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Peter Pallotta

A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« on: February 27, 2015, 04:26:01 PM »
The first one went so well, I thought I'd try another! ( :) It is still very cold here, and living second-hand through Benjamin's travels can only get me so far.)

In his myth of Sisyphus, Camus paints a picture of the existential hero: condemned by the gods to forever rolling a huge boulder up to the top of a mountain, only to watch it roll back to the bottom again and so have to repeat the same mindless (and futile) process again and again, for all of eternity. Sisyphus is a doubly-tragic figure because he is fully conscious/aware of the absurdity of the task, and of his fate, and he also knows there is no hope of a change -- ever. Camus focuses on both this self-awareness as well as on those moments when Sisyphus is walking back down the mountain, free for a little while from his heavy burden. The sun shines on his face, the breeze cools off his sweat, and, at least briefly, Sisyphus stops himself from looking back in regret (at what might have been) or from looking forward (to a future free from this condemnation) and manages to fully accept his fate. It is in these very moments, Camus suggests, that Sisyphus rises above his fate and disarms the gods, freeing himself from their condemnation -- since, as soon as he stops hoping for something to be different than it is and instead embraces his absurd fate, the 'punishment' ceases to be a punishment. And it is right then, Camus concludes, that we "must imagine Sisyphus happy."

So I'm thinking: if only Mr. Hogan could've embraced RTJ's changes to Oakland Hills (even after he'd won the '51 US Open there), and if only we could all stop complaining about having to hit narrow fairways and having no strategic options off the tee and of putting on lightening fast greens and of losing balls in cross/water hazards, perhaps we too could be considered "happy". In other words, if we could simply embrace the fate (and punishments) that penal architects had designed for us to face, they would cease to be "punishments" -- and we could then be free to focus instead on the sun on our faces and the breeze cooling off our sweat.  

After all, we live in an existentialist era, so why not golf in one too?  Is our love for width and options simply our steadfast refusal to squarely face the facts of our (golfing) lives? Perhaps the lesson is: say a resounding "Yes" to every penal design ever created, and so say a resounding "yes" to (golfing) life!!

Peter
« Last Edit: February 27, 2015, 04:38:05 PM by PPallotta »

Peter Pallotta

Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2015, 04:40:26 PM »
I was just going through my post again to fix some spelling errors/typing mistakes, and another thought occured to me:

Hey, I wonder how Rory is doing at the Honda?

Ian Andrew

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2015, 04:41:38 PM »
Peter,

If given the choice, would he continue to roll the boulder up the mountain.
Of course not.

Why would I accept Penal Architecture when there is something far more interesting and rewarding.


“The concern of the architect should be positive and have solely to do with what a golfer should do. His mission is not that or a moralist, the principle word of whose vocabulary is DON”T. The golfer should not be made to feel that he must renounce, that the primary object for him is to conquer his faults. It is not for the architect to inform him he played badly. That is for the professional. No, the mission of the architect is that of a leader. By the development of his hazards he exhorts the golfer to do his best, enticing him at times ‘to shoot the bones for the whole works.’ Thus he instills the golfer a spirit of conquest by presenting him with definite objectives upon which he must concentrate. It is for the golfer to stamp his law upon the ground. It is no way the business of the architect to stamp his law upon the golfer. But thus it is in most cases. The penal school of golf spells death to that spirit of independence, life and freedom which we are all seeking, and which we should find in all places of our recreation.” – Max Behr
Change is good.

Benjamin Litman

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2015, 04:42:59 PM »
You've outdone yourself, Peter. Especially when writing up reviews (to say nothing about the times I'm making double, triple, or worse), I always remind myself to be grateful for the fact that I'm playing golf at all. That's why I rarely say a negative word about golf courses--a policy that I also (and refreshingly) find evident in Ran's official reviews under "Courses by Country." We are playing a game, and the one that perhaps best allows us to interact with nature. I couldn't be mad at the green-guarding trees at Harbour Town for the simple fact that they were so darn beautiful. In short, your analogy is apt, but accepting our "fate"--given that it's golf--should be much easier than Sisyphus's accepting his.

And don't worry, I'm back from my travels, currently peering out my office window wondering how 34 degrees became the new standard for balmy.
"One will perform in large part according to the circumstances."
-Director of Recruitment at Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda on why it selects orphaned children without regard to past academic performance. Refreshing situationism in a country where strict dispositionism might be expected.

Peter Pallotta

Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2015, 04:59:51 PM »
Ah: that is excellent, gents - thanks much for indulging me.

Ian - terrific question and quote (one of Behr's clearest and best bits of writing I think). I have long enjoyed -- and think I understand and very much appreciate -- the line: "The penal school of golf spells death to that spirit of independence, life and freedom which we are all seeking, and which we should find in all places of our recreation.”  Indeed! But I might ask Mr Behr back: "But sir, if said golfer is unwilling or unable to embarce his fate and thus find freedom in his *life*, how could you or I expect him (and why should he have reason to expect) to find such freedom on a *golf course*?"  (Needless to say, perhaps: but wouldn't *one* way for a golfer to experience "a spirit of conquest" be through learning to hit more fairways and greens? Or, if not, at least to accept that a green surrounded by water is not an architectural evil in and of itself, but merely his particular 'rock' on this particular 'climb up a mountain'?)

