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Matthew Sander

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2012, 03:39:36 PM »

I largely think the question is answered by knowing who your client is.  An architect does not build a course for himself or the golfer, he builds the course for the person or persons that are paying that architect.  If those person(s) want severe, risk taking greens (and are willing to live with lower stimp speeds), than the architect should push the envelope.  If those person(s) want high stimp speeds and are willing to give on undulations in the greens, then that is what the architect should do.


Michael,

I agree with your above statement, but shouldn't there also be an understanding by the client of what his/her/its end users will expect and accept in the final product? Reading Tom's initial post, it sounds like he is referring largely to courses whose greens have to be softened relatively soon after opening due to feedback from players/members.

I'm not privy to the inner-workings of the architect/client relationship, but it seems that the client would have ample opportunity to address concerns during the design/construction process. Therefore, the logical explanation as to why the architect would be brought back to soften contours would be complaints from those who are playing the course as opposed to the direct client...

I guess this discussion begs a question directed to Tom and the other architects out there: Would you prefer to design greens that you feel are interesting (severely contoured), but risk some later tempering at the behest of the client and/or the client's customers -OR- would you rather take a safer route with more gentle (yet perfectly acceptable) greens that won't receive the negative attention and possible revision? There probably is no silver bullet answer and it seems this is what Tom was alluding to in his initial post...
« Last Edit: February 14, 2012, 03:42:48 PM by Matthew Sander »

Matthew Petersen

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2012, 03:41:23 PM »
In many cases I suppose it has to do with why the decision is made to re-do the greens, and what the architect's understanding was vis a vis the conditions that came up.

If an architect designs a course that is intended as a private, players' club then they would certainly seem to have license to be more extreme. But if the financial model doesn't work out and it becomes a resort course and players bitch and moan to the point where the greens need altering ... well, hard to blame the architect.

On the other hand, let's look at the example of a course we'll see next week, Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain. "Nicklaus" had to go in a soften some of the more severe greens there after the course had only been open about a year. This was primarily due to complaints from the pros who played the course, as I understand it, and at first that would seem to give "Nicklaus" a pass ... except that it was understood that this course was being built as a venue for the match play. Still, does that make it the architect's fault if pros are just too whiny or if certain late-February conditions make the greens effectively play differently than was intended? I would tend to think not but then I always find it a shame when changes of any kind are made to a course simply because a pro event is held there 4-5 days out of a given year.

Peter Pallotta

Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2012, 04:01:49 PM »
Tom - the description you gave of the different ways architects have built/tried to build their careers rings true for every profession I can think of.  My belief -- and with each passing year that belief gets stronger/more pronounced -- is that the right way is also the best way, and that this right/best way is to always follow one's highest ideals/aspirations.  And I think that, despite appearances/
fears, it is precisely when the going gets tough that the right way is the best way; it's precisely when the decisions get scarier and weightier and more complicated that our ideals/aspirations are more important (and truer guides) than ever before.  I know - easy for me to say.  But I'm reminded of the line by philosopher Albert Camus: "The only sin a man can commit is one against his own nature".  I think that if we go against our own best instincts/ideals/aspiration, it is then that we start courting failure.  (Sorry for taking this so far afield; I can't answer the question otherwise).

Peter    

Michael George

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2012, 04:05:27 PM »
Matthew Sander:

Like in all client relationships, it is best if there are frank discussions regarding expectations before any engagement.  If the client wants huge contours, the client should not consider some architects and some architects should not take the engagement.  Likewise, with  subtle greens.  From these discussions, an architect or other professional should know whether they should work with the client and the client should know if they should work with the professional.

I understand Tom's quandry because I am confronted with it on a daily basis.  When I see a client making what I believe to be a mistake, I work very hard to try and change the client's mind.  If they will not, I try and lessen the impact of that decision in other areas.  However, no professional is responsible for the actions of the client and the decision ultimately lies with the client.  

The power of persuasion is an important element of any professional's services.  While some have this natural ability, others need to achieve success in order to have more persuasive power with clients.  
"First come my wife and children.  Next comes my profession--the law. Finally, and never as a life in itself, comes golf" - Bob Jones

Tim Nugent

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2012, 04:07:05 PM »
Posted by: Matthew Sander
I'm not privy to the inner-workings of the architect/client relationship, but it seems that the client would have ample opportunity to address concerns during the design/construction process. Therefore, the logical explanation as to why the architect would be brought back to soften contours would be complaints from those who are playing the course as opposed to the direct client...

