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Richard_Mandell

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The Principle of Fairness
« on: September 14, 2022, 10:02:28 AM »

As I was writing many of the chapters of Principles of Golf Architecture, I thought of the treehouse and how some of my thoughts are sure to provoke great, fun (and civil) debate on GCA.  Here is the opening paragraph to my chapter on the Principle of Fairness.  I'm guessing just seeing this as a proposed principle will make some heads rotate 360 degrees, but before your family and friends start cleaning up the mess, read the whole chapter (then explode): 

Fairness is almost considered a dirty word to golf course architects, especially when uttered by golfers. Rarely, though, is a golf architect allowed to turn a blind eye to the Principle of Fairness, free to design without practical considerations. No matter how much a golf architect may want to sidestep the discussion, it’s hard to avoid.

Chapter 24:  The Principle of Fairness can be accessed by visiting https://www.golf-architecture.com/principles-of-golf-architecture and scrolling halfway down to clicking on the chapter itself.  I'll try my best to engage but will be on-site in Sarasota at Bobby Jones Golf Club the rest of the week so I may be delayed in my responses.

Steve Lang

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2022, 03:48:29 PM »
 8)  Like baseball, there's no crying in golf!


Glad to know CBM thought the same...
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"

archie_struthers

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2022, 05:31:09 PM »
 8)


You hate to use fairness as a governing factor in design , as a little quirk here and there is so much fun. But to that a long slog of difficult and or silly holes isn't good at all!

Garland Bayley

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2022, 07:58:54 PM »
Fairness is simply the wrong word. Difficulty is the correct word. When you hear someone (usually someone who thinks he has game) say something is unfair, he simply means his ego is hurt, because he can't accomplish what he expects he should be able to. The shot or shots required are too difficult for him to accomplish. Often these golfers also belong to the BMW Club (Bitch, Whine, and Moan). We high handicappers. who often encounter difficult situations on the course where we can't accomplish what we would like to, simply laugh at the BMWers.
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Ken Moum

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2022, 08:21:36 PM »
I cannot think of a single reason to ever use the F word in a golf context.


By its nature golf is unfair.


However, I think it's appropriate for architects and golfers to think about whether a hole or a shot presents a REASONABLE challenge for the golfers who will be playing the course.


Long forced carries with no way around them come to mind.  So do narrow fairways bordered by deep rough.
Over time, the guy in the ideal position derives an advantage, and delivering him further  advantage is not worth making the rest of the players suffer at the expense of fun, variety, and ultimately cost -- Jeff Warne, 12-08-2010

Garland Bayley

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2022, 08:26:35 PM »
I checked out the Anstruther 5th thread. At this time fairness hasn't been mentioned. However, the word vicious has been used.
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

archie_struthers

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2022, 08:33:04 PM »
 ;D ;)


Garland I think that's an excellent answer. Where I might disagree is on the construction of greens. The very best ones are difficult but allow for a skilled player to find a way to two putt. Anywhere this wasn't true eventually had to fix it particularly as green speeds increased over time. Remember having a putt on the fourth hole at Rolling Green many years ago that either went in or down the hill. Give me my wedge please LOL!   By the way the golf course at Rolling Green is fabulous and one of Flynn's best works

Ben Hollerbach

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2022, 09:46:37 PM »
Where I might disagree is on the construction of greens. The very best ones are difficult but allow for a skilled player to find a way to two putt. Anywhere this wasn't true eventually had to fix it particularly as green speeds increased over time. Remember having a putt on the fourth hole at Rolling Green many years ago that either went in or down the hill.
Doesn't that reflect more on the speed of the green and pin location than on the construction of the green?

archie_struthers

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2022, 11:16:24 PM »
 8)




Yes Ben,  it does.

Paul Rudovsky

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2022, 02:09:30 AM »
Richard--I wasn't sure how to get to the rest of the chapter...but allow me to make one point:


I have always felt that those of golf's greatest charms (when a course is well designed) is that it simulates life.  I think courses in the USA (and more recently courses in GB&I) have lost some of that charm by being over manicured.  Bad bounces and bad lies are just part of the "game of life" and therefore are fine IMO in the "game of golf".  Obviously this can be taken too far which totally eliminates the skill factor (for example ion a green is uncuttable from a certain direction that is not unfair...just don't hit it so you are left with a putt in that direction...but. green that is uncuttable ia all directions would be inappropriate to truly unfair)

Sean_A

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2022, 02:35:09 AM »
Fairness doesn't apply in golf architecture because it's the same for everyone.... its all fair. That doesn't mean all architecture is OK. It rather means the author has chosen the incorrect word in this case. I get the impression some use unfair as a substitute word for features, holes and courses they don't like. They think it somehow distances their opinion from an "objective" truth. No, in golf architecture it is best to explain why you don't like something and leave it at that. There is no need to attempt applying an imaginary universal principle of what is right to ultimately "justify" your opinion.

