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Michael Chadwick

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Admired Penal Golf Courses
« on: May 03, 2022, 11:40:36 PM »
It's generally agreed that a good golf course features holes and shots that extend across each of the consensus three schools of architectural styles: penal, heroic, and strategic.


Strategic golf (rightfully so in my opinion) is having a lasting moment in first position, but my own poor play at Wilshire just after the LPGA tournament got me thinking of a couple ideas I'd like to hear others discuss.


Wilshire's architect, Norman MacBeth, was a talented player. He also developed as a golfer at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, an Open venue known for its difficulty. Though I haven't played Lytham, the Confidential Guide mentions there are over 200 bunkers at Lytham whose "deep pits are genuine hazards that must be respected." Greens are surrounded by circular pot bunkers. Fairways, if not laid out adjacent to the railway, oftentimes have bunkers set on both sides for wayward tee shots or approaches. Of the three schools to choose from, Lytham seems to embody more penal elements than the other two choices.


It seems to me MacBeth incorporated much of Lytham's character into his design at Wilshire, for Wilshire also features a significant number of fairway bunkers that frequently result in at least a half shot penalty. A friend of mine at Lakeside, and a previous champion of Wilshire's annual MacBeth tournament, finds the course aggravatingly penal at times, because even for good players, a well struck shot just a touch off the mark can find its way into a fairway bunker that may prevent a shot to the green. Me? I both disagree and agree with him, for in the past year I've had one of my lowest scores at Wilshire as well as one of my highest. And good player I am not. 


In a rudimentary hole by hole analysis, where I select which school is most prominent on the particular hole, I'd name eight or nine holes of the course as penal. These are holes where bunkers, the barranca, or out of bounds line both sides of the fairway in some combination (1, 2, 6, 8, 11, 16); or where on the par 3s, a missed green most assuredly means the ball is in sand or the barranca instead of grass (4, 7). But at the same time, when you feel in control of your ball, Wilshire's length and the placement of its myriad bunkers is captivatingly strategic, because you can select when to keep driver in the bag and thoughtfully work your way around the course. On a day when you can't manage to hit fairways or greens, however, the feel of the course can change right before your eyes in a Jekyll and Hyde way, and the reach of the sand and barranca appears to grow exponentially.   


That said, I admire Wilshire. It is a multi-faceted members club that, depending on the day, can feel approachable and strategic, or downright challenging.


My general question is: what other courses, specifically golden age or older, may be conclusively more penal than heroic and strategic, yet continue to receive admiration?


   
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Mark Kiely

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2022, 12:08:27 AM »
Wish you had chimed in here.
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Michael Chadwick

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2022, 12:34:55 AM »
Wish you had chimed in here.


Ha. That thread was specific to Wilshire, and Alex's contributions effectively answered that the course can be both playable, strategic, and penal.


I'm more interested in hearing about other courses. My hunch is that a championship caliber and history of being a tournament venue is advantageous for more overtly difficult older golf courses. Oakmont and Merion being key examples perhaps.
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Adam Lawrence

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2022, 02:47:47 AM »
We should note that penal and difficult are NOT synonymous. Itís perfectly possible for a penal course to be easy. What matters is how the hazards are placed. Are they there primarily to punish bad shots, the worse the shot the greater the punishment? Or are they placed so as to set up challenges that golfers can take on or decline as they choose?
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

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

Thomas Dai

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2022, 03:25:28 AM »
Iíve always admired the sometimes termed wrongly imo ĎCarnastieí.
Adam makes a good point though. I recall playing the allegedly Carnastie in the company of a 36 hcp short hitting lady. She was fine with the course, didnít consider it too arduous or unfair instead rather enjoyed it as there was plenty of roll on the ball and burns apart no forced carries.
Atb

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2022, 03:27:49 AM »
No doubt Carnoustie has penal elements ó the eighteenth is a pure penal hole. But Hoganís Alley, to name but one, is as strategic as they come
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

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

mike_malone

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2022, 07:40:00 AM »
I find Oakmont to be very penal. Letís define that as a good shot sometimes ending up where it canít be advanced forward much or at all.


 But Oakmont has many charming shots particularly on the greens and challenging shots that thrill which overcome the penal ones.



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John Kavanaugh

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2022, 07:49:11 AM »
You just described Shot Value for all the haters out there. The value of a shot combines all the above.

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2022, 09:12:47 AM »
Of course, the poster child for an admired penal course is Pine Valley. Yet it is fun, unless you are not on top of your game, then it is a very long day.
Tom Williamsen
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Sean_A

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2022, 01:56:35 AM »
I recall researching many well known courses to see how many truly penal holes, using the original definition, would it take to be labelled a penal course. Oakland Hills was a prominent example and about half the holes were penal in nature. Muirfield and Woodhall Spa are also good examples. In truth many championship courses, especially if we include rough as a design element are essentially penal designs. Bunkering is a major reason for this. It is difficult not to be a penal design when high numbers of bunkers are deployed. This is partly why Augusta is such a fascinating championship design. In truth it's a penal design passed off as a strategic masterpiece. It's more dramatic viewing than the run of the mill penal championship course which gets the balance of carry bunkers, water carries and play between bunkers just right for a penal course. Which is to say there is little fairway play between bunkers or narrow fairway corridors lined with rough/trees. Of course, like most championship venues, over the years the go to move has been to make Augusta more penal. It is interesting that Oakland Hills has gone away from this mofel to some degree. In a small way Augusta has as well with changes to 11.

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Jeff Schley

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Re: Admired Penal Golf Courses
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2022, 03:14:54 AM »
PGA West Stadium is very penal with either water, bunker carries or uneven fairways almost on every hole. The greens are nowhere near Oakmont in terms of undulations, but I used to go out and watch a friend at Q School when they had it there and the greens would get slick. Recall watching Craig Barlow 3 putt from inside 5 feet on a hole that was so delicate on a downhill putt circa early 2000's.
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