Archive for February, 2010
Recently, a friend suggested that I write an article that could be entitled: “How I ruin your round of golf”. I laughed, considered his suggestion and we had a short discussion about his perception. The more I’ve thought about his comment, the more I’m annoyed by what amounts to public opinion in this regard. Of course, his perception isn’t unusual, especially among golfers that are not connected to the golf business.
The idea that I could sell my services by making someone’s round of golf miserable is – well, astounding to me. And yet, it’s easy to see why the average golfer might think so. After all, much of today’s golf architecture is nothing if it’s not overbearing and flashy. One could make the case that only the courses built for a strict budget are eminently playable, and that’s because the architect is forced to be measured in his/her palette of elements. If they are good at what they do, they’ll use the meager budget to create ample playable corridors and an adequate irrigation system. If they don’t, well, make sure you bring plenty of balls and if you have an old set of clubs… you get the picture.
The reality is that our very best golf architects are expert at making a course that is visually stunning; all the while creating a layout that plays fairly for the average player. However, and as the master’s laid down in golf design law, it is the player’s responsibility to avoid a hazard regardless of where it is positioned. So how do you reconcile what seems to be a “license to kill” with the golf design commandment “thou shalt not abuse”?
A good question to be sure, and the answer is simple – experience. What is called for are skills that combine various disciplines that can only come from experience. One skill, perhaps the most important as it relates to course playability, is understanding how slopes affect the golf shot. A slope can propel a shot forward, repel it in a different direction or it can “catch” and retain it in the golfing corridor. A slope can be designed to be unnoticeable or so steep it looks like a wall. Finally, a fairway cross slope can be enough to direct a shot around a fairway with the natural contour of a hole, or it can be too much for the type of turf specified and the ball will roll out of the fairway regardless of the skill of the player. Understanding how to design these subtle features is but one of the numerous skills challenging a golf architect.
These skills, perhaps more than any other possessed by an architect, are only gained through experience. No amount of schooling can substitute for preparing the plans, seeing the designed product in construction and playing the finished course. An Architect’s growth is never complete as each project brings new problems with new opportunities.