Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Archive for February, 2012

Do women have to dress up to play golf?

By Mary Armstrong

FOR THE SUN-NEWS published 02/18/2012

Acouple of weeks ago, I noticed an article that was in the March issue of Golf Digest. The article de­tails an “experiment” in which golf writer Peter Finch accompanied LPGA Tour player Kim Hall on a trip to Chicago equipped with golf clubs of different quality, a makeup artist, and several sets of golf clothes.

First let me say that I am not targeting any of the cours­es here in Las Cruces. My per­sonal experience is always positive at our facilities. This article, as was the intent of Finch’s piece, is to examine why the golf industry has been such a miserable failure in getting women interested in the game. I’ve been hearing that women are the largest untapped market since I start­ed my business 22 years ago.  There has been progress, but certainly not in the magnitude that the potential indicates.

Finch and Hall didn’t intro­duce themselves as “writer and golf pro.” They didn’t even admit to knowing each other — in essence, they were “undercover.” The pur­pose of their assignment was to determine if a woman’s ap­pearance had anything to do with her treatment at a given golf course.

If you’re an experienced fe­male player, about now you’re saying, “Tell me some­thing I don’t already know.” As their little experiment shows, a woman that is young, beautiful, and dresses a little provocatively will have no problem getting ac­cepted by a threesome of men. I also know that if you are a good player but a little frumpy, the group won’t wel­come you until you’ve played a hole or two. If, however, you are an average player with an average figure, you won’t be easily accepted and may be turned down. It is on­ly after you show that you won’t slow the group down that you’ll be tolerated and perhaps embraced as a part of the foursome. However inter­esting the article might be, and I acknowledge my inter­est, I don’t think it gets to the root of the problem and most certainly doesn’t provide any solutions.

Golf Digest Editor in Chief Jerry Tarde received mounds of mail on the article, but the one that struck me as the most insightful was from Massachusetts PGA Profes­sional Sue Shapcott. Besides being an ex-tour player (Asian and European), she has served as the director of instruction at Dallas’ most popular public course. From her teaching success, she went on to Arizona State for a masters in educational psy­chology, emphasizing educa­tion and motivation.

Most people (me included) talk about the emotional issues surrounding women in golf; few have given us real princi­ples on which to base a solu­tion. Shapcott’s Masters thesis addressed that very subject, and her letter to Tarde was concise, direct and logical.

Her thesis indicates that women explain their golf per­formances in maladaptive ways. Basically, this means that women often do things to avoid the anxiety they experi­ence in a golf setting — like avoiding the pro shop. We al­so usually perceive ourselves as significantly less successful than male golfers. These be­haviors lead to a lack of moti­vation. In other words, who wants play golf if you don’t feel comfortable there? It’s really as simple as that.

But Shapcott goes on to say that the lack of women in “ex­pert” roles reduces the motiva­tion of women to play golf. The same can probably be said for other golf minorities as well. Less than 4% of “expert” roles are filled by women.

Shapcott’s letter to Tarde is written in “research-ese,” so breaking it down into com­mon language may somewhat diminish the specificity of what she has to say, at least according to her. As an exam­ple, she states, “Female role models also break down the incongruence with women’s female identity and golf, and increase the likelihood of women feeling golf is some­thing for them.” What she seems to be saying is, “If women had more role mod­els, they would more readily see that it is possible for them to feel comfortable in the golf scene.” (I learned how to in­terpret “research-ese” when I was in graduate school from Drs. Goss and Mexal — by the way, their battle against “research-ese” is failing, I’m afraid).

Personally, I’m a little tired of this battle — the one con­cerning acceptance of women in golf. After all, it’s golf’s loss. If they can’t figure it out, they probably just don’t care enough. Shapcott goes on to say that she has had a difficult time getting funding for her research.

“When I started my re­search at Arizona State Uni­versity, I applied to governing bodies of golf for funding. Each organization told me that funding was unavailable.  I submitted my master’s thesis results to the golf industry’s organizations — with sugges­tions on how the findings can inform how we teach female golfers to increase their moti­vation and persistence — and received no feedback.”

