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Mark_Fine

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Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« on: June 21, 2022, 05:14:04 PM »
The fact is, very few golf courses ďlook naturalĒ.  For sure there are some exceptions, Sand Hills comes to mind, but the exceptions are not the rule.  Closely mown grass and sand bunkers sure donít look natural ďlike Mother Nature put them thereĒ especially on a parkland course.  There is nothing  ďnaturalĒ about a 7000 sq ft putting green with grass growing at 1/8 of an inch?  How many times do we ever drive by a golf course and not notice it is there.  Golf courses stand out.  Or how many times do we look out the window of a plane and easily spot the golf courses below?

Yes most golf architects do their best to use what ďnature has providedĒ but the point of this thread is that the reality is that we just love the look of a golf course, as unnatural as it might be.  We need to admit most all courses are created and not found and they are not as natural as we would like to claim they are.  And by the way, there is often more going on under the ground then above it that golfers rarely ever see or realize.  What is natural about that? 
« Last Edit: June 24, 2022, 10:23:09 PM by Mark_Fine »

PPallotta

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2022, 05:41:43 PM »
Mark --
As Albert Einstein once said, 'It's all relative'.
But seriously: I don't think it's the individual elements/components of a golf course that can look more-or-less natural, I think it's the relationship between those elements that can.

« Last Edit: June 21, 2022, 05:47:00 PM by PPallotta »

Jeff_Brauer

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2022, 05:50:44 PM »
Mark,


I agree.


I remember doing a course back when the environmental reps managed to get on the design team.  One suggested tan sand bunkers so they would "disappear" in the landscape to keep it natural.  Another mentioned not mowing greens so short for the same reason.


Yes, we want to see those artistic puzzle piece, jagged edge (or not) sand bunkers and we like the greens (as our primary target) to stand out as well.  The beauty of the golf course is the overall outdoor setting, but arranging golf elements for their intended purpose while also looking fabulous is a big part of the architects job, as is providing the demarcation lines between green, tee, fw, rough, and bunker.  It is the contrast of elements that is attractive to the human eye, not the blending we so often see in nature.
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Mark_Fine

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2022, 07:33:21 PM »
Exactly Jeff.  You said it best with your comment about ďthe contrast of the elementsĒ that we (golfers) tend to think look beautiful but sure doesnít look ďnaturalĒ. 

Tom_Doak

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2022, 08:32:41 PM »

Closely mown grass and sand bunkers sure donít look natural ďlike Mother Nature put them thereĒ especially on a parkland course.  There is nothing  ďnaturalĒ about a 7000 sq ft putting green with grass growing at 1/8 of an inch?  How many times do we ever drive by a golf course and not notice it is there.  Golf course stand out.  Or how many times do we look out the window of a plane and easily spot the golf courses below?

Actually the most natural looking golf courses in the world are early UK links with large expanses of grass grazed tightly by sheep, and little bunkers here and there, some of which would get out of control and become bigger blowouts of sand.  It is hard to discern any mowing lines at all, because the sheep don't stop grazing in a neat line.  But, I agree there are not many golf courses built that look as natural as those.

I have one client now who really doesn't like how artificial golf courses look -- he describes them as a "big green blob".  So, instead, the plan is to stretch out the course so that when you're on the edges of the course you're only looking across a narrow swath of green, surrounded by native grasses and trees.  Since bunkers are a dead giveaway for "golf", we are thinking about avoiding them altogether, and using the existing trees and rock outcroppings as our main hazards, plus the severe slope of the terrain.  I really hope we get to build that course:  the less it looks like a golf course, the better.  But most of my other clients would never consider such a thing.

A.G._Crockett

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2022, 08:37:17 PM »
Well, yes, butÖ


Weíve,all seen what happens when a golf course abandoned and Mother Nature instead of mowers take over. So in that sense, golf courses arenít purely natural. 


But not much is, is it? Public parks typically arenít.  Greenways arenít. Gardens arenít.  Farms arenít.  And so on.


