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Tommy Williamsen

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Subtle or boring
« on: March 05, 2023, 06:03:37 PM »
I invited a friend to Hidden Creek in NJ. Before we played, I mentioned that HC was subtly demanding and not full of eye candy. After the round, he noted that it wasn’t subtle; it was boring. He played Ballyhack most of the time. There is nothing subtle about that course. It is full of thrilling forced carries etc. After I hit him in the mouth, I thought that sometimes subtle might be a polite way of saying boring.
That said, I don't think for a minute that HC is boring.

Is there room for subtle in the modern game?
« Last Edit: March 05, 2023, 06:05:21 PM by Tommy Williamsen »
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

"Deep within your soul-space is a magnificent cathedral where you are sweet beyond telling." Rumi

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2023, 06:45:40 PM »
I invited a friend to Hidden Creek in NJ. Before we played, I mentioned that HC was subtly demanding and not full of eye candy. After the round, he noted that it wasn’t subtle; it was boring. He played Ballyhack most of the time. There is nothing subtle about that course. It is full of thrilling forced carries etc. After I hit him in the mouth, I thought that sometimes subtle might be a polite way of saying boring.
That said, I don't think for a minute that HC is boring.

Is there room for subtle in the modern game?


There is room for subtle, but it's going to fly right over most golfers' heads, and it's unlikely to attract much attention.

MCirba

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2023, 07:08:45 PM »
I was very disappointed with Hidden Creek when I first played it.


Two or three subsequent plays and it is one of the only courses I've ever changed my initial rating more than one point after playing it again.  Actually, it may the only one I can think of.
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

Joe Hancock

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2023, 08:25:13 PM »
Subtle interspersed with dramatic, or vice versa. A whole course of either isn’t likely to capture your intrigue. Also, music…..
" What the hell is the point of architecture and excellence in design if a "clever" set up trumps it all?" Peter Pallotta, June 21, 2016

"People aren't picking a side of the fairway off a tee because of a randomly internally contoured green ."  jeffwarne, February 24, 2017

Jim_Coleman

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2023, 10:42:14 PM »
   I think HC eats Galloway’s lunch. That said, you can insult a person’s wife before you can insult his golf course.

Michael Chadwick

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2023, 11:20:43 PM »

Subtle is a polite way of saying boring for someone who doesn't appreciate subtlety. The course that probably produces that difference of opinion most would have to be The Old Course.


I'm growing more interested in seeking out courses that straddle that line, to test my own eye and biases. Courses that may in fact be underrated throughout rater panels because their land may be more muted and their designs not making deliberate overtures to dramatic flair. But that means nothing when it comes to strategy. Off the cuff US ideas I haven't yet played include the Loop, Austin Golf Club, Trinity Forest, Wolf Point, Brambles, Old Elm. I'd like to hear more that might fit the bill from others.


Those courses strike me not as places where the design might be boring, but where the design tests how much you as a player failed to see. Or, put in another way, how much of a boring golfer you yourself are.   
Instagram: mj_c_golf

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2023, 12:31:15 AM »
The Loop's land is subtle, the bunkers are muted, the greens are neither. I don't think of TOC as subtle. The land varies from flat to rumpled, there are loads of bunkers and the greens are huge...sometimes seriously contoured. Perhaps the blindness makes you think its subtle?

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2023, 06:03:22 AM »
I don't think of TOC as subtle. The land varies from flat to rumpled, there are loads of bunkers and the greens are huge...sometimes seriously contoured. Perhaps the blindness makes you think its subtle?
Couldn't agree more.  TOC is far from subtle.  The brilliance of the greens and scale of the bunkering are obvious to almost anyone.  The land is, on a large scale, pretty flat.  But subtle?  Nah.
In June I will be riding the first three stages of this year's Tour de France route for charity.  630km (394 miles) in three days, with 7800m (25,600 feet) of climbing for the William Wates Memorial Trust (https://rideleloop.org/the-charity/) which supports underprivileged young people.

