Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

A question and answer session for golf

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 08/11/2011 08:16:15 PM MDT


Over the last year and a half that I’ve been writing this column, I occasionally get a question that deserves more than a passing reply. I hope that the answers below are as interesting to you as the questions were to me.

Q: Why doesn’t Las Cruces have any night par 3 courses?

– Linda M., Las Cruces

MA: That is a very good question Linda. What’s more, I can’t find one in the El Paso area either. A lighted par 3 course is a terrific solution to our fairly warm summer temperatures and extends our winter golf day so that you can get a quick round in after work. A 9-hole par 3 course, with holes from 90 to 210 yards can occupy as little as 25 acres and a “pitch and putt” course even less. A par 3 or executive length course will ordinarily offer a fairly flat site for an easy walk; some courses don’t offer motorized carts at all.

My experience has been that artificial lighting can’t reproduce the feel of playing golf during the day. Our senses don’t react the same way and therefore we do not feel as comfortable judging distances and contours. This can be especially confusing when reading greens. But, a well-conceived short course can be very successful as it offers a less time consuming alternative and also presents a transitional experience for people that enjoy the game, but are intimidated by a regulation length course.

Lighting a course can be tricky, but there have been tremendous advances in understanding the effects of artificial lighting and in lighting technology over the past twenty years. Light pollution is handled much more completely and far less expensively than in the past.

Q: Some golf courses advertise their signature hole. How do they choose it and why do they choose it? What’s the point of a signature hole?

– Viann B., Las Cruces

MA: Signature hole-itis has bitten the golf industry hard. According to at least one online dictionary, signature means “a distinctive mark, characteristic, or sound indicating identity.” Basically, a signature hole is the hole someone thinks represents the experience of playing a particular golf course. We all have our opinions of what the signature hole might be on a golf course. When an owner or managing entity chooses a signature hole they want you to believe it represents the experience that a patron will have when they come play there. If you believe that, then I’ve got water front property at White Sands to sell you.

More often, the hole is the most beautiful, challenging, or well-maintained. Signature holes have become a marketer’s hype. Once golf courses began using the signature hole hype to hawk their course, golf architects began trying to fulfill the hysteria with EIGHTEEN SIGNATURE HOLES. Signature hole-itis is another one of those factors that has escalated the cost of the game. As a designer, I want every hole to be memorable. That’s easy to achieve when you spend upwards of a 1/2 million dollars on each hole, as some have. If we could get back to only a few signature hole candidates, the game would be more affordable and most likely, more fun.

 Q: I hear the announcers on TV talk about swing speed and ball velocity. Is that important information and why?

– Arthur L., New York, NY

MA: At first glance, I wasn’t sure this was a question for my comment, but after considering it for a while, swing speed and ball velocity are important to me as a designer and should be important to all you players out there as well. All other factors being equal, the faster the swing speed, the longer the shot. A ball struck squarely and precisely on the club will transfer maximum energy to the ball. Golf ball manufacturers have been fine tuning various characteristics to make the ball accept as much of that energy as possible and then release it in a way that results in the ball traveling as far as possible, within the USGA and R and A’s rules.

Actually, as a designer I’m more interested in the range of shot lengths by players with different skill levels. I use that knowledge in placing tees in order to give players a starting point that allows them to play each hole with a chance to make par. The intent of creating different teeing locations has been to reduce the importance of power and increase the importance of getting the most out of each players respective swing speed. Discounting the short game for the purposes of this point, if you play from the correct tee set for your swing speed and you are hitting the ball squarely consistently, you should be playing the game at near par regularly. This is doubly important for players to realize because often the HARDER you try to hit the ball, the SLOWER your swing speed and the more erratic your contact with the ball.

How can players find out their swing speed? Most any pro shop or golf professional has the tools to determine your swing speed. I would like to see each course set up a “swing speed station” (sss) near the first tee that allows the starter to measure each player’s swing speed and then recommend a tee set for them. Requiring players to play from the swing speed recommended tee set isn’t necessary – peer pressure will suffice.

Q: What the heck is the 90 degree rule?

– Tara W., Manchester, N.H.

MA: The 90 degree rule goes into effect when the temperature reaches 90 degrees – that’s when all my playing partners must buy me a drink! Actually, we don’t see it much out in this area, but the 90 degree rule is basically a compromise between carts on paths only and letting carts go anywhere. Cart’s are restricted to paths until they get opposite their ball (90 degree angle) and then you can turn and go directly to your ball. Once you have played the shot, you must return again directly to the path.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog:






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