This is probably the most common instance.  I did a green once where the committee said, "that's our hardest/best hole, don't make it too easy" so I add one more section (3 vs 2), the Pro reviewed it, the super reviewed it, the President reviewed and the greens chairman reviewed it.  The course was open for play everyday it was being built.  It wasn't until after the members started playing it that the grumbling began.  I showed the original design (simple deck green) and said, "you can always go back to that, you would only have to lower 1/5 of the putting surface".  Now that there is a new Pro, new super and new Board, I wonder what the new architect will do.

Long story short, we can only have an educated guess as to how the masses will react.  It is the easy way out to  just design to the 2%, plain vanilla model.  It safe to keep your head down in the trenches, stick it up and it might get shot off.

I think undulations LOOK more servere but slope is what kills the golfer.  Of course he has a harder time quantifying that.  Oakmont gets away with it because the greens are on the larger size.  If you have a membership that believes that a putt should have a chance from anywhere on the green, they will decry undulations but be silent on slope.

Coasting is a downhill process

Bill Brightly

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #30 on: February 14, 2012, 04:32:17 PM »
Tom,

I have to ask...

Have you ever considered doing something as severe as the practice green at Pacific Dunes, and putting it onto a course?

#8 Green at Ballyneal is the most severe green I can think of that your team has done.

Kalen,

I haven't played Ballyneal, but is it as severe as Tom's tribute to Dr. Mac's Sitwell Park?

Barnbougle Dunes #13


Matthew Sander

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #31 on: February 14, 2012, 04:33:44 PM »
Michael,

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I hope it didn't come across that I was disagreeing with your original point, rather expanding on it by asserting that success not only depends on the architect's understanding of the client's expectations, but also the client's understanding of the end user's expectations.

I'm sure there are instances (such as Tim N.'s above example) where everything is copacetic between client and architect, and yet there still are greens that need to be softened because those playing the course find them unplayable (subjective) or are too inflexible to accept their challenge.

That is why the client is really the linchpin of this whole process (aside from the fact that they write the check!). They must take the expertise and recommendations of the architect and do their best to steer the project to what the end user wants. This very process is part of what made Dream Golf such an interesting read...

Kalen Braley

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #32 on: February 14, 2012, 05:11:53 PM »
Bill,

Thats a great pic of the one at BD...

From the pics its seems more severe than this..


Willie_Dow

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #33 on: February 14, 2012, 05:16:57 PM »
We have discussed the dimple at great length.

We have seen Mickelson's display at Pebble Beach on greens that looked to be around 12.

We have articles quoting Nicklaus at Orlando saying women, boys and girls are intimidated because the game is too hard to learn.  And we need to make golf appealing to women and teens.

How much more speed of green can the game afford ?
 

Cristian

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #34 on: February 14, 2012, 05:47:53 PM »
How wild or moderate were MacKenzie's greens really in relation to the average green speeds of his day? (stimp 6-8 probably) What degrees of inclination on putting surfaces correspond to similar reactions of the ball at present green speeds? Perhaps many modern architects are following an aesthetic example (in terms of building wild and heavily contoured greens), but maybe those wild greens actually played more like the softened or moderately contoured greens of this day....?

edit; I see I have come back to the subject of the original thread which Tom did not want to hijack.....

One question remains interesting though: How much less contour could/should a green have to provide similar breaks in putts when there is a difference of let's say 3-4 feet on the stimp meter?
« Last Edit: February 14, 2012, 06:05:10 PM by Cristian Willaert »

Bill Brightly

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #35 on: February 14, 2012, 06:09:51 PM »
Bill,

Thats a great pic of the one at BD...

From the pics its seems more severe than this..



Wow, I see a tremendous similarity between the two greens. The one at BD is a blast to play. To a back left pin I aimed at the right edge of the green, pushed it a little, and  then we all hooted as the ball ran around over the back of the green and curled back on to the left side, 6 feet from pin. Next day was a right pin and I made the coolest 35 foot two-putt par.

Scott Stearns

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2012, 06:10:00 PM »
As a customer (player)  i'd say the following

I expect new arch to address 21st century green speeds.  I live in NYC, and i am ok with Montclair GC or some other 80 year old course slowing em down to address contours.  But when I go to a newer course here, i expect the greens to be really fast and to be designed to deal with that speed.  Iam uninterested in really big contours and a 8 stimp---because this mkt has plenty of those, done by very famous dead people.  