Only natural is natural, and thatís of great value.  But itís not a particularly important indictment of a golf course to say it isnít purely natural, since not much really is.  And when a piece of land stops being a golf course, what comes next is usually WAY less natural.
"Golf...is usually played with the outward appearance of great dignity.  It is, nevertheless, a game of considerable passion, either of the explosive type, or that which burns inwardly and sears the soul."      Bobby Jones

Kalen Braley

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2022, 08:49:50 PM »
Mark,

I would amend that initial comment to "We all enjoy a golf course that looks as if they just mowed the grass, filled in a few spots with sand, stuck a pin the ground, and called it good".  That IMO is the real genius...to disguise where dirt was moved, even if we all certainly know the maintained grass at its various cut heights isn't "natural"

Along the lines of Tom's comment, can't recall the name, but recall seeing pictures of a very remote course in Scotland that seems to fit the bill most completely.

Thomas Dai

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2022, 05:57:14 AM »
Along the lines of Tom's comment, can't recall the name, but recall seeing pictures of a very remote course in Scotland that seems to fit the bill most completely.
Likely grazed by sheep! And the height of grass as nibbled by sheep is the perfect length for fairways.
Toms comments above about remind me of early day photos of StA or Westward Ho or a thread Ally did about a remote location in Connemara.
Atb

Philip Gordillo

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2022, 07:08:16 AM »
Glad somebody finally brought this up.  Some regions just don't topography conducive for golf.  At Metairie Country Club, in South Louisiana, the "natural look" would a swamp with palmettos and cypress trees.  So dry land itself is not "natural."   :)

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2022, 08:09:08 AM »
Along the lines of Tom's comment, can't recall the name, but recall seeing pictures of a very remote course in Scotland that seems to fit the bill most completely.
Likely grazed by sheep! And the height of grass as nibbled by sheep is the perfect length for fairways.
Toms comments above about remind me of early day photos of StA or Westward Ho or a thread Ally did about a remote location in Connemara.
Atb


Machair golf courses that are grazed sit in here too. Mulranny for example.


I do like looking at golf holes that look like cool golf holes (to Markís point)Ö but my preference is to make a golf course marry in to its landscape so seamlessly that to the inexperienced eye, it is not clear whether a golf course is there. Or at least, the only giveaway is the course furniture (pins, tees etcÖ that I also like to keep to a minimum).


Granted, itís easier to do the above when you have an interesting landscape to start with.

Sean_A

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2022, 08:49:58 AM »
It's rare that I like the way a golf course looks. For the most part, the pretty courses are those with animals grazing, none or very few bunkers and extensive views...often they are common land courses which prevent too much mucking about. Long stretches of near uniform short grass is rare. Sometimes cool earthworks add to the scene. I just accept the modern concept of natural looking as it's as good as we are willing to do these days. At least they don't look like 70s and 80s garden style designs that dominated the landscape when I was young. Augusta is a very strong representative of that aesthetic.

Ciao
« Last Edit: June 22, 2022, 08:54:32 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South & Crystal Downs

John Mayhugh

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2022, 10:17:39 AM »
I don't care if a course looks "natural," but for it to look pleasing to me it has to be in harmony with the environment. Architectural features that are clearly man-made don't bother me at all if they fit the landscape. Very different courses like Shoreacres and Boat of Garten offer fine examples of this.

jeffwarne

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2022, 10:24:59 AM »

Closely mown grass and sand bunkers sure donít look natural ďlike Mother Nature put them thereĒ especially on a parkland course.  There is nothing  ďnaturalĒ about a 7000 sq ft putting green with grass growing at 1/8 of an inch?  How many times do we ever drive by a golf course and not notice it is there.  Golf course stand out.  Or how many times do we look out the window of a plane and easily spot the golf courses below?

Actually the most natural looking golf courses in the world are early UK links with large expanses of grass grazed tightly by sheep, and little bunkers here and there, some of which would get out of control and become bigger blowouts of sand.  It is hard to discern any mowing lines at all, because the sheep don't stop grazing in a neat line.  But, I agree there are not many golf courses built that look as natural as those.

