Little Aston, maybe even New Zealand.  I don't think its great golf, but I think I could be happy as a member at any of these places.  Usually, subtle is associated with flatter land and in this case the older I get the more I appreciate it as walking the dramatic sites does get a bit wearisome, especially the sort that is oh so very dunesy or hilly.  


BTW - to suggest Sandwich is simple is poppycock.  Low ought to have known better than this especially given its much more blind nature back in the day and the fact that Hoylake was more black and white with its OOB more present back in the day
Ciao
« Last Edit: July 14, 2011, 03:48:15 PM by Sean Arble »
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Adam Clayman

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2011, 05:34:25 AM »
All great stuff fellas. I'm anxious to finally get over to see what I supposedly am missing. Since it turns out, I've never been on a links. ;).  I suppose we can use Bandon as an example ? The Trails is artful in how the boys didn't over work a site and utilized both the subtle and dramatic feature shaping and terrain. ?   Sean. If you put yourself in Low's shoes? Could he be right about his opinion if we consider the courses he knew and played? I know little to nothig on either, just throwing it out there. 
"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

Sean_A

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2011, 07:20:19 AM »
All great stuff fellas. I'm anxious to finally get over to see what I supposedly am missing. Since it turns out, I've never been on a links. ;).  I suppose we can use Bandon as an example ? The Trails is artful in how the boys didn't over work a site and utilized both the subtle and dramatic feature shaping and terrain. ?   Sean. If you put yourself in Low's shoes? Could he be right about his opinion if we consider the courses he knew and played? I know little to nothig on either, just throwing it out there. 

Adam

Sandwich very much had the reputation of being a driving course - hence I suspect the reason for Low's comments.  However, as you can see, the land is very humpty bumpty and requires qite a bit of thought - no?  I read the comments as a not so subtle swipe at Sandwich perhaps as a rival for Hoylake as the king of English clubs.  A north/south divide issue if you will with Hoylake being essentially an English outpost of the R&A.  Of course, the character of Hoylake has changed dramatically with the elimination of a few famous OOB holes and the addition of the Colt holes along the dunes. In any case, both are fine championship links with high pedigree clubs. 

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

RJ_Daley

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2011, 12:40:16 PM »
Adam, since 'Shaq' brought up Low's quote, perhaps it is Geoff's 'subtle' reminder of which course he has collaborated on that has the sort of subtle one loves to play day in and day out and not find boredom.... Rustic Canyon.  Is there a more subtle course that one could play regularly and not suffer boredom?  And, the subtle hole to exemplify the height of subtle might be #12 RC.

I haven't had the pleasure of play on the real links either.  But, I wonder if the diff between the dramatic and subtle in the comparison of Sandwich to Hoylake isn't the same as the diff between Pac Dunes or SH and a CGC or RC sort of comparison.   

What do folks think of Gil Hanse's Castle Stuart for subtle?
No actual golf rounds were ruined or delayed, nor golf rules broken, in the taking of any photographs that may be displayed by the above forum user.

BCrosby

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2011, 01:05:06 PM »
"Sandwich very much had the reputation of being a driving course..."

You hear that said often about RSG. I've never understood what it means. 

Bob 

BCrosby

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2011, 08:59:33 AM »
Is this what it means? Copping a quotation from Geoff's website:

"Sandwich seems to me to test power and putting, and to leave out the rest of good golfing qualities. For the long driver there are practically no hazards to trap his erring shots; he goes gaily on, caring little where he places his shots, for direction is only of secondary consideration." JOHN LOW


Tom MacWood

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2011, 09:04:20 AM »
I'm not sure I understand what is subtle architecture. What are some well known examples of subtle architecture? What is the opposite of subtle architecture?

Mark Chaplin

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2011, 01:34:34 PM »
Bob you have to drive extremely well to score at RStG. Distance is required on 1, 4, 7, 13, 15 & 18. Pin point accuracy on 2, 5, 8, 9, 12 & 17. The only straight forward drives are 10 and 14 (if you exclude the tight OOB!). There is little opportunity to score well if you aren't driving well.

Hoylake maybe the north England R&A outpost (RStG is in the south) but like Hillside I just didn't get the hype. I need another visit!
Cave Nil Vino

Adam Clayman

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Re: Why Subtle is Better?
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2011, 02:29:11 PM »
MacW. C and C typically does subtle. Jim Engh typically does dramatic.
"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

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