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Duncan Cheslett

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This is Tom's entry for Reddish Vale in the Confidential Guide:




Ran, in his review in "Courses by Country", describes the 18th hole thus;


"Love it or hate it, the Home hole at Reddish Vale is one of the game's most distinctive closers. The author chooses to love it."

http://golfclubatlas.com/reddish-vale-golf-club-pg-2/


Unfortunately, Ran is in a very small minority in choosing to love the hole. For those unacquainted with it, let me enlighten you.




200 yards of flat ground is played over until the fairway suddenly rises up a hill of around 70ft for the last 150 yards to the green. The shot is almost impossible for the majority of players, who aim to reach the green in three. Once on the green, the wicked slope makes two-putting a real achievement.


It is not in itself an awful hole, and certainly not unique in covering such steep ground. Its impact is heightened greatly however, by its position in the round. The prospect of the arduous closing hole looms over all golfers playing the back nine, blunting the pleasure of some of the finest inland holes in the north of England.

The 18th is a millstone around the neck of Reddish Vale. Whenever one reveals that one is a member, the response is always along the lines of "What a fantastic course, but the 18th is a killer"  It seems to be the abiding memory of most people who play the course, and leaves a sour taste in the mouth at the end of a highly enjoyable round. Tom Doak appears to be one of them - "A buzzkill finish" about sums it up.

At a conservative estimate, the 18th hole costs our cash-strapped club at least 50 full members - people who play at other local courses which they acknowledge are not in the same league, but which do not offer the same daunting physical challenge at the end of a round. That's upwards of 50k per year!

There is no getting round the fact that the clubhouse is at the top of a hill, and that playing up the hill is inevitable. There is an argument however, that the impact of the hole could be mitigated greatly by playing it in the middle of the back nine rather than at the end.




The course currently begins with five holes on high ground before descending into the river valley with the spectacular 250 yard par 3 6th.



The suggestion is that the 6th becomes the 1st hole, making the 18th the 13th. The course would end on the current 5th hole, a tricky but drivable par 4 of 300 yards playing to a green by the clubhouse.


The most commonly voiced objection to this is that a long par 3 would make an unsatisfactory opener and create congestion. The counter argument to this is that it would play, as now, as a "call down" hole whereby a group marks their balls on the green and allows the following group to tee off before putting out.


Some say that a 250 yard drive to a green bounded by water is too testing as a first shot of the day. The counter argument is that there is ample room to the right to bale out if one lacks the confidence to go for the pin. What cannot be denied is that it would make for a truly memorable and spectacular opening hole.


Another consideration is that the course is currently lop-sided.  The front nine has 4 short holes and measures 2770 yards off the back tees playing to a par of 33. The back nine has one par 3, is 3316 yards long and has a par of 36.


The new card would be far better balanced




What of the "new" 18th hole?

The current 5th is a decent short par 4 with a forced carry of 120 yards over a jungle-filled ravine. The fairway rises to a summit 200 yards out at which point the green becomes visible a wedge away. The fairway cants to the left and is OOB beyond that from tee to green. Anything pulled left is three off the tee.

The green is well bunkered and one of the most undulating on the course.








I would be very interested to hear the thoughts of the esteemed members here as to the desirability of tinkering with the playing order of a classic old course simply to fit in with the whims of a modern golfing public.

Would moving the hole in the playing order make it less unattractive?

What about the new opening hole?


This is posted in a purely personal capacity, and does not reflect on the current thinking or policy of the club.






« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 06:06:11 AM by Duncan Cheslett »

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2017, 06:12:23 AM »

Duncan,


makes sense to swap the hole order around. With the new first (present 6th) you could place the whites in front of the yellow and make it a par 4 from the daily tees but a par three from the medal tees.


Just a thought.


