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Mark Saltzman

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My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« on: September 02, 2011, 06:07:34 PM »
I use the word "prefer" in my title, though it perhaps should read "only understand". 

When I play a golf course, whether it be one I know well or one I am playing for the first time, I love to discuss it with my playing partners.

I've noticed two things:

(1) My playing partners always say features should be added, and they are always features that would make the golf course more difficult.  Usually it goes something like: "I always seem to hit my ball away from the water on the right and into the left rough.  The thing is, it's really not so bad from over there, they should probably put a bunker or some trees over there." 

(2) I generally advocate the removal of hazards/trees or changing mowing lines to reward risky shots.  I played today at a course that I belong to (and know very well), and in talking to my playing companion, received further anecdotal confirmation of my hypothesis.  Hole 1, a par 5, has a bunker jutting into the right side of the fairway 100 yards short of the green.  The green is best approached from the right.  When my playing partner carried the bunker on his second shot, he found the long rough on the other side.  I said the mowing lines should be changed to reward him for playing a very good shot and carrying the bunker.  He told me, "nah, it's good that there is rough there because that way the hole is harder and you have to approach the green from the left, which is harder" (there are deep fronting bunkers on the left. 

And further anecdotal evidence: Hole 3 is a very hard 440 yard dogleg right P4 with hazard all the way down the right and woods 20 yards off the left side of the fairway.  There is also a single tree just off the left side of the fairway some 210 yards from the green.  To be behind this tree, you have to be 220+ yards out and in the left rough.  Who is this penalizing, really?  I advocated removal, and he said "but then if you hit a really bad shot to the left, you can have a clear line in."  Give me a break, this is from 220+, does it really need to be more penal.

What say you all? Do most golfers prefer penal architecture, perhaps because they understand it better? 

Mac Plumart

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2011, 06:25:20 PM »
yes, Yes, YES...I think that is totally true.

A long-hitting buddy of mine gets pissed if his 300+yard drive right down the middle has an uneven lie.  He thinks that isn't fair.

Bunkers in the middle of the fairway, winding creeks, and the like are scorned by many non-GCA guys I play with.

But slice a shot and end up in water, or a nasty bunker...or top a tee shot into the s**t and it is no big deal...that shot deserved it.

Fascinating to watch/listen to.

But, also many framed holes with bunkers keeping balls from rolling OB or into someone's yard are not scorned.  But hazard that must be challenged to get the ideal line into the green are ALWAYS overlooked and played away from.  I think very few people study architecture and its concepts...rather they know how to execute a swing and think it they properly execute that standard swing appropriately they should be rewarded.

Good post Mark!!
Sportsman/Adventure loving golfer.

Melvyn Morrow

Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2011, 06:52:40 PM »
Mark

Itís where the challenge is, itís the heart of the game that tests, then learning of skills to be able to stand before the hazards and know you CAN beat them. The name of the game is Golf and the beating heart of the game is PENAL, always has been until the last 30-50 years or so. Now players seek easy, yet I do not see the point of easy when we talk about golf.

Melvyn


Frank M

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2011, 06:57:12 PM »
I would have to say I agree, but I would say I am always cautious of the opinions of my playing partners. Far too many times they tend to be casual golfers who really don't care about architecture in the least.

Most golfers I play with are concerned more about their score and game than the course and even when they are concerned with the course it is the conditioning, scenery etc. which peeks their fancy. I'd wager most golfers would be equally mesmerized by the most difficult course in the world and the easiest course in the world if both were "even par" in terms of scenery and conditions. Does the average golfer really recognize what makes Augusta or Pebble great golf courses? I don't believe they do, but they would probably be quick to point out that the visuals are amazing and the conditions outstanding.

Most golfers may think making a course more penal means making a course better, but that is simply because they probably don't recognize that there are any other criteria available to them in analyzing a golf course and don't necessarily have a true grasp on the history of golf architecture.

Courses are made to challenge the golfer, but if you agree that 90% of the game is in the 6inches between your ears...well you know there are many ways to challenge a golfer that don't involve being penal (simply adding bunkers, tight fairways etc.).

 

Mac Plumart

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2011, 07:02:00 PM »
Melvyn...

You've described the essence of strategic design.  Take on the hazards and overcome them to gain an advantage.

This hole is strategic.



It is from behind the green on 11 at TPC Sawgrass.  If you can attack that green, get over that creek, and bunkers from deep in the fairway you can gain a HUGE advantage against someone who has to lay up short of the creek and pitch up to the green.  However, it you don't pull that longer approach shot off...you are dead...not pulling off a well designed strategic shot is penal by nature.  Hence, the risk/reward.