’Nuff said. Now, perhaps Shapcott’s “bedside manner” isn’t the best — I really don’t know, but that still wouldn’t excuse a lack of funding for this kind of baseline research.

Handa Women’s Australian Open

A rare six way playoff de­cided the event last Sunday.  On the second playoff hole, American Jessica Korda scored a birdie to win the sudden death decision. It is rare that we see more than three players in a playoff, and when the LPGA ruled that the six women would be split up into two threesomes by draw­ing numbered tees, it struck me as odd that they wouldn’t all play together. A call to the LPGA headquarters didn’t get to the rules officials involved in that decision, but the con­sensus was that a total of 12 people jaunting down the fairway and surveying the green would be just too con­gested. I also spoke with Don­na Sauve, Sun Country Ama­teur Golf Association USGA rules official and she quoted a paragraph from the USGA publication, “How to conduct a competition.” Basically, it is consistent with the LPGA’s ruling in that anytime there is to be a playoff of five or more players, the group will be split into groups of no more than 4 players each.

To see Peter Finch’s full ar­ticle, go to 2012-03/women.

To see Shapcotts full letter to Tarde, Google: Sue Shap­cott golf digest.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Mary 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. Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http:// roadholeshorts17.


Giving tribute to Geoff Cornish

By Mary Armstrong

For the Las Cruces Sun-News published 02/24/2012

You may be scratching your head about now and asking yourself who in the heck is Mr. Geoff Cornish?

For starters, he was an is­land of ethics and honor. Mr. Cornish died this past week at the ripe “young” age of 97. He was one of the most pro­lific golf architects of our time — and certainly among the best that you’ve never heard of.  The thing is, Mr.Cornish hit his peak when golf needed him most — through the 1960s and 70s and by 1980 he had designed more courses in New Eng­land than any other architect in history. His courses were more typical of his heyday of design in the 60s, and be­cause of that his courses were fun and easy to main­tain. Something we could be learning from about now.

I’m very happy to say that Mr. Cornish was one of my mentors, but more impor­tantly, he was my friend. I took a seminar that he taught at Harvard University some 25 years ago. He and Robert Muir Graves did two or three day seminars at Har­vard for a number of years. It was at that seminar that I connected with Mr. Cornish — you see his wife was from Iowa, as was I. Carol attend­ed Grinnell College and he employed her to do drawings for many of his over 200 courses that he designed. At one point, Mr. Cornish bought her a new Corvette, which seemed totally out of character for Mr. Cornish, but I think the car represent­ed what Carol meant to him.

I saw him at the “Golf Boston” show shortly after his wife passed away about 10 years ago. Given his de­meanor, I was surprised he came to the event. He was visibly affected — he lacked his usual bubbly personality.

I’ve seen people lose spouses before, but I’ve never seen someone like Mr. Cornish so devastated. I think she meant more to him than his work ever could.

As I sit here at my com­puter and recall the discus­sions we had and the rather short time we spent togeth­er, I’m at a loss for words to describe the man he was and what he meant to me.

You see, Mr. Cornish was the antithesis of what “golf course architect” implies to today. He was humble, full of energy, and more pas­sionate about his work than anyone I’ve ever known. He was known as the fastest walking architect, and he NEVER accepted use of a golf cart to look over a course. I personally know that well into his 80’s, he was still tromping all 18 and leaving everyone in the dust.

But what made Mr. Cor­nish really special was his gentlemanly manner. It’s easy for me to picture him in a top hat, swinging a cane as he walked down the street, tipping the hat and bowing slightly to greet everyone he met. I doubt that anyone ever heard Mr. Cornish say a bad thing about anybody. I remodeled several of his courses and in the last 10 or 15 years I was fortunate to design two golf courses in his “backyard” in Massachu­setts. Do you think he felt threatened or jealous? Not on your life. In fact, he called to congratulate me on get­ting those new courses!

As my career progressed, I always felt odd about asking a fellow competitor for ad­vice, but whenever I did, his guidance never had over­tones of competition. When I was going through a particu­larly difficult time, Mr. Cor­nish, in typically old fash­ioned style, wrote me a letter telling me that I was making good decisions and that he was there for me.