I have one client now who really doesn't like how artificial golf courses look -- he describes them as a "big green blob".  So, instead, the plan is to stretch out the course so that when you're on the edges of the course you're only looking across a narrow swath of green, surrounded by native grasses and trees.  Since bunkers are a dead giveaway for "golf", we are thinking about avoiding them altogether, and using the existing trees and rock outcroppings as our main hazards, plus the severe slope of the terrain.  I really hope we get to build that course:  the less it looks like a golf course, the better.  But most of my other clients would never consider such a thing.


That would be really cool!
Especially if there is a way to keep much/most of it playable.
Closest I ever came to seeing that was Mulranny(sheep) and the open stretch along the beach from 4ish to 8ish at Gweedore(redone with a few holes added so those hole numbers amy not be relevant)
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

PPallotta

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #13 on: June 22, 2022, 10:27:49 AM »
Mark, Jeff --
Maybe we can agree that both of you, along with all those who share your tastes, find the 'contrast of elements' beautiful and attractive to the human eye, while many others, including me, find that same kind of contrast jarring and unpleasant, and prefer to see the blurring of those elements because it looks more 'natural' and pleasing to the eye.
 
And in regards to the word 'natural' itself: I think we all know and recognize that we are playing a man-made game called golf, and that none of the elements we find on a golf course designed to facilitate the playing of that game -- the greens, the fairways, the bunkers, the tees, the drainage basins  -- are 'natural' in the sense that they are naturally occurring or that we see them in/recognize them from nature.
 
Not a single person I have ever met, when using the word 'natural' about a golf course, has meant the word in that sense, ie as if he were talking about Yosemite or the Tongass national forest or the Rockie Mountains or the Mojave Desert.
 
Instead, what we mean by and are referring to when we use the word 'natural' is the relationship of/between those many elements one to the other, ie how they blend into each other with the flowing (instead of fixed) and time worn (instead of static) and native (instead of cultivated or transplanted) qualities of nature.

It's those qualities that I look for and appreciate. When human hands can manage to create an aesthetic for a field of play that is flowing and time worn and native -- as if that golf course has been there and part of the landscape for 100+ years -- that is quite an accomplishment and testament to skill and talent, and to my eyes it is also very pleasing and beautiful, even as simply an expression of the art-craft at its best.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2022, 10:44:19 AM by PPallotta »

Robert Mercer Deruntz

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #14 on: June 22, 2022, 12:07:07 PM »
It could be argued that aesthetics seem to trump strategic when people enjoy golf courses.  Looking at the evolution of course rankings over the years, oftentimes the newest courses would open with very good rankings by certain architects known for hiding cart paths and other presentation trucks.  Most recently, quite a few courses that got the Keith Foster treatment shot up the classic course rankings.  Today, there are some really good Dye, RTJ, and Wilson courses which are out of favor with the courses raters because their aesthetics do not create the desired natural look.

Mark_Fine

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2022, 06:35:28 PM »
Lots of great comments and observations.  As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am all for blending features in and making the best use of what the land dictates.  I promote and recommend minimalist design suggestions on most all of my own projects. That said, some of my favorite courses are very geometric in appearance.  Someone try to explain to me how a Biarritz hole and itís flanking coffin shaped bunkers ďblend inĒ with the natural surrounds.  Letís face it they donít, but we still love the look and artistry of these kind of golf holes that architects like Macdonald, Raynor and Öbuilt.  I love the chocolate drops at Myopia Hunt Club and at Somerset Hills.  What about the perched up greens at Pinehurst or Oyster Harbors or Ö.  I could go on and on with many other examples of great holes/hole designs that are very artificial but look great to a golfer.  It is the ďnatureĒ of our game (some pun intended) :)

Mark Mammel

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #16 on: June 23, 2022, 08:06:55 PM »

Closely mown grass and sand bunkers sure donít look natural ďlike Mother Nature put them thereĒ especially on a parkland course.  There is nothing  ďnaturalĒ about a 7000 sq ft putting green with grass growing at 1/8 of an inch?  How many times do we ever drive by a golf course and not notice it is there.  Golf course stand out.  Or how many times do we look out the window of a plane and easily spot the golf courses below?

