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Michael Chadwick

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Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« on: July 31, 2022, 05:16:57 PM »
Mike DeVries’s Kingsley Club raised architectural questions about terrain I hadn’t previously considered. The modern and brash course is a design with its volume turned to eleven, yet DeVries’s earth movement was purportedly rather minimal. There are isolated hole corridors nestled like halfpipes between steep hills, but any sense of containment mounding is inherent (I think) to the landforms. Width off the tee generally pinches in on approach, where greens are set among crests, benched beneath or beside a hill, or saddled in punchbowls. Green surfaces are obscured to great effect by bunkering cut out of knolls fronting complexes, making approach shots feel exacting. It’s a second shot course with steep fall offs and bold contouring that can produce drama in matches and despair in stroke play.


7 green

As I played the course for the first time, the question I began asking myself is where the line might be drawn between severe land and land that, in its natural state, may be too severe for golf? A highly subjective question, to be sure. But after carrying my clubs I will say it’s the second most demanding hike I’ve done in the state of Michigan, behind only Arcadia Bluffs, though transitions at Bluffs make me think it was not routed for walkers in mind. Kingsley never has overly long green to tee transitions, the routing is compact, yet as much as I prefer walking, the land itself is just so severe that I now understand why there’s so much cart usage at the club.


7 and 8

My posing of this question is not a negative criticism of the course. In fact, I applaud DeVries for straddling that line so closely, like Icarus watching the wax drip from his wings as he advances closer to the sun. I particularly liked the figure-eight routing of holes 2-5, resulting in passing 1 green again before stepping onto 6 tee. Holes 3-6 and 12-17 were also among my favorites, but admittedly because they tended to be laid out among (relatively) more subdued terrain.


16

What I found myself thinking about was how I typically consider golf course construction as an enhancement of land. A blank canvas process where the property needs to be built up to create features suitable for exciting golf. What Kingsley made very clear is that the opposite can also be true. That, depending on the property, the bulldozer’s task might be to harness and subdue landforms that are naturally too extreme for play. A stripping away process that seeks to soften what is overly severe.


9

What other courses come to mind where the shaping had to primarily restrain the property instead of build it up?
What other courses to you straddle that line of severity and playability in the way that I find Kingsley does?
What designs do you think were not tamed enough for golf? Or, conversely, were diminished too much in the making of the course?
Instagram: mj_c_golf

Tom_Doak

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2022, 07:34:57 PM »
On severe sites, we talk of "melting down" the contours to make them less severe, which is primarily about giving places for the ball to stop.


Stone Eagle is the biggest example of that sort of work, but we have had to do the same thing for certain holes on many courses, including Ballyneal, Tumble Creek, and Te Arai North.

Sean_A

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2022, 08:35:31 PM »
I play quite a bit of extreme land golf which hasn't been tamed by massive earth moving. Two of the biggest ways to keep the slopes playable is not to cut the grass too short and have higher grass on low sides. These two approaches will usually provide enough space to keep balls findable/playable. Another popular approach is to jack greens up on the low side, although this can also create sharp kicks. Another approach is for most greens to be on less unruly land. Its a rarity on these courses to see saving bunkers or mounding, but it does exist. Finally, often times these courses tend to be on the shorter side so players don't have to bash away with too many iffy shots. Of course, sometimes you have to hit the shot or there is a good chance to put a kiss on the card or perhaps lose the ball....that's golf.

Ciao
« Last Edit: August 01, 2022, 02:31:25 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Tom_Doak

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2022, 08:54:14 PM »
I play quite a bit of extreme land golf which hasn't been tamed by massive earth moving. Two of the biggest ways to keep the slopes playable is not to cut the grass too short and have higher grass on low sides. These two approaches will usually provide enough space to keep balls findable/playable.


I am working on plans for a course on an extreme site right now, and I've been thinking that less fairway and more one-inch rough are the way to go.  It's way less expensive than more earthwork.

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2022, 10:49:43 PM »
In Virginia the course at Primland is built on very severe mt land. Routing and construction must have caused many sleepless night for Donald Steele.
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

PPallotta

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2022, 01:10:16 AM »
Another of your good topics, Michael.
We don't often discuss the playability of severe sites in the context of the average golfer vs the low handicapper. The former finds ballstriking and shotmaking and recoveries from uneven and side-hill and downhill lies exponentially harder than the latter does.
Sean's suggestions for mitigating this discrepancy are all good ones and make sense to me. Another way, I think, is having less intricate / heavily contoured greens -- or at least greens that don't demand the right shot shape and trajectory, on top of requiring the correct approach angle, in order for a golfer to get it close. There can be much bombast in a great design, but then it needs to also offer some respite. No?


« Last Edit: August 01, 2022, 01:15:12 AM by PPallotta »

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2022, 02:00:29 AM »
Another of your good topics, Michael.
We don't often discuss the playability of severe sites in the context of the average golfer vs the low handicapper. The former finds ballstriking and shotmaking and recoveries from uneven and side-hill and downhill lies exponentially harder than the latter does.
Sean's suggestions for mitigating this discrepancy are all good ones and make sense to me. Another way, I think, is having less intricate / heavily contoured greens -- or at least greens that don't demand the right shot shape and trajectory, on top of requiring the correct approach angle, in order for a golfer to get it close. There can be much bombast in a great design, but then it needs to also offer some respite. No?


This might sound good in principle but often, a severe site has its natural green sites in places that are not “flat”. The trick is then to tie two elevations together (often high back to low front) and this can require movement in the green surface to make it look natural.