Ciao
« Last Edit: September 15, 2022, 02:40:31 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Erik J. Barzeski

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2022, 08:15:04 AM »
Fairness doesn't apply in golf architecture because it's the same for everyone.... its all fair.
Not everyone's game is the same, though. If you have a hole with a 250-yard carry over water, or a cliff, that hole might not be "fair" to the 230-yard carry guy who plays to the same handicap as the longer hitting player who carries it 265. He might literally not be able to finish the hole.

That's a pretty extreme case, and while I generally agree that most things that are the same for all are "fair" by definition, the differences in the games of different players can make things "feel" or in extreme cases perhaps "be" unfair.
Erik J. Barzeski @iacas
Author, Lowest Score Wins, and Lifetime Student of the Game

A.G._Crockett

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2022, 08:23:13 AM »
So I was a HS teacher for 39 years, and if I had a nickel for every time a kid said “That’s not fair!”, I could have retired long before I did.


And, of course, what they meant in almost every case was that they had not gotten what they wanted and/or what they believed they somehow “deserved”.  And so it is with “fairness” complaints on a golf course. 


The real meaning of “fair” is that you get treated the same way as others with the same circumstances, and that’s one of the many beautiful things about our game; you are guaranteed a fair trial!  Whether or not you get the outcome you wanted is another story.


(Btw, my stock reply to the “That’s not fair!” complaint was “The fair is where there are rides and cotton candy, and this isn’t the fair!”.  Students rarely found that satisfying, but it was a good jumping off point toward explaining what fair really means.  And what it doesn’t.)
"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

Adam Lawrence

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2022, 08:56:08 AM »
Fairness doesn't apply in golf architecture because it's the same for everyone.... its all fair. That doesn't mean all architecture is OK. It rather means the author has chosen the incorrect word in this case. I get the impression some use unfair as a substitute word for features, holes and courses they don't like. They think it somehow distances their opinion from an "objective" truth. No, in golf architecture it is best to explain why you don't like something and leave it at that. There is no need to attempt applying an imaginary universal principle of what is right to ultimately "justify" your opinion.

Ciao


Correct. A golf course is a venue for the playing of games of golf between two or more golfers. The course is the same for all the golfers who play it, therefore it is fair by definition. The only exception to this is in a tournament context if something changes during the day.
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.

Lawson Klotz

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2022, 09:25:04 AM »
I've talked with several players I know on mini tours about fairness and most tell me that fairness is about how good shots are rewarded. One example of 'unfair' I have heard: sticking an approach to 10 feet but having 4 or 5 different breaks and being no better off for having hit the green. Unfair? Probably not. Unreasonable? Maybe so.

Jim_Coleman

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2022, 10:11:32 AM »
   As has been said here countless times, fairness is an irrelevant concept in golf. Is it fair that one ball plugs in a bunker and one doesn’t? Is it fair that one ball lands in a divot and one doesn’t?
   Fairness also has nothing to do with architecture. It’s not unfair that I can’t carry a 225 lake with no options. It’s bad architecture. It’s not unfair that I hit a shot into a bunker with no aesthetic value on a 400+ yard straight hole that was placed 170 yards off the tee. It’s bad architecture. Good architects make stupid mistakes every so often; bad architects make lots of stupid mistakes.

Jeff_Brauer

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2022, 10:28:34 AM »
"Rarely, though, is a golf architect allowed to turn a blind eye to the Principle of Fairness, free to design without practical considerations. No matter how much a golf architect may want to sidestep the discussion, it’s hard to avoid."

Like almost any discussion, this isn't a black and white issue, there are degrees.  I doubt many architects purposely design something to be "unfair", i.e. a crowned green that deflects nearly all shots off the green because it just won't hold, or a 5 yard wide fairway.  My take was always to strive for fairness, knowing that a few instances will probably exist over 160 acres of the golf course and that golfers will accept a few bad bounces, but won't come back and play if there are consistently too many.  That "acceptable level" might vary among golfers, from zero or just one bad bounce a round to several.