Actually the most natural looking golf courses in the world are early UK links with large expanses of grass grazed tightly by sheep, and little bunkers here and there, some of which would get out of control and become bigger blowouts of sand.  It is hard to discern any mowing lines at all, because the sheep don't stop grazing in a neat line.  But, I agree there are not many golf courses built that look as natural as those.

I have one client now who really doesn't like how artificial golf courses look -- he describes them as a "big green blob".  So, instead, the plan is to stretch out the course so that when you're on the edges of the course you're only looking across a narrow swath of green, surrounded by native grasses and trees.  Since bunkers are a dead giveaway for "golf", we are thinking about avoiding them altogether, and using the existing trees and rock outcroppings as our main hazards, plus the severe slope of the terrain.  I really hope we get to build that course:  the less it looks like a golf course, the better.  But most of my other clients would never consider such a thing.
When I first played at Brora in 1994, the maintenance budget was vanishingly small. Then as now sheep and cattle were on the course, thus the electric fences protecting the greens. But my playing companions and I all commented that there was just a suggestion of fairways, as everything seem to just roll and flow. Today the course is maintained with clearly differentiated rough and fairway, and is still a wonderful experience- but less a journey into the world of links golf 100 years ago than it was. Of the courses I've seen Askernish still hits that mark, and is a remarkable place.
So much golf to play, so little time....

Mark

Ben Hollerbach

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2022, 11:02:48 AM »
I did see a comment on another forum platform that made me chuckle.

Someone was complaining about how the current crop of architects were too focused on making every golf course look like a links or heathland course regardless of location and how fad architecture was impacting maintenance and making the game harder.

I canít help but agree with them to a point. The more I learn about architecture the more Iím drawn to courses such as Raynor designs that do not hide the architects impact on the land. Golf courses are a man made field of play, as natural as we want them to look, they are still significantly artificial. it seems vain to put so much time and effort into hiding the construction and making the impact to the land look minimal. Wouldnít minimalistic design also relate to making changes and not spending the effort to hide those changes, rather allow them to exist starkly within the natural landscape?

Tom_Doak

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2022, 03:09:45 PM »
Wouldnít minimalistic design also relate to making changes and not spending the effort to hide those changes, rather allow them to exist starkly within the natural landscape?


At the end of the day, good design is all a matter of opinion, and you can define these terms any way you want.  But you do have to take into account the opinions of the men who actually designed the courses you're talking about, and what they believed about "naturalness" vs. "stark minimalism".


For my own personal opinion, it does not take a lot more work to "hide" my changes than to make them starkly.  Frequently it takes LESS work to do that than to build a Seth Raynor green . . . I rarely have to bring fill to a green in order to shape it.  That's just my personal style and you are welcome to like something else, but it's pretty rich to brand minimizing one's work as "vanity".

Steve Lang

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #19 on: June 25, 2022, 10:37:43 AM »
The fact is, very few golf courses ďlook naturalĒ. ...  How many times do we ever drive by a golf course and not notice it is there.  Golf courses stand out.  Or how many times do we look out the window of a plane and easily spot the golf courses below?

...  We need to admit most all courses are created and not found and they are not as natural as we would like to claim they are.  And by the way, there is often more going on under the ground then above it that golfers rarely ever see or realize.  What is natural about that? 


Mark,

How many times do we look out a window and imagine a golf hole or park setting sweeping around, over, or through a landscape?   There's certainly some settings are "found" by the gca, unless you're given a flat piece of land.

People don't think about their home's utility supplies or plumbing either until there's a problem... the art of architecture is both visible and hidden... the optics simply sell. 

as I often say, " Never saw a sucker win I didn't like!"