Jon

Thomas Dai

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2017, 06:20:15 AM »
Will some players be tempted given their age, health etc and the holes steepness to leave the course immediately after playing the current 18th irrespective of where it may be within the routing? Just curious.
Atb

Duncan Cheslett

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2017, 06:35:40 AM »
Will some players be tempted given their age, health etc and the holes steepness to leave the course immediately after playing the current 18th irrespective of where it may be within the routing? Just curious.
Atb


A good point, which I have considered.


I would anticipate many social rounds finishing after 12 or 13 holes.  At my wife's club they have 12 hole competitions which prove very popular with Ladies and Seniors. I remember my grandfather - who seldom played in competitions - habitually playing 12 holes with his pals at his club in his 70s.


18 holes is either too much for many, or takes too much time.


Currently, if one starts at the first, there is no logical 12 hole loop which does not necessitate a long walk in from a distant corner of the course. This would provide one.


Cutting in at the current 6th is frowned upon when the course is busy.


« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 06:37:30 AM by Duncan Cheslett »

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2017, 06:38:45 AM »
Will some players be tempted given their age, health etc and the holes steepness to leave the course immediately after playing the current 18th irrespective of where it may be within the routing? Just curious.
Atb


That doesn't make much sense to me. The (present) 18th is the tough climb. Having achieved it, and put the hill behind you, why would you then sack it off? The logical thing to do would be to abandon your round _before_ that hole. Except that you'd still have to climb the hill to get back to the clubhouse!
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
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Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Duncan Cheslett

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2017, 06:46:07 AM »
Will some players be tempted given their age, health etc and the holes steepness to leave the course immediately after playing the current 18th irrespective of where it may be within the routing? Just curious.
Atb


That doesn't make much sense to me. The (present) 18th is the tough climb. Having achieved it, and put the hill behind you, why would you then sack it off? The logical thing to do would be to abandon your round _before_ that hole. Except that you'd still have to climb the hill to get back to the clubhouse!


There is a service road down the hill and a car parking area by the current 18th tee.  Groups of seniors wishing to play 12 holes could leave a car there and ride back up after completing the current 17th (new 12th).


This is by the by however. The motivation for making the change would be to attract new members, and they are generally looking at the full 18 hole course, not convenient loops.




Duncan Cheslett

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2017, 07:11:59 AM »

Duncan,


makes sense to swap the hole order around. With the new first (present 6th) you could place the whites in front of the yellow and make it a par 4 from the daily tees but a par three from the medal tees.


Just a thought.


Jon


Thought provoking, Jon!



I actually quite like the idea of making it a par 4 anyway.  The medal tee could be moved back up the hill to give a 270 yard hole that would tempt most into attempting to drive the green, with dire consequences if even slightly pulled.  The sensible shot would be a lay-up and hope for a chip and a putt birdie.


It would still be a call-down hole, so there would not be any hold-up considerations.


Not only would it make a great opening hole, it would tip the par of the course over the magical 70 mark!

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2017, 07:24:26 AM »
Changing the routing order is a shocker of an idea based on your present 6th hole (proposed 1st) being a very long par 3 and probably taking 12 minutes to play.


Messing up the config can have other problems also as you say the drama shifts to a weak finish. Can you see this green? The last green and clubhouse relationship is a vital component to UK golf courses.


Could you consider buying some buggies and have a rule that if one is by the 6th tee you drive it down and park it in a suitable place so a user 'might' want to use it to go back up 18 and then repark by the 6th.
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

Thomas Dai

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2017, 07:41:02 AM »
Thanks for the extra details Duncan. Steep hills are no fun as age or infirmity or both creep up on you.
Time for an escalator! :) They use them on courses in Japan.
atb

Duncan Cheslett

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2017, 07:58:26 AM »
Changing the routing order is a shocker of an idea based on your present 6th hole (proposed 1st) being a very long par 3 and probably taking 12 minutes to play.

It probably does take 12 minutes to play, but 4 minutes of that is walking down the hill, and another 3-4 minutes is putting. The way the hole has always played is that as soon as a group is all on the green they stand aside and signal for the following group to tee off. They then putt out while the following group descend the hill.  Following this system ensures that 8 minute tee times can be utilised. The next hole is a long par 5 allowing for groups to spread out nicely. I really don't see an issue with congestion or delays on the tee.