But his hole it purely penal...



You don't "take on" these hazards to gain an advantage...you simply avoid them...that is hit the ball down the middle of the fairway.  Slice or hook and you are in the bunkers.  You are double penalized for a bad shot and there are no risk/reward decisions to be made on this hole.
Sportsman/Adventure loving golfer.

Ben Sims

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2011, 07:02:16 PM »
I developed the nickname "trois" to go along with Dell and Deuce on my latest trip to Ballyneal.  The reason is that I had precisely calculated my fanned mid-irons and used par-3's as my catch up holes on all our matches to good effect.  This didn't infuriate the sticks I was playing against so much as confuse them.  They were hitting squarely struck shots with baby draws vs. my fanned hangers-on.  

I can understand why this would make the "normal" golfer upset.  He hits it dead straight, maybe a draw, and the mid-capper with a fade/slice wins the hole due to sideboards and backboards.  

It also reaffirms my theory that Tom designs his par three for Jack Nicklaus.   ;D

Garland Bayley

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2011, 07:06:32 PM »
Coming out of the dark ages most golfers are indoctrinated in penal architecture. They think that is how it should be.

I played with a 30 handicap to whom I expressed displeasure with a 170 all carry over water par 3. He said it was a great hole, because it was challenging as he proceeded to dump three in a row in the pond. If he hadn't hit the 4th so bad that it completely missed the water on the right (and of course much of the hole including the green by 50 yards), I think I might have done serious harm to him with my sand iron.
"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

Peter Pallotta

Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2011, 07:14:30 PM »
Mark - good post, nuanced and specific. In one sense the golfers you highlight clearly understand and appreciate the purpose of architecture -- which is to ask golfers to actually hit good golf shots, and golf shots that require some measure of thought/decision-making beforehand.  And in that context, they really are taking design seriously -- i.e. they want to interact with it.  They may come to understand that there are more varied/subtle forms of interaction -- but the way I see it, it's not essential or even 'better' that they do.

It struck me recently that it is ironic (if not hypocritical) for me to claim that I want architecture that doesn't dictate the way it should be played and that gives me options, and then to turn right around and want to dictate to other golfers how they should "interact" or want to interact with the design.

Peter
« Last Edit: September 02, 2011, 08:20:17 PM by PPallotta »

Adam Clayman

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2011, 08:13:00 PM »
Mark, They prefer what they described because they know nothing else. They are likely novice students, at best. Who are you going to listen to? The freshmen? Or the Grad student?

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

Jud_T

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2011, 08:38:33 PM »
My anecdotal conclusion:  Most golfers don't know any better.
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

Niall C

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2011, 04:43:00 AM »
Mark

How good a golfer was your playing companion ? If he was low handicap man then I can understand. The other thing is, when you refer to penal and he refers to penal, are you necessarily refering to the same thing. I have a theory, with absolutely zero facts to back it up, that golfers like two things 1) a well conditioned course, and 2) a challenge.

On the first point, a well conditioned course can mean different things to to different people. To some they like everything green and greens being receptive, to others they are happy when the course plays fast and firm and is scruffy round the edges but in good nick where it counts.

On the second point, and as a generalisation good players tend to like straight down the middle course, mid handicappers something with more varied challenge but challenge none the less, and the high handicappers something with a little bit more elbow room but still with challenge to keep him interested. A gross characterisation on my part but I suspect not far from the truth.

Niall

Melvyn Morrow

Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2011, 05:31:04 AM »

Niall

As a slightly long in the tooth nut re golf, I Hate with a great big capital H, a well-conditioned course. In fact one has to wonder why go to all that expense for a golf course.

I seek more the Natural and not the country cottage or Hampton Court formal gardens courses which seem to try to minimise the challenge. I am, of course, not advocating natural as a landscape that you need a machete in one hand and a 9 Iron in the other, although you do get that notion that itís a challenge and that itís not a walk in a park.

As for the game itself, was it ever intended as a straight game? I think not, hence the need for designers who understood the game; they work with Nature and designed the course offering options (natural or manmade hazards) to the golfer for their level of skill. The game requires the player to navigate a golf course, the aerial game and now the long hitters are responsible with weak club owners for many a second division course. The result being the reduction of penal to the equivalent of a weak and wet handshake.

The key to a golf Hole and a good course itís how the player is allowed to navigate his way around. One of the main reasons why routing is so loved and understood by many on this site and within the game.