At a place like Bandon or Sand Hills, i think its a matter of setting expectations with the owner, but my own personal expectations are for firm and fast conditions.  If the greens cant tolerate 10-11 (or more) then i dont enjoy it as much, particularly if the greens are fescue, which i hafe found to be more bumpy than bent.  

I personally dont care if there some places i cant put from--if you put it on the top shelf and the pin is on the bottom, not being able to stop it just might be the appropriate penalty--but i also want clear sections of green where i can get an 8-12 footer that is quick.

Call it wrong, tell me i dont know anything about golf--but i like fast greens.  Foe me its more fun than banging it and watching it bounce up and down.  

Sean_A

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2012, 06:37:52 PM »
I started to type this on another thread, but didn't want to hijack it, so I've made it a separate topic here.

There have been many courses designed in recent years where severe greens have later been softened, either with the architect's participation, or not.  I can think of examples from many well-known designers, including myself.

Is this a good example of an architect taking a design risk, or is it a mild form of malpractice with other people's money? 

That's really a three-part question:

1.  Did you understand how severe you were making this green?
2.  Did you intend to make it that severe, or did it just turn out more severe than you intended?
3.  Was it a mistake to build something so severe, or was it a thoughtful design risk?  Will you make a green as severe on your next course, or on some course in the future?

Are there right or wrong answers to these questions?  I'm not sure of that.  Whether the result is a success or a disaster is generally a matter of opinion -- whether the green is TOO severe for playability is rarely a black-and-white question.  But, my experience is that not many clients appreciate having to go back and make changes afterward, either for the disruption to the membership or for the reputational effect on the course.

This post makes me think of two things.  First, I had never seen a set of greens I thought was OTT, and didn't really believe such a thing existed until I played the Castle Course.  As a set, they push the boundary a bit too far IMO.  That said, I think there are different ways to push the boundary and slipping into the OTT zone isn't all bad.  This leads me to my second point, all courses should ideally have a great mix of greens, that includes some outrageous greens.  The important thing is to create a balance - which the Castle Course fails to do and is rightly criticized because of it. 

At the end of the day, greens are really one of the few ways for an archie to distinguish himself so it shouldn't be surprising to come across a few doozies here and there.  On the other hand, there are few worse things to experience on a course than greens which are just too much, but to hit that edge an archie is going to carried away now and again - totally forgivable for the guy looking for a cutting edge course. 

Adrian

The greens on the Stranahan were most impressive.  They struck me as very well balanced with a ton of interest for approaching, chipping and putting, yet they sensible enough that the notch could be turned a bit on them without all hell breaking loose. 

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

John Kirk

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2012, 07:44:50 PM »
Hi Tom,

I think it's reasonable to assume that green speeds will be maximized given the type of grass used, the wealth of the customer, and the local climate.  Regardless of any conversations with management prior to course construction, it's fair to assume that the owner will squeeze every last inch of green speed that he/she can.  Fast putting surfaces are like golfer's heroin; they fascinate and hypnotize the player.

If somebody bitches about the contours after the fact, tell them the truth - that owner A said he would run the greens at 11 feet, not the 14 feet he played today.

Patrick_Mucci

Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2012, 08:23:13 PM »

There have been many courses designed in recent years where severe greens have later been softened, either with the architect's participation, or not.  I can think of examples from many well-known designers, including myself.

Is this a good example of an architect taking a design risk, or is it a mild form of malpractice with other people's money? 
Tom, I can't speak for you, or other architects, but it would seem that there's a balance between the creative and the practical that might need to be field tested to determine viability.

I'd rather see you, or any architect, design more toward the radical than the mundane.
While both can be fixed, the radical element seems more creative, more risk oriented and as such, more unusual and more attractive.

What's attractive about the mundane ?


That's really a three-part question:

1.  Did you understand how severe you were making this green?
2.  Did you intend to make it that severe, or did it just turn out more severe than you intended?
3.  Was it a mistake to build something so severe, or was it a thoughtful design risk?  Will you make a green as severe on your next course, or on some course in the future?

Are there right or wrong answers to these questions?  I'm not sure of that.  Whether the result is a success or a disaster is generally a matter of opinion -- whether the green is TOO severe for playability is rarely a black-and-white question.  But, my experience is that not many clients appreciate having to go back and make changes afterward, either for the disruption to the membership or for the reputational effect on the course.

I would ask, would you rather have the course/greens criticized for being overly creative, over the top, or for a bland, uninspiring effort ?