Ben - yes, we share that in common; I speak in generalities about what I don't like, but rarely if ever have I specifically named names or criticized a specific course. (I fear that makes me -- though not you -- a poor participant here). And, ha! To embrace 34 degrees as the new balmy is a lovely act of will!

Peter
« Last Edit: February 27, 2015, 05:03:28 PM by PPallotta »

Peter Pallotta

Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2015, 05:09:00 PM »
I've never played Olympic, but have long read about its tough tree-lined-and-(reverse)-canting fairways and uphill approaches and small greens and have always thought to myself "By gum! Now *that's* a field of play worthy of a Hero!". Sure, Garden City and Walton Heath and Notts and Ballyneal and Old Macdonald etc etc are experiences devoutly to be sought. But if I'm not *there*, and instead I find myself *here", at Olympic, I would surely hope to embrace it as thoroughly as Sisyphus embraced *his* challenge. In other words, you could imagine me happy there/here.  

Peter

Don Mahaffey

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2015, 11:33:07 AM »
hmmm.....missed this thread, and not so sure I'm in a deep thinking mode now but....IMO...

Bad penal architecture does not result in "any golf is better than no golf" for me. I think the line between good and bad penal architecture is finer than going for strategic or fun architecture. I made a site visit last week to a golf course designed by a low handicap architect with tour pro influence. It was tough hole after tough hole and all I could think of was I would just be happy to complete all 18 if I was playing. I had no idea how some of the higher handicap senior players would play certain holes. Forced carries to elevated greens surrounded by huge bunkers, narrow bending fairways, canted one way or another. I would have rather gone for a hike, fishing, or to a movie then play golf there. 

Trying to define what is good and bad is not easy, but I think it starts with some connection to nature. Even if two holes have the same level of difficulty, something difficult on natural looking landforms seems fair, but build it on some man-made monstrosity and it just doesn't seem right. Of course best of all is to build something penal that everyone thinks is strategic.

Peter Pallotta

Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2015, 11:59:05 AM »
Or even better, build something strategic that everyone believes is penal -- and thus serve both the golfer's ego and his score. The architect who manages that will be rolling in dough. In fact, I think several were, and are, so rolling in it.
Peter

Don Mahaffey

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2015, 12:06:34 PM »
Nothing has driven up the cost of golf development like the "looks hard plays easy" school.

Lets build these big land forms and put nasty looking stuff all over them but stick them far enough away to only look at, or contain wayward shots. Meanwhile, add a bunch of bowled playable turf everywhere and fearsome looking mounds and bunkers that are really only "keep you in the game" features.

Like bowling with bumpers only the bumpers cost more than the entire building.

Kirk Gill

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2015, 01:20:48 PM »
To Camus, Sisyphus was a kind of hero, but in mythology he was a pretty bad guy, and altogether too clever for his own good. Even after a variety of crimes, his punishment was ultimately because he thought he was smarter than the gods. Associating penal architecture with his story seems apropos, given that he was, in fact, being punished! But if you look at the kind of guy Sisyphus was, how smart he thought he was, then on one hand you'd think that he would be smart enough to see the pitfalls of challenging that fairway bunker, or see the benefit of hitting to that particular part of the fairway.......but on the other hand his hubris wouldn't allow him to back away from any challenge where he'd see a benefit to his cause. This guy thought he could outwit Zeus. Would he back away from trying to outwit Alistair MacKenzie, or Mike Nuzzo, or Tom Doak?
"After all, we're not communists."
                             -Don Barzini

JMEvensky

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2015, 06:06:02 PM »


Nothing has driven up the cost of golf development like the "looks hard plays easy" school.

 

That's really good and 100% accurate IMO.

But the worst part is these courses actually play hard for most players. Good players don't usually like to get constantly beaten up but bad players seem to flock to difficult courses.

Do you blame the architect for designing them or the players who say that's what they want?


Jim_Kennedy

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A titch of Philosophy (2) - a reflection on penal architecture New
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2015, 08:18:15 PM »
Peter,
I don't see the worth in embracing claustrophobic golf holes, nor do I see the value in the double jeopardy that the poor sod turner faces when he slices badly and finds himself stuck off on the side of a hole in a bomb crater masked as a sand trap that he never challenged in the first place, and with little chance for redemption  (way too Calvinistic for me).    ;)

Therefore, if Sisyphus' fate mirrored golf he would have also been forced to keep the rock from rolling down the hill at it's own pace. I don't think he'd be very happy with that.  :)


 
« Last Edit: March 01, 2015, 08:23:16 PM by Jim_Kennedy »
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

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