Mike_Young

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2023, 07:00:54 AM »
Subtleness-  The property of being subtle, of avoiding brute force and instead being clever or skillful.
I like subtle.  And IMHO, it is often much more difficult to design.  And IMHO, it also makes golfers think they can come back and score better than that round because they never realized the subtleness.   
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Michael Chadwick

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2023, 07:33:57 AM »
Sean, Mark, I'm using TOC as a reference, perhaps the most contentious reference, for the dynamic brought up by Tommy with regard to the opinion indicated by his friend. I can't think of another more brilliant course that likely underwhelms as many paying tour guide players who walk off finding it overrated, undramatic, dull, and boring. For a great many of individuals who do not share your perspective--and the consensus on this discussion group--TOC does prove to be "delicately complex and understated," "so delicate or precise so as to be difficult to describe or analyze." (Oxford definitions of subtle).


With regard to my earlier post, good courses that toe the line with being reviewed as boring is something I think should be considered more meaningfully and expanded upon, as architectural counterpoints to those like Mammoth Dunes or Landmand, because subtlety--perhaps more so than drama--can better expose golfers' points of views.


I'd particularly like to hear about more courses that may be considered boring but are in fact thoughtful and compelling courses.   


 
Instagram: mj_c_golf

John Kavanaugh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2023, 08:14:32 AM »
When you tell someone that a course is subtle you assume they are too ignorant to see it.

Ally Mcintosh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2023, 08:26:39 AM »
There are 4 layers of golf course:


1. Full of feature and in your face
2. Full of feature but “of” the land
3. Subtle and full of interest
4. Subtle and bland


Courses that fall in to 2 or 3 are usually excellent, sometimes great.


Courses in 4 are rarely excellent.


Courses in 1 can frequently be excellent but are rarely great. There is also a subset of 1 which is “land full of feature but golf course detail bland”.


Here endeth my generalisation.

Tommy Williamsen

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2023, 08:39:48 AM »
I invited a friend to Hidden Creek in NJ. Before we played, I mentioned that HC was subtly demanding and not full of eye candy. After the round, he noted that it wasn’t subtle; it was boring. He played Ballyhack most of the time. There is nothing subtle about that course. It is full of thrilling forced carries etc. After I hit him in the mouth, I thought that sometimes subtle might be a polite way of saying boring.
That said, I don't think for a minute that HC is boring.

Is there room for subtle in the modern game?


There is room for subtle, but it's going to fly right over most golfers' heads, and it's unlikely to attract much attention.


Tom, is it a coincidence that two of your most subtle courses, High Pointe and Beechtree, closed?
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

"Deep within your soul-space is a magnificent cathedral where you are sweet beyond telling." Rumi

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2023, 08:48:47 AM »

Tom, is it a coincidence that two of your most subtle courses, High Pointe and Beechtree, closed?





I don't think either course was particularly subtle.  High Pointe was (is) quite a pretty piece of ground with lots of undulation and some difficult greens.  Perhaps the front nine was more subtle because it lacked trees or flashy bunkers.  Beechtree didn't have as difficult a set of greens, but it had quite a few memorable holes, although, again, more of them were on the back nine.


The reason they closed was that the owners of both courses got tired of running a marginal business.

Carl Rogers

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2023, 08:49:16 AM »
Southern Pines renovation.... played only once and was disappointed at its lack of subtley.  It is trying to upstage Mid Pines and Pine Needles.
I decline to accept the end of man. ... William Faulkner

Michael Morandi

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2023, 09:17:31 AM »
I was very disappointed with Hidden Creek when I first played it.


Two or three subsequent plays and it is one of the only courses I've ever changed my initial rating more than one point after playing it again.  Actually, it may the only one I can think of.


I’ve only played HC once, when it first opened. And while i don’t recall being excited to return, I knew multiple visits would be required to give it a fair assessment and appreciate its design. Your post proves the point. But many of these subtle courses don’t get the benefit of a repeat visit because, by definition, they don’t excite the first time. Tough balancing act for the architect and owner.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2023, 09:26:00 AM »
Sean, Mark, I'm using TOC as a reference, perhaps the most contentious reference, for the dynamic brought up by Tommy with regard to the opinion indicated by his friend. I can't think of another more brilliant course that likely underwhelms as many paying tour guide players who walk off finding it overrated, undramatic, dull, and boring. For a great many of individuals who do not share your perspective--and the consensus on this discussion group--TOC does prove to be "delicately complex and understated," "so delicate or precise so as to be difficult to describe or analyze." (Oxford definitions of subtle).