Messing up the config can have other problems also as you say the drama shifts to a weak finish. Can you see this green? The last green and clubhouse relationship is a vital component to UK golf courses.
The 5th green is bordered by the back garden of a house that the club owns and lets out to tenants. There is always the possibility of re-utilising this house as a golfers' bar  right on the new 18th green.

A further advantage of this would be to free up the existing clubhouse in its entirety as a wedding venue/ function suite, unencumbered by sweaty and swearing golfers. Such events confined to one function room even now contribute massively to the club's finances; the clubhouse could become a major profit centre if golfers were moved elsewhere.


Could you consider buying some buggies and have a rule that if one is by the 6th tee you drive it down and park it in a suitable place so a user 'might' want to use it to go back up 18 and then repark by the 6th.


Great idea, except for the fact that 90% of golfers have electric trolleys. You can't fit two golfers, two bags, and two electric trolleys on a buggy.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 08:01:47 AM by Duncan Cheslett »

Tim Gavrich

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2017, 10:26:54 AM »
Why not build a small, simple alternate green at the base of the hill on 18 for the people who don't like the current green? The club could put a yellow flag in it for them.
Senior Writer, GolfPass

Tom_Doak

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2017, 10:40:07 AM »
Duncan:


I certainly did not intend my criticism for the 18th hole to be cited as a reason to change the order of holes.


Is there any correspondence from MacKenzie with regard to the routing?  I suspect he fixed it as he did thinking in a match play mode, that many matches would be over before the 18th.  But the fact that people's perspective has changed, does not necessarily mean that the routing should change.


I will say that I know of several clubs which have changed the sequence of holes over the years, and in most cases, they eventually change it back.  The exception to the rule is Augusta National.

Duncan Cheslett

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2017, 11:39:35 AM »
Duncan:


I certainly did not intend my criticism for the 18th hole to be cited as a reason to change the order of holes.


Is there any correspondence from MacKenzie with regard to the routing?  I suspect he fixed it as he did thinking in a match play mode, that many matches would be over before the 18th.  But the fact that people's perspective has changed, does not necessarily mean that the routing should change.


I will say that I know of several clubs which have changed the sequence of holes over the years, and in most cases, they eventually change it back.  The exception to the rule is Augusta National.


I understand and indeed share your reluctance to advocate altering a routing made by Dr MacKenzie.


However, if it is generally seen as an improvement and helps attract much needed revenue from an enlarged membership, would it not be justified?


The environment locally is extremely competitive, with most golf clubs on the cusp of viability.


Incidentally, peoples' perceptions have not suddenly changed.  Henry Cotton wrote an article in praise of Reddish Vale but mentioned the general opinion that the 18th was a "bad hole". This was in 1940!


Our closing hole has been costing us revenue for 100 years. The club has clung on thus far but future survival is no given.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 12:07:38 PM by Duncan Cheslett »

Ben Hollerbach

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2017, 12:33:07 PM »
There was a discussion earlier this year about potential benefits of having the opening hole as a par 3 as it will help to spread out the groups faster. This seems to be even more true with the long 7th becoming the 2nd hole in the re-arrangement. While the gap between tee times would need to be longer, the shift could have positive effects on the flow and pace of play over the course.

Sean_A

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2017, 01:21:24 PM »
Duncan

The 18th may be iconic, but it is also infamous.  I am not convinced playing the hole as the 13th would help much (a bad hole is a bad hole), but if finances are that tight it is worth a go.  I do like the idea of a 225ish opening par 3 from the medals and a 260ish par 4 from the daily tee.  I do worry though that the current 18th would then essentially become a two way fairway.  Many people will bail rightish.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2023: Clyne

Wayne_Kozun

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2017, 01:22:15 PM »
A few courses here in Canada have "tow ropes" that are pretty similar to what you would see many years ago at ski resorts.  There is one at the 18th hole of the H.S. Colt designed Hamilton G&CC to help golfers get back up the hill to the clubhouse.  They hold on to this  with one hand and it helps pull you up - and you can be pulling a trolley with your other hand.  Any consideration given to something like this?