The golfers I complain about are the ones who complain the most.  A popular phrase is "What if I hit it here? I got no shot!"  It is impossible to make a golf course completely fair when opinions vary most define it as "nothing bad happens to me no matter where I hit it, but my opponent should face several impossible shots."  Not to mention strategic design inherently focuses on creating better results from one spot over another.  You got to have some difficult outcomes or there ain't no strategy.


And some mistake "uncomfortable" with "impossible."  I have heard golfers complain about a hole that strongly encourages a fade when all they hit is a hook.  Would I consider a hole where trees forced you to hit a strong fade, as opposed to one that merely strongly encourages it?  Probably not, as it is no skin off my nose to leave a suitable bailout area for the hook without compromising the basic strategy of the hole.


As Richard writes, there are practical considerations, i.e., so few golfers can hit a particular shot on demand, and with so many C and D players (heck maybe even B players) playing every day, it is important to accommodate the way they play, which is hit and hope in many cases.


Again, all in all, architecture has probably been a quest for fairness since they replaced gorse at the Old Course with turf to make it more playable.  There is also no strategy if there is nothing but random bounces that consistently go awry.  Or, there needs to be some reward to make "risk-reward" work.  All of that is good, and we probably tend to take some extreme examples of complaints and make it sound like all golfers want good results at an unrealistically high level.


Just my take.  In any case, Rich's post served it's purpose.....I just bought the book to see what else he has to say!
« Last Edit: September 15, 2022, 10:35:30 AM by Jeff_Brauer »
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Sean_A

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2022, 10:46:41 AM »
Fairness doesn't apply in golf architecture because it's the same for everyone.... its all fair.
Not everyone's game is the same, though. If you have a hole with a 250-yard carry over water, or a cliff, that hole might not be "fair" to the 230-yard carry guy who plays to the same handicap as the longer hitting player who carries it 265. He might literally not be able to finish the hole.

That's a pretty extreme case, and while I generally agree that most things that are the same for all are "fair" by definition, the differences in the games of different players can make things "feel" or in extreme cases perhaps "be" unfair.


What I am saying is the use of the word fair is incorrect. The problem you illustrate isn't an issue of fairness. As Jeff suggests, it is more an issue of practicality, reasonableness or even intelligence...if the goal is for a wide variety of abilities to play the hole. Fairness is not the issue.


Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Mike Wagner

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2022, 10:50:58 AM »
Fairness is simply the wrong word. Difficulty is the correct word. When you hear someone (usually someone who thinks he has game) say something is unfair, he simply means his ego is hurt, because he can't accomplish what he expects he should be able to. The shot or shots required are too difficult for him to accomplish. Often these golfers also belong to the BMW Club (Bitch, Whine, and Moan). We high handicappers. who often encounter difficult situations on the course where we can't accomplish what we would like to, simply laugh at the BMWers.


This is interesting. I often think about certain bunkers and how they only hurt weaker players ... i.e., short bunkers on longer par 4s that someone with decent length would never find, but shorter hitters are extremely penalized.  I understand the people you're describing, but not all good players are BMWs.

Garland Bayley

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2022, 11:37:46 AM »
... but not all good players are BMWs.

Obiously! Jack wasn't a BMWer. He said the more whining he heard, the more he knew he had a good chance of winning. :)
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2022, 11:52:56 AM »
I was at a course this summer where the forward tees required a forced carry of 150 yards. My wife can no longer carry her tee ball that far. I don't like the word "unfair" but that was unfair. I had her tee it up in the fairway, but that was unsatisfying for her.
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

Garland Bayley

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2022, 12:03:18 PM »
I was at a course this summer where the forward tees required a forced carry of 150 yards. My wife can no longer carry her tee ball that far. I don't like the word "unfair" but that was unfair. I had her tee it up in the fairway, but that was unsatisfying for her.