Golf has been turned into the equivalent of Motorway driving instead of the real Ďoff roadingí which IMHO it truly is. Not forgetting how much of a killer Motorway driving is due to its unchallenging environment it offers the driver. To the point that even good drivers nod of from time to time as nothing really keep the mind focused. The long straight shot can be very destructive and rather uninteresting, but it seems to have captured the imagination of many of todayís players.

Melvyn


Mark Saltzman

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2011, 09:36:14 AM »
Mark

How good a golfer was your playing companion ? If he was low handicap man then I can understand. The other thing is, when you refer to penal and he refers to penal, are you necessarily refering to the same thing. I have a theory, with absolutely zero facts to back it up, that golfers like two things 1) a well conditioned course, and 2) a challenge.


Niall,

The gentleman I played with the other day was not a low handicap, probably about a 15.  His attitude, that a bad shot should be punished, is an attitude that almost all golfers seem to have.  That the punishment could be more subtle, such as a more difficult angle of approach, a longer length approach, or a green not designed to accept shots from the angle, either goes unnoticed by the player, or even if noticed is just not severe enough in their own mind.

The interesting thing, though, is that there is a very fine line between golfers wanting penal and the golf course being too darned hard, and this, I believe, to the type of hazard employed. Courses like those RTJ designed with bunkers on one side and trees down the other will likely be enjoyed by the masses, especially if the trees are on the right.  Most non low-handicap golfers hate fairway bunkers and even more than that they despise losing golf balls.  Courses with water down both sides on every hole a golfer will hate, but trees down both sides with an occasional fairway bunker, will be right up their alley (excuse the pun).

Regarding your theory that golfers want conditioning and a challenge, proof of that is found on another discussion board that I participate on.  The board generally discusses only golf courses in a single geographic region, but it does not discuss them the way they are discussed here --- first question is always, "how was the conditioning for the price paid?".  After that, generally some statement like, "it was a tough track."  Statements like these have made me wonder if the key to success for a public course is conditioning.  It seems when a lot of guys play a private course, all I hear is, "it was a lot of fun, it was in really great shape."  If all they take away from it was conditioning, then maybe for the average public golfer, the most important thing is conditioning? And of courses value, but on GCA.com, value is not part of the discussion!

Tom_Doak

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2011, 09:52:33 AM »
Mark:

Pete Dye told me 30 years ago that golfers preferred very hard golf courses.  He didn't use the word "masochist" to describe them, but that's pretty much what he meant, and he has made a career out of proving his case.

I would question whether you are describing ALL golfers worldwide, or just Americans.  If I could describe what Americans [and the Chinese, too] want, in one word, it would be:  MORE.  They always want more.  It's the only way you can explain why there are seven computers in my house, or why every restaurant meal in America delivers 50% more calories than you ought to eat.  It also explains the proliferation of bunkers and water hazards on golf courses.  But, is that also true in Australia or Japan or Ireland?  I'm not so sure.

Anyway, I am not arguing that golfers want their courses to be easy -- I'm just arguing that it's gotten so extreme that people are ready for someone to dial it back a little bit.  I worried that Pacific Dunes would be dismissed by some folks as "too easy" because it wasn't 7200 yards -- but I believe, in the end, that's been one of the keys to its success.  It's challenging enough, but it still holds out the possibility that a club pro or a good amateur could go to the back tees on a calm morning and have a chance to break par.  Most modern courses give them no chance of that. 

Brad Isaacs

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2011, 10:56:36 AM »
I would argue that most golfers don't know what they want. The good architect should design the course with a balance of heroic, strategic which if you don't execute is called penal, and true penal golf holes. These can all be difficult holes but are just different in their philosophical approaches.
Beauty will always attract. Difficulty will attract and repell, see the PGA West , TPC course as an example of such. I have played with a lot of golfers who just don't like it. I would say that you just have to know where to hit it on that course and make sure you are playing the correct tees.

The genius of Fazio might be the camouflage he puts on the course in relative to a Pete Dye that looks a lot harder than it is.  ( a different camoflage) People have ideas on this statement? Please comment.

Tom_Doak

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2011, 01:13:23 PM »
The genius of Fazio might be the camouflage he puts on the course in relative to a Pete Dye that looks a lot harder than it is.  ( a different camoflage) People have ideas on this statement? Please comment.

Brad:  I would challenge you to explain this thought better.  I'm not sure what you are saying, but if you're saying what I think you are, I might disagree.

Sean_A

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2011, 01:57:02 PM »
Pietro

HHmm, I am not sure the purpose of architecture is to ask golfers to it good shots.  That may be part of it, but the more important aspect is for architecture (for the handicap player) to provide fun and interesting golf. 