Ed Oden

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #40 on: February 14, 2012, 08:33:48 PM »
When I think of my favorite greens, without exception, there is an element of severity to them.  I suspect that is the case with most golfers, regardless of skill level or appreciation of golf architecture.  I'll bet that even those that don't generally favor severe slopes and contours will name greens that are bolder than their normal comfort zone as their favorites.  If the goal is to create something memorable, don't risks need to be taken?  I don't see how you can have one without the other.  

Tom_Doak

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #41 on: February 14, 2012, 11:27:20 PM »
When I think of my favorite greens, without exception, there is an element of severity to them.  I suspect that is the case with most golfers, regardless of skill level or appreciation of golf architecture.  I'll bet that even those that don't generally favor severe slopes and contours will name greens that are bolder than their normal comfort zone as their favorites.  If the goal is to create something memorable, don't risks need to be taken?  I don't see how you can have one without the other.  

Ed:

Your note reminds me of something Ben Crenshaw said to me once:  that on nearly all the very best greens, there was just a bit of fear about putting off the green.  He said this on the way over to Crystal Downs, and he putted off at least one of the greens that day!  #11

Benny Hillard

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #42 on: February 15, 2012, 12:07:45 AM »
I'm not suprised to see a number of references to the Castle course. But from all the discussions I had with the guys in St A's last year, I could comfortably say that the Links trust don't have any problems re-working the contours of the greens and surrounds there in the off season. They have all the machinery, staff and the time to gradually work on the course and bring it back to a level that they are happy with.
According to them, the changes really don't cost them much at all.

I have no idea if the links trust made it clear during the design & construction that they were happy to soften the contours if necessary, or if that conversation ever happens.

But perhaps an interesting example??

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #43 on: February 15, 2012, 04:28:04 AM »
There have been many courses designed in recent years where severe greens have later been softened, either with the architect's participation, or not.  I can think of examples from many well-known designers, including myself.

It's not just in recent years. I immediately found myself thinking of Sitwell Park - Dr Mac's wild greens were 'softened' almost immediately and no trace has remained for nigh on 100 years.

Were those greens a mistake, or was the mistake made in removing them?  From the famous photos of them I can't help thinking that Mac must have been on the Scotch that day!




Duncan,

having seen the site of this green and the other at Sitwell it would have been severe but the photo makes it look more extreme. I would suggest that it would have had about 8-10 pin positions which would have been okay for the time it was built. Also, it would have been easy to get within a few feet of any of these positions from below. I would imagine the main problems were that from above many of the putts would have run off the green and it would have been a nightmare to mow in any direction.

Having said that as with many greens it would have been perception and not the reality that did for them.

Wild green are great for matchplay but not so loved for stroke. Maybe the golfing authorities should rethink the whole handicap and golfing format for the amateur game pushing more matchplay, a general handicap and return of the bogey card for normal play. The format of having to return every card which is what I understand the case to be in the States is an example of pen pushers gone wild and must surely destroy the enjoyment of the game for many.


As for Tom's question. I put a 'dead elephant' in the front center of my first green. If the pin is front left many end up having to putt over it and I get quite a few comments. Anywhere else on the green and I here nothing so it might be a case of pin position and the greenstaff only using the sensitive ones on quite days.

Jon

Philippe Binette

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #44 on: February 15, 2012, 02:02:09 PM »
The big grey zone is, if you design a course thinking the greens would be at a speed of 9 or 10 on the stimp and the club keep maintaining the greens at 12...

then, the architect's responsability is dissipated.


Niall C

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #45 on: February 15, 2012, 02:17:57 PM »
Jon

A story I told several times before. I recall playing the original 9th green at Kingsbarns when the pin position was on top of the left rear mound (said dead elephant) and one of my playing partners eventually holing out with their fourth put from 25 feet !! I suspect the billiard table effect they now have might have been a bit of an over reaction to the original design.

Niall

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #46 on: February 15, 2012, 02:18:38 PM »
Bill and Kalen:

The 13th at Barnbougle is a bigger version of the 8th at Ballyneal.  I'd bet there's a bit more elevation change in total at BD, but due to the size of the green its a bit more stretched out.  Throw in the 4th at Lost Dunes, and you have three greens with a tremendous set of contours and elevation changes.  