But that wasn’t the only letter that Mr. Cornish wrote me. As I mentioned earlier, I took the course he and Graves taught at Harvard. At the time, I was Vice Presi­dent of a Landscape Archi­tecture firm. A couple of weeks after I finished the course, I received a letter from Mr. Cornish. He thanked me for my participa­tion and wrote that I was an asset to the course. He fin­ished with a question, some­thing along the lines of, “what are your plans for the future?” At the time, I was puzzled by this question. I thought that perhaps it was rhetorical – after all, he couldn’t seriously be inter­ested in MY future. Much later, I realized that was Mr. Cornish’s way of offering me a job. Twenty five years lat­er, knowing the man and legacy, I wish I had taken that job.

Mr. Cornish wasn’t only a prolific architect; he was also an avid golf historian, author and speaker. He and Ron Whitten wrote several golf books and Mr. Cornish gave presentations far and wide on golf’s history. As you might expect, Whitten wrote a tribute to Mr. Cornish as well. Here are some of the quotes that Whitten included from his presentations: • When it began, golf was about adapting itself to the landforms as were found on the links of Scotland. Today, it’s just the opposite. We’ve creating landforms that try to resemble the links.

• We constantly hear people say greenskeeper, greens chairman and greens fee. There should be no S in there. In the beginning, the entire golf course was known as The Green. Hence, greenkeeper, green chair­man, green fee.

• Bunker was an old Scot­tish word for scar. Bunkers were scars on the landscape of the original links.

• Nearly all the most renowned golf holes in the U.S. were controversial in their earliest days.

• George C. Thomas Jr. was part of the Drexel Bank­ing family in Philadelphia. The way he got one of his first design jobs was to say, I’ll give you the land if you’ll let me design the golf course.

• In 1980, I followed ar­chitect Percy Clifford on his first round at the Old Course. On the 14th, he hit a beautiful shot but when we got out there, we found his ball was in Hell Bunker. Per­cy turned to his caddie and said, I would think you could have told me about that bunker. And the caddie said, it’s been there for over 500 years. I would think you would have heard about it.

Mr. Cornish had a wonder­ful sense of humor, but an even more keen sense of how to make a negative statement without being of­fensive:

• In our profession, we’re often asked what we think about all these PGA Tour professionals getting into the design business. Well, we’re kind of glad to have them in there. They’ve made it possi­ble for many young students, men and women, to get into the business of golf design. There aren’t enough real ar­chitects to hire them all.

I’ll miss Mr. Cornish. On all of his courses that I re­modeled, I first documented the original configurations and grades. Someday we may be restoring Cornish courses just as we are doing with Ross, Mackenzie and Tillinghast’s work today. I’m ready.

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. Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17.word

LPGA opens optimistic season in style

By Mary Armstrong

Published by the Las Cruces Sun News 02/10/12


The LPGA season opens this weekend in Australia. The cosmo­politan tour will be playing at Royal Melbourne (of unique bunkers) only a few months removed from the President’s cup. The inau­gural LPGA ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open will be played over the com­posite Royal Melbourne course with only minor vari­ations from what the men played last November.  While the event has been around since 1974, this is its first year as an LPGA sanc­tioned event.

It’s rare that the ladies get to play the best venues. No­table exceptions have been the 2010 U.S. Open at Oak­mont, Carnoustie for the Women’s Richo British Open last year and the Old Course at St. Andrews in 2007. The Composite Course (12 holes from the West and the rest from the East) certainly ranks with those layouts. One alter­ation from the version the men played is to revert to the traditional Composite layout, which included the par 3 — 4th from the East instead of the par 3 — 16th. The other, and perhaps biggest alter­ation, is to restore the tradi­tional 18th hole to its classic finishing spot.

As we saw with the men, the fairways are ample, but the greens and their sur­rounding contours and bunkers are not just demand­ing, but down right vexing. If you like to see the pros strug­gle (as I do) you’ll want to tune in this weekend to the Golf Channel for sure.