Mark

I don't know if golfers want penal architecture or road map architecture.  Maybe its a combo of both.  I sure don't hear many golfers talking about taking bunkers and trees out and providing 20 extra yards of fairway!  I did have an interesting short chat today with my playing partners about the "new" daily tee at Burnham's 15th - up on a dune.  I lamented that I missed the old tee down below and surprisingly enough both the other guys said they did too.  They both said the hole is hard enough with length and headwind and there is no need to increase the impact of the wind with a high tee.  I was very surprised because obviously the views are better up top and while not fully visible the tee shot is somewhat more revealed.  My only beef was I didn't want to walk to the top when there is a perfectly servicable tee down below!

Ciao   
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Hankley Common, Ashridge, Gog Magog Old & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2011, 02:08:47 PM »
Most members seem to like it when bunkers are added and tees added so holes are lengthened. There is a definite large band that do seem to want what Pete Dye alludes too.
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

Tom Kelly

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2011, 02:50:06 PM »
I think a lot of golfers think they prefer penal architecture, but don't necessarily understand what the definition of penal architecture is.

The majority of golfers will play most of their golf on average or below average courses when thought of in architectural terms.

When they play a higher quality course, the majority of the time they will find it harder. It is most likely is a 'championship' or something similar which they are told is a 'top quality' golf course and will in reality be harder than their regular knock about course.

Or due to playing most of their golf on poorer courses their decision making and course management will be poor, so they fall for the traps set out by well designed strategic courses and find the course harder when they first play it. Again they are told it is a very good course by the rankings, reviews etc etc.

Essentially most will shoot a higher score on the better quality courses. They will therefore associate high quality well designed courses with being harder than their regular poorly designed course.

Hence they think they prefer penal architecture as they assume harder means better.

Once in a while you will come across someone who used to think that way until they finally played a really penal course a few times and got increasingly bored and frustrated. After some thought they realised what it was that bored and frustrated them....they saw the light!



I believe it also has something to do with the human instinct to overcome a challenge. As Mackenzie said (something along these lines anyway) everybody loves the thrill of hitting over a huge bunker even if there is very little chance of them actually going in it in the first place, they feel they have overcome a great obstacle.

The courses which the majority of people will enjoy the most are often the ones which look really really hard but are actually quite easy.


That is the conclusion I have come to anyway.....

Tom_Doak

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2011, 03:01:28 PM »
Most members seem to like it when bunkers are added and tees added so holes are lengthened. There is a definite large band that do seem to want what Pete Dye alludes too.

Adrian:

I don't know about you, but in my consulting work, when we are taking down trees or widening a fairway or eliminating a bunker, we are constantly asked by members, "But won't that make the course easier?"  I think there is a fear that they will be seen as weaklings who are trying to soften the course for themselves!

We are constantly explaining that we aren't trying to make the course easier or harder, only more interesting.  Some accept this, others still seem uncomfortable with it.

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #20 on: September 03, 2011, 03:56:21 PM »
Tom - Yes I find that too. I think that for great players probably only 50 bunkers or hazards (and those can be grassed hollows) really come in to play and yet so often we see twice that... we dont really need to try and penalise the lesser player he will penalise himself. I think its reasonably easy to convince on a 1 on 1 situation but educating the wider audience is tougher.
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

Morgan Clawson

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #21 on: September 03, 2011, 04:05:07 PM »
Great thread.  I agree with Mark Saltzman's premise.

Most golfers want to play good courses.  And good = what they see on TV.

The tour courses usually are very lenghty and have long carries, dramatic water hazards and bunkers, and deep rough and big trees.

So, most golfers think that the more of those things that are on a particular hole and course, the better it is.

As a bogey golfer, I feel that too many of the above things on a particular hole is "piling-on" to use a football phrase.

This piling-on is detrimental to the game because the 20+ handicapper that gets his ass kicked is less likely to want to go out the following weekend.  He's dejected because he shot a high score, lost a lot of balls and spent a lot of money. He's down on himself because he didn't play well.  Well, it's probably partly true that he didn't play well, but it's also true that the hole with 2 forced carries that he triple bogeyed was really too penal.


Jud_T

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Re: My anecdotal conclusion: Most Golfers Prefer Penal Architecture
« Reply #22 on: September 04, 2011, 07:41:03 AM »
Most golfers want something they're familiar and therefore comfortable with IMO.  Nothing bothers them more than standing on the tee at a course like Old Mac in a 30 mph breeze with no obvious visual clues on the best line of play.  They'd rather be searching the woods of their tree lined home course all day than give in to the experience of the new.
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

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