The 18th at my club is also a bit of a quirky hole that has a carry over a road and then a very uphill second shot that is a bit of a slog uphill for some members.  But given that we are in North America many golfers choose to use buggies, at least for the second half of their round of golf.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2017, 10:07:47 AM »
If you are serious about the change, I suggest that you try it out for a week in the fall, or even just for a club competition, and then let the members have their say.


I'm not so worried about using your 6th hole as the 1st.  Lots of Australian clubs have a similar opener [Yarra Yarra and Victoria do now; Commonwealth used to have a 260-yard par-4 but they moved the green and ruined it.]  I would certainly try it out as a par-3 and see just how much of a problem the "slow start" problem really is, especially if Sean is right that a longer hole might cause more safety issues with #18.  [I can't remember if that would be the case.]  One potential solution would be to have two groups tee off at once every 15-18 minutes, and then go down and finish the hole in turn, and then have the next two groups tee off, so you're not always waiting on the slowest group.

Rich Goodale

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2017, 11:13:16 AM »
I've never played RV, but the 18th reminds me of Cypress Point's 18th, without the trees 150 yards off the tee, the pounding Pacific Ocean in the background, and the members and their guests only 19th hole at the top of the hill.  Interestingly, CPC's 1st is also an abomination--a completely blind hit and hope drive over a phalanx of evergreens.  However, it's still in the top 30 of all courses in the world.


No reason to F-up any course just to make 18 a "signature" hole.  If it's as ugly and hard as RV seems it's a GREAT hole!  Tell the members to man-up!


Rich
Life is good.

Any afterlife is unlikely and/or dodgy.

Jean-Paul Parodi

Andy Levett

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #18 on: August 15, 2017, 02:28:39 PM »
The 18th is quite a climb but personally I enjoyed it more knowing I could then flop into a chair on the terrace and watch others suffer rather than still having five more not particularly flat holes still to play.
I was brought up in the area and Reddish Vale was notorious for that hole, and I suspect would continue to be whether it was 18 or 13. But if people won't play or join the course because of a bit of cardiac exercise it's their loss, as RV is clearly a better course than any in the immediate area - you have to go out to Manchester aka Hopwood to find its equal or superior.

Duncan Cheslett

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #19 on: August 16, 2017, 02:30:12 AM »

No reason to F-up any course just to make 18 a "signature" hole.  If it's as ugly and hard as RV seems it's a GREAT hole!  Tell the members to man-up!





The 18th is quite a climb but personally I enjoyed it more knowing I could then flop into a chair on the terrace and watch others suffer rather than still having five more not particularly flat holes still to play.I was brought up in the area and Reddish Vale was notorious for that hole, and I suspect would continue to be whether it was 18 or 13. But if people won't play or join the course because of a bit of cardiac exercise it's their loss, as RV is clearly a better course than any in the immediate area - you have to go out to Manchester aka Hopwood to find its equal or superior.

Good points.


Members don't mind the hole, and are rather proud of its notoriety. We view it as an aerobic opportunity.


The problem is with potential members.


We are probably too apologetic about the hole. When confronted with someone complaining about its severity we have a tendency to commiserate and point out the 17 great holes preceding it.


Maybe we just need to go on the offensive and glorify (sell) our unique 18th!

What a great hole -  sorts the men from the boys!

You've got to be a real man to be a member of Reddish Vale!

You go and play in your flat farmers' field - you'll never know what you're missing out on!

Too steep for you? What a wuss!

 :D


« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 02:51:11 AM by Duncan Cheslett »

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #20 on: August 16, 2017, 01:26:48 PM »
You can weld an attachment to the buggy frame to accept the trolleys.