Six of the top ten Rolex ranking players will be play­ing, with Yani Tseng leading them. If you want to see some of the new players, there’ll be 15 rookies in the field. Lexi Thompson is kicking off her rookie year as she turns 17 to­day. Lydia Ko, the 14 year old New Zealand amateur that became the youngest to win a pro event will be there as well — although you might want to be sure and catch the youngsters before the week­end cut as Royal Melbourne is rarely managed well by the inexperienced.

Aussie Karrie Webb might seem like a good pick to win, but she hasn’t fared well in two previous tournaments at Royal Melbourne. Nonethe­less, Karrie was presented an honorary membership there this week and even some­thing as intangible as that can boost one’s game. Yani seems to be a perennial pick these days. Christel Boeljon — a second year LPGA’er — won the Gold Coast RACV Aus­tralian Ladies Masters last week.

On a course that puts such a premium on putting, it makes sense to look at those statistics. Cristie Kerr along with Ai Miyazato, Jiyai Shin, I.K. Kim, Meena Lee, Jennifer Song and Tiffany Joh were at the top of the “putts per green” in regulation statistic for 2011. Not far behind are more well-known LPGA stars Stacy Lewis, Angela Stanford, Sophie Gustafson, Sandra Gal, Morgan Pressel Na Yeon Choi, and Yani.

Paula Creamer recently tweeted “I will not be playing the opening LPGA event in Australia. One of my very best friends is getting married this Saturday & I am a brides­maid!”

Watch for Nicole Castrale to make a return to the tour in March after giving birth to her first child in November.  Her husband/caddie Craig explained that she could have played now, but decided to forego the Aus-Asian swing and aim for the Donnelley Founders Cup in Phoenix March 15-19. Castrale was an off-mentioned name as a re­sult of her successful run-up to and participation in the 2009 Solheim Cup. Unfortu­nately, early in the 2010 sea­son, she suffered a season ending shoulder injury.

Seems as though she did more than rehab.

The Golf Channel is provid­ing tape-delayed coverage of all four rounds – they will be morning broadcasts here in New Mexico.

Sam Snead only male win­ner of LPGA event

It’s true! Sam played in two LPGA events — the ‘61 and ‘62 Royal Poinciana Plaza In­vitational. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that he only won the ‘62 event.

In ‘61 he lost to Louise Sug­gs by two strokes, but in ‘62 (who can figure why he came back?) he beat a 15 person field that included Mickey Wright, Patty Berg, Betsy Rawls and Kathy Whitworth by 5 strokes. He out-dueled the girls by 5 shots. He shot 211 for the two-day, four round event.

BTW, Sam needed that $1500, because his prized in­board runabout boat sank in nearby Lake Worth during the last few holes of his first round.

Picacho Hills begins the mending process

Shaping contractor Keith White has completed his part of the project and the PHCC staff is beginning the process of putting the course back to­gether. Finishing tasks — such as repairing and refining the irrigation, edging the new bunkers, fine grading and rak­ing, drainage installation, spraying on the liner, installing new sand, and finally replac­ing the saved sod — will take place over the next month.   With some cooperation from the weather, we should see the course fully in-play by the middle to end of April.


A golf architect in New Hampshire for more than 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. She is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. Comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog, http://roadholeshorts17.


Shapers are the tailors of the golf course

As my project at Picacho Hills continues, I am very impressed with the work of Superintendent Gil Martinez and his crew.   When everyone grabs hold of the rope and pull as one, great things can be accom­plished. My shaper and I have received liberal praise, but without everyone else’s best effort we wouldn’t look half as good.

I have had occasion to in­troduce my shaper to some of the members. It occurred to me that most people don’t re­alize the importance of the connection between the archi­tect and shaper.

I have worked on several projects with Keith White of White Construction. Although White Construction is in New Hampshire, Keith, along with his older brother Lindsay and a flexible crew, have worked all over the world. Besides working with me, they have done golf course construction for many well-known golf course architects including Rees Jones, Tom Fazio, Greg Norman, Craig Schreiner, and Michael Hurdzan.

Golf-course development differs from almost any other type of development because the most successful golf courses create a unique aes­thetic that can be at once dra­matic and soothing — all without being overbearing.

Unlike parks, the grounds must meet strict and some­times anomalous criteria for playing the game. Even small imperfections that go un­recorded