Inverness (Toledo, OH) cathedral clock inscription: "God measures men by what they are. Not what they in wealth possess.  That vibrant message chimes afar.
The voice of Inverness"

Ben Hollerbach

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #20 on: June 27, 2022, 04:05:33 PM »
At the end of the day, good design is all a matter of opinion, and you can define these terms any way you want.  But you do have to take into account the opinions of the men who actually designed the courses you're talking about, and what they believed about "naturalness" vs. "stark minimalism".
You're right Tom,
While I've read much of what you've written on architecture, I've not had the pleasure to read much of what Raynor wrote. What did he say about minimalism, naturalism, or the lack there of?

For my own personal opinion, it does not take a lot more work to "hide" my changes than to make them starkly.  Frequently it takes LESS work to do that than to build a Seth Raynor green . . . I rarely have to bring fill to a green in order to shape it.  That's just my personal style and you are welcome to like something else, but it's pretty rich to brand minimizing one's work as "vanity".
For anyone who has ever created anything with aesthetic intent, they would have inherently injected some level of their own vanity into their creation. It's inevitable and as present on a design as one's signature in the corner of a painting. As you put it, it's just your personal style. But, to become bothered by such a word, especially one not specifically targeted at you, makes me question if your concern isn't the implication of vanity within your work, but rather the impressions of your work in relation to the definitions of minimalism.

Considering minimalism as the reduction of a subject to its necessary elements, I believe the two definitions in question here would be the conservation of activity vs. the conservation of impact.

While both you and Raynor may look for land forms that are reminiscent of a Redan, for an example, when constructing a Redan green, Raynor may be more inclined to conserve his activity by stopping construction once the fundamental features of the hole have been developed, regardless of how unnatural it may look. Whereas your goals for the hole also include shaping the surrounds to better integrate the design features, conserving your visual impact to the landscape.

A quote that popped into my head that applies in this case "Less is more only when more is too much." Frank Lloyd Wright.

Mark_Fine

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #21 on: June 27, 2022, 07:05:34 PM »
It is 7PM and I am just back from my club, Lehigh CC, an old Flynn design.  It's a gorgeous (actually magnificent) evening with a clear blue sky and a setting sun casting shadows over the course.  We recently cleared out a lot of the "clutter" opening up more vistas and panoramic views of the holes/landscape.  Looking out from the clubhouse, it is an amazing setting (as Steve points out).  Does it look natural and like is was always there (a gift from God) - I guess it depends on who you ask  ;)   but it sure looks incredible and makes you want to grab your clubs and go play.  ;D

Ben Hollerbach

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #22 on: June 27, 2022, 08:50:41 PM »
It's those qualities that I look for and appreciate. When human hands can manage to create an aesthetic for a field of play that is flowing and time worn and native -- as if that golf course has been there and part of the landscape for 100+ years -- that is quite an accomplishment and testament to skill and talent, and to my eyes it is also very pleasing and beautiful, even as simply an expression of the art-craft at its best.
It is a bit humorous that seemingly every course that has been there for 100+ years has recently gone through a restoration to sharpen up its edges and return its look back to "new".

PPallotta

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #23 on: June 27, 2022, 08:56:31 PM »
Ben - indeed!
Mark - so you're saying that actually Flynn wasn't the nature faker?  :)

« Last Edit: June 27, 2022, 09:05:02 PM by PPallotta »

Mark_Fine

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Re: Letís face it, we just love the way golf courses look!
« Reply #24 on: June 28, 2022, 07:06:05 AM »
Peter,
I am guessing nature faker implies an old school minimalist?  There are clearly holes at Lehigh where minimal dirt was moved.  If that qualifies then so be it.  However, I wouldnít call most of Flynnís courses natural looking in the sense that it is hard to tell that there is a golf course there and that it blends in perfectly with nature.  Many of his courses are parkland if I am not mistaken and as I said, they look beautiful but definitely look like golf courses.  Take a course like The Cascades.  That course was built not found  ;)  Other architects like Tillinghast passed on the site. Too tough to build on.

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