With regard to my earlier post, good courses that toe the line with being reviewed as boring is something I think should be considered more meaningfully and expanded upon, as architectural counterpoints to those like Mammoth Dunes or Landmand, because subtlety--perhaps more so than drama--can better expose golfers' points of views.


I'd particularly like to hear about more courses that may be considered boring but are in fact thoughtful and compelling courses.   

I am struggling to think of subtle courses which are excellent or great. All the examples which come to mind are exposed as unsubtle when closer to the features. I can think of some subtle holes and features. For instance, greens running away from the fairway can still look subtle even after experiencing them. Single, seemingly harmless bunkers can sometimes seem subtle or even silly until the wind changes direction. But I am having a hard time with an entire course being subtle yet excellent. I thought of Huntercombe, but again, once closer to the features, one realises they are often not subtle. It's more a case of deception than subtlety. I think TOC largely fits this description.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

John Kavanaugh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2023, 09:31:55 AM »
Through court order I have been ordered to stop drinking bourbon and enjoy wine. As I go though the process I don’t want to hear a wine is subtle. That sounds like I won’t get it to me.

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2023, 10:36:44 AM »

I am struggling to think of subtle courses which are excellent or great. All the examples which come to mind are exposed as unsubtle when closer to the features. I can think of some subtle holes and features. For instance, greens running away from the fairway can still look subtle even after experiencing them. Single, seemingly harmless bunkers can sometimes seem subtle or even silly until the wind changes direction. But I am having a hard time with an entire course being subtle yet excellent. I thought of Huntercombe, but again, once closer to the features, one realises they are often not subtle. It's more a case of deception than subtlety. I think TOC largely fits this description.



Pinehurst #2 used to sometimes be described as subtle.  Pete Dye had a great rant about that.  "The first green has a bunker six feet deep on the left, and a bunch of convex rolls in short grass off to the right, and you call that subtle?"

Ira Fishman

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #19 on: March 06, 2023, 10:57:11 AM »
I would not say that PH2 is subtle, but up the road Pine Needles fits the bill, particularly the green complexes.


For a links course, Brora actually strikes me as subtle overall.


Except for Number 8, St George’s Hill is subtle. A good example of Ally’s number 2 category.


Ira

Charlie Goerges

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #20 on: March 06, 2023, 11:35:39 AM »
This is an interesting conversation. Unfortunately we keep being told that our subtle suggestions aren't really all that subtle.


I wonder if we could switch the terminology from "subtlety" to "sophistry"? In politics, ethics, or public discourse, sophistry is pretty much always bad. But I wonder if architects could use it to good effect. A quick definition is: deceiving through fallacious arguments. Sophistry preys on "common sense", it's how you convince a little kid that a small pebble will float because it's lighter than a feather, that sort of thing.


I think some of Mackenzie's use of forced perspective could be considered sophistry. I can also conceive of other examples as well, I wonder if people have seen architecture that smacks of sophistry?
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

Kalen Braley

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Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #21 on: March 06, 2023, 11:45:11 AM »
In my experience subtlety in general can have tremendous variability.

There is the kind described here, looking for it in great to excellent courses..

And then there is using it as justification to play the same boring track over and over again in claims of looking for it, but never to be found. This later portion irks me the most with one set of friends who basically play this card to travel no further than the local 2.5 DS muni and are unwilling to travel even a few hours away to try DS 7-9s...

John Kavanaugh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2023, 11:48:57 AM »
Saying something is “subtle” is a perfect out if you don’t know what you are taking about. Especially if the person you are talking to doesn’t know shit either.

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #23 on: March 06, 2023, 11:53:31 AM »
Another problem might be that many memberships seem to feel forced into making the course play tougher in order to defend its challenge to good players.


For example, years ago I might have described Seminole as subtle, because it was a course that a lot of good players seemed to dismiss as overrated when they first played it -- especially if the wind wasn't up.  But the way they maintain Seminole now, with the greens super fast and right at the brink of a ball blowing off them and rolling forty yards back down a hill, I don't think very many players would fail to notice.[size=78%] [/size]

Charlie Goerges

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Subtle or boring
« Reply #24 on: March 06, 2023, 11:57:19 AM »
Saying something is “subtle” is a perfect out if you don’t know what you are taking about. Especially if the person you are talking to doesn’t know shit either.




I expect the subtleties of this conversation will be lost on you.  ;)
Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee of this. - Marcus Aurelius

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