« Last Edit: February 15, 2012, 02:41:40 PM by Sven Nilsen »
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #47 on: February 15, 2012, 02:41:14 PM »
A couple of thoughts on the OP:

1.  How much of a client's decision to increase the intended green speeds is due to a desire to play more like an Augusta/US Open venue?  There's a misplaced sense of pride in the golf world when members discuss their green speeds.  How often has someone said "they're really running today" with a big smile on their face while putting off a green that is stressed to near death.

2.  Have you run across this at any Links (or Links-style) courses?

3.  Is this mostly a problem at clubs v. resort/public courses?

4.  What examples (other than Sitwell Park) are their of contoured greens on classic courses that have been softened as a result of member demand or reaction to "improved" maintenance melds that allowed for faster speeds?

At this year's Boomerang, I spent a lot of time thinking about the design intent at places like Barnbougle and Bandon.  Specifically, how those types of courses (by type I mean a resort course that is or is meant to play like a links) lended themselves well to the combination of slower greens and bigger contours.  These courses were not designed to be a championship test, and the intended green speeds and the green contours those speeds could accommodate result in designs that include some wild putting surfaces. 

Having spent time in Ireland, but not England or Scotland, it struck me that I had not come across many classic links course holes that had features as wild as those found at the newer courses.  I imagine part of this is due to (a) certain courses having been softened over the years, (b) the technology available and (c) the fact that there probably weren't many architects around that sought out natural green areas that had these types of contours.  MacKenzie at Sitwell is an example of one that did, and we all know what happened there. 

Even when comparing Royal Melbourne with Barnbougle, I found myself generally thinking that Barnbougle was a more fun course to play, mostly due to the putting surface contours and the chance to look for alternative ways to navigate the terrain.  To me, the greens at Royal Melbourne required the ability to read the slope and speed, but rarely was there more than one option available to get the ball close to the hole.  At Barnbougle, there were many holes where backstops, chutes and bumps allowed for a the golfer to make a choice.  The former was a test, and a good one.  The latter was a blast.
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Tom_Doak

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #48 on: February 15, 2012, 02:43:45 PM »
Bill and Kalen:

The 13th at Barnbougle is a bigger version of the 8th at Ballyneal.  I'd be there's a bit more elevation change in total at BD, but due to the size of the green its a bit more stretched out.  Throw in the 4th at Lost Dunes, and you have three greens with a tremendous set of contours and elevation changes.  


I would say that the 4th green at Lost Dunes is the most severe I've built; in fact, there may be other greens at Lost Dunes more severe than the 8th at Ballyneal or the 13th at Barnbougle, not in elevation change but as far as being able to two-putt them.

The green at Ballyneal is only severe if you are trying to putt up to or down from the upper right hole location, which they will use one or two days per week.  I almost didn't include that as part of the green, but the little bowl was up there already, so we tried to incorporate it.  Right or wrong, I reasoned that if you landed on that part of the green by mistake, it was a poor shot and an almost-impossible two-putt was a fair result.

The green at Barnbougle is mostly natural [with some internal re-arranging] and is just a miracle of Nature.  Again, there are places where a two-putt is very severe -- if the pin is front right, especially, you just have to keep short and left -- but there are many more spots where you can use a bowled area to get the putt much closer than an opponent who just tries to putt directly to the hole.

The 4th at Lost Dunes is created, from a flat site at the base of a steep hill on the right.  It was modeled after the 8th green at High Pointe [designed by a crazy young architect, now NLE], which was based on the memory of a green at Rosapenna (Old).  The hole at Lost Dunes is almost a full shot harder with the flag on the top tier, but like the 8th at Ballyneal, it's a par five which is so short that I've reached it in two, and if you screw up the third shot to put yourself in a bad place then a bogey is not such an unfair outcome.  It's the guys who reach it in two and wind up making 5 or 6 who complain ... they just won't admit that their second shot really was not that that great, though it put them in position to four-putt!

But, P.S. to Sven:  Be careful about comparing Barnbougle directly with Royal Melbourne!  No matter what you say, one of my clients is going to be upset!

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Are Severe Green Contours Warranted?
« Reply #49 on: February 15, 2012, 02:49:05 PM »

But, P.S. to Sven:  Be careful about comparing Barnbougle directly with Royal Melbourne!  No matter what you say, one of my clients is going to be upset!

Why should they be?  They have different intents, both in desired green speed and the type of the test you face during your round.

I think there's been a paradigm shift taking place towards manageable "crazy golf."  Its just more fun, and those clients that get it seem to be allowing  it to happen.  Even JN seems to have caught the fever a bit.
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

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