Otherwise you are left with “jacking up the low side” as Sean states. This usually leaves you with a very sharp, propped up look (a few Hackett greens come to mind).


Michael’s premise to the thread is a good one. Some sites are about softening rather than enhancing.

Sean_A

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2022, 02:41:29 AM »
I play quite a bit of extreme land golf which hasn't been tamed by massive earth moving. Two of the biggest ways to keep the slopes playable is not to cut the grass too short and have higher grass on low sides. These two approaches will usually provide enough space to keep balls findable/playable.


I am working on plans for a course on an extreme site right now, and I've been thinking that less fairway and more one-inch rough are the way to go.  It's way less expensive than more earthwork.

I don't know why adjusting grass height isn't done more often. When courses get firm it seems right to adjust up. Plus, I like the lack definition. Although, I think definition is the reason some clubs with little money cut short. The crazy thing is the clubs don't cut the fairways anywhere near wide enough to support slope and firmness so balls often end up in very manageable rough anyway.

I am very fond of the low side being crudely jacked up...a benched green without a low side bunker. But I must admit that a well blended bench green is one of the most beautiful things in golf.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Thomas Dai

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2022, 04:17:21 AM »
I am very fond of the low side being crudely jacked up...a benched green without a low side bunker. But I must admit that a well blended bench green is one of the most beautiful things in golf.
Ciao
Without clever contouring above them low side bunkers below benched greens can’t half get damaged when a downpour arises. Lots of work to put things back to how they were then results. Not such a good situation with limited staff numbers and members expecting perfectly manicured bunkers at all times. And then another downpour comes along.
Some yee olde era hilltop courses have deflection contouring, small ridges or wee elongated channels, above benched greens to prevent or at least alleviate downpours streaming downhill across the greens.
Good points about height of cut and width in relation to slopes.
Atb

Niall C

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2022, 05:05:25 AM »


This might sound good in principle but often, a severe site has its natural green sites in places that are not “flat”. The trick is then to tie two elevations together (often high back to low front) and this can require movement in the green surface to make it look natural.


Otherwise you are left with “jacking up the low side” as Sean states. This usually leaves you with a very sharp, propped up look (a few Hackett greens come to mind).


Michael’s premise to the thread is a good one. Some sites are about softening rather than enhancing.


Ally


I'm with Sean in that I quite like a well benched in green that is obviously un-natural. For some reason I'm far less impressed with fairways that are obviously benched in to the side of hill. I love those old fashioned courses where the only earth moving is on the tees and greens.


Niall

Niall C

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2022, 05:11:08 AM »
Sean


I think the main reason you don't tend to see bunkers on the low side of benched in greens is that the bunker would undermine the green and lead to slippage.


Niall

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2022, 05:17:55 AM »
Regarding benched greens, can you (Sean & Niall) think of examples you like and think of examples you like less?


This topic always intrigues me. I think the feature is sometimes given a pass on low-budget, minimalist courses because it virtually confirms the course is low-budget and minimalist. I definitely prefer the sharp look to a poorly constructed alternative that tries to tie in and fails but often I feel a benched green is just lack of vision rather than deliberate. In general, not my cup of tea.

Niall C

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2022, 06:25:51 AM »
Ally


I absolutely agree that bench greens work better on old pre-WWI courses. A course like Greenock Whinhill has a number of them, some of which are better than others but my favourite on that course would be the 3rd (?) which is a short par 4 where the slope is down from right to left. Consequently the tee shot tends to end to the left and short of the green so that you are pitching up to the slope behind the green and using it as a cushion. Of course that only works if the bank is firm enough and the grass short enough. Not all bench greens are like that.


Another on worth a mention is the hole at Pitlochry which is the short downhill par 4 with a sharp dog-leg right to left to play round a house. Can't recall the number but Ran has a photo of it in his course tour. That's one where the architect (probably CK Hutchison) tried to disguise the benched nature of the green by jazzing up the green surround with mounds and bunkers. To my eye it works well.


Niall

Ira Fishman

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2022, 06:53:07 AM »
In Virginia the course at Primland is built on very severe mt land. Routing and construction must have caused many sleepless night for Donald Steele.


And Steele did a helluva job. Primland is the only mountain course I have played where the routing runs on top of the ridges rather in the valleys or along the sides. The result are several scenic holes with memorable movement. The greens match the scale of the property in size and contour.  It is an under appreciated course, perhaps because it is so remote (and now so expensive to stay there).


Ira

Sean_A

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2022, 07:01:40 AM »
Beau Desert has some clever bench greens that are only noticed from behind the green. The rear is jacked up to reduce the front to back grade. A very good example of this type is 1 Little Aston.

Many cheap build examples on hilltop courses are very evident...I don't mind the look if it isn't overdone and there is space on low side for run out.

I guess there are some beauties out there. 3 Huntercombe is a good example, but it's a more complicated shaping job taking much more space than the cheapie jobs.

One of my favourite bench greens is 3 Leckford Old.





Ciao
« Last Edit: August 01, 2022, 07:03:17 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Niall C

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Re: Taming Extreme Land (Or Not) in Course Construction
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2022, 07:52:49 AM »
So far we have been talking about benched greens when playing across slopes but you also get them on downhill holes as well as uphill. I've played a few downhillers that have a retaining wall at the front rather than a steep grassed slope. West Lothian GC has one on the nine designed by Willie Park Jnr, Burntisland has one and the 18th at Fereneze has one. Quite a cool feature and a good way of taking the momentum out of a rolling ball.


Niall

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