You really need to try starting off the 6th for a while as a trial, if your course is busy I can't see how you could keep to 8 minute times even with a call through, somebody still has to do nothing for 2-3 minutes, players take between 20 and 75 seconds to play a tee shot. I think it will put you out to 10/11 minute times, but try it for yourself I would be interested to see the results. A 240 yard par 3 is the absolute worst starting length if your commercial, if you want relaxed 15 minute play its the best. 15 minute play is pretty much losing 50% of tee times.


18th becoming the 13th is only fractionally solving the problem. The best plus IMO is the new distribution of the par 3 holes. 4 on one nine is a bit of a minus.
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

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2017, 02:16:12 PM »
Duncan,


As I recall, the 18th was a layered fairway in MacKenzies's day. I am not quite sure what that entailed, probably just a set of terraces up the latter half of the fairway. I wonder if there's some way of lessening the slope by starting earlier, or if that is simply too expensive. I like the idea of people leaving buggies at the bottom of the 6th hole to take you back up the 18th. I also like the idea of some sort of ski lift. Most of us don't need the facility - or didn't in my case - but some innovative method of getting visitors and unfit golfers up the slope in reasonable shape would make the experience far more rewarding, even though these are not the bread and butter of the club, whose members won't even notice the 18th. I don't like the idea of later playing the top holes just to make up the round - the 5th is rather a makeweight hole, although the rest are terrific.


I'll give you another thought, to which I have no answer. The 16th is a fun par 4 but the long walk back to the 17th tee is poor. The 16th was post MacKenzie. Can you somehow re-route the course after the 16th to bring the 17th back over the stream to a green some way in front of the present 18th tee allowing you a long par 3 finisher up the hill (or bogey 4 within reach of most amateurs). I think it is the drive across flat land to the bottom of the hill, from which we can not get up, that is the most depressing part of the present hole. I know you get too many par 3s but you get an extra par 5 of some substance.

Duncan Cheslett

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Re: Changing the order of play to minimise the impact of a weak hole
« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2017, 03:51:59 AM »
Mark,


You are quite right. The hill was originally terraced - a throwback to the days when South Cliffe was a large residence and the slope down to the river accommodated the kitchen garden as well as more formal gardens including a fountain!


MacKenzie apparently utilised these 3 or 4 terraces to enable golfers to play the hill in steps according to their ability.


For reasons now forgotten the terraces were bulldozed into an even slope in the 1960s. Remnants of the original profile of the hill can be seen along the edge of the path to the left as one ascends. Older members have a vague recollection of the work being done.


One idea which keeps resurfacing is to extend the slope back towards the tee using landfill and so reducing the gradient dramatically. A high-profile golf course architect was my guest earlier in the year and he confirmed the potential of this idea and its cost-effectiveness. Unfortunately the requirement of around 2000 truck-loads of land fill accessing the site through residential streets and down a very narrow steep service road over a 6-week period rather kiboshes it. The possibility of gaining planning permission would be slim!


Another idea is to take the hill out of play significantly by re-siting the green halfway up. The shot would then be to a visible shelf green along the lines of those at Prestbury rather than the current blind shot which is unmanageable by the vast majority of golfers. The distance lost on the hole could be more than regained by moving the tee to a raised position by the 15th green and playing across the 17th fairway and river. It would make a spectacular finishing hole, albeit with a climb to the clubhouse afterwards. The unpopularity of the current hole has as much to do with its playing characteristics as the physical exertions.




As for the 16th,  we have uncovered evidence that Mackenzie actually intended the hole to play as now configured, but changed his mind on his second visit while the course was under construction but before the 16th green had been built. It was possibly the long walk to the 17th tee that prompted him to site the 16th green adjacent to said tee rather than at the end of the peninsular.

As you pointed out in your 1994 book, there is ample room for a decent par 3 playing along the river connecting the the current 16th green and the 17th tee.

This would enable us to lose the 12th hole and make the 13th a really good par 5.

Isn't armchair golf course architecture fun?  :)



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