There were no other options? One day, I played with top players in my club from the back tees. When facing a forced carry on a par 3, I hit 8 iron right of the pond, and then wedge to the green. If the better player makes the carry, but can't hold the green on the hole, he has an extremely difficult up and down. I have seen players put it in the water while trying to get up and down from behind.
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Jeff_Brauer

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #22 on: September 15, 2022, 12:12:54 PM »
Fairness is simply the wrong word. Difficulty is the correct word. When you hear someone (usually someone who thinks he has game) say something is unfair, he simply means his ego is hurt, because he can't accomplish what he expects he should be able to. The shot or shots required are too difficult for him to accomplish. Often these golfers also belong to the BMW Club (Bitch, Whine, and Moan). We high handicappers. who often encounter difficult situations on the course where we can't accomplish what we would like to, simply laugh at the BMWers.


This is interesting. I often think about certain bunkers and how they only hurt weaker players ... i.e., short bunkers on longer par 4s that someone with decent length would never find, but shorter hitters are extremely penalized.  I understand the people you're describing, but not all good players are BMWs.


Yes, I think one purpose of design (i.e., arranging the landscape for a particular human purpose) would be to eliminate all impossible shots due to forced carry, keep fairways wide enough and greens big enough to accept expected approach shots, etc.  I came to the conclusion a few years ago that there really shouldn't be any fw bunkers or deep woods (unless those existed naturally) more than 180-200 yards from the green.  Any C or D level player who has muffed his tee shot has basically cost themselves a shot at reaching the green in regulation, so why make their plight any worse?


For that matter, even for better players, is there any need to differentiate them by more than a stroke per hole?  That is, a bunker doesn't need to be so severe as to preclude recoveries.  If the player can execute, he should have a chance to make par from the hazard, but is most likely to make bogey.  No real need for double is there?  As someone opined here years ago, the real excitement of golf is in the period where you don't know the result of a shot.


That could apply in both match and stroke play.  The longer each golfer is "alive" in any match, the more exciting it is. Obviously, stroke play is more difficult in that regard than match play, where a big score on the first might end the match effectively right away.  That, and the fact that most golfers play for casual recreation and camaraderie are probably the real reasons we design courses that are blander than some here would prefer.


Lastly, there is variety.  Just as the island green gets in players' minds early, so too could one hole with really deep or difficult hazards, but a string of holes with them would reduce the overall impact of a difficult hole.  But, as mentioned, difficulty is not the same as fairness exactly.  Each course should have it's own level of difficulty.  Few courses should have that many holes that are unfair (i.e., cannot complete the hole because of forced carries or some other factor.)  That is a whole nother level of unfairness over a particular spot on a hole where you just can't get it up and down, or easily two putt.
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Ian Mackenzie

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #23 on: September 15, 2022, 12:14:36 PM »
Fair?


Golf is not fair. Tell that to the wind, the nuancing of turf/grass, the unseen pebble in your putting line or the divot your ball rolled into in the dead solid middle of the fairway!!


a better "F" word to focus on is FUN.


Plus, if golf truly was "Fair", you would not need the socialist approach to making matches "fair" with handicaps serving as a "stroke redistribution" tool.


Love how far-right wing players suddenly - and episodically - embrace charity and welfare when it is needed to compete on an even foot with others who have worked harder than them to get ahead (at golf).... ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

Jim Sherma

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Re: The Principle of Fairness
« Reply #24 on: September 15, 2022, 01:10:26 PM »
Not surprising that the conversation turned to the "Golf is not fair" trope and that it's only good players that care about fairness since the purity of the hacker means everything is tough and we're all in it together.


In Richard's book the difference between playability and fairness is broken down with the claim that most complaints of fairness has to do with lack of playability due to maintenance and conditioning. His summary is: "[A] golf course architect has little responsibility in making a golf course 'fair'. Yet there is some benefit to architects who strive to make their work playable for as many golfers as possible."


Some examples cited are greens with fronting hazards having sufficient depth to hold the likely shot being hit to them and bunkers being sufficiently large to allow for a shot however difficult.


As I read his fairness in conditioning would fall under cases such as pinning a cup on too much slope for the maintained speed of the green, bunkers that vary between hardpan and soft lies with no real way to ascertain what is lying under the ball at any point in time. Playability concerns would fall under landing areas that are too small for the shots being asked for - e.g. a 25-35 yard fairway with binary outcomes on each side and no lay-up option, a shallow green over a creek with insufficient back to front slope to reasonably hold any shot. Sure it's the same for everyone and a lousy player will shoot a lousy score no matter what, I get that. Still when the principal of fairness is addressed like Richard is talking about a strong case can be made that it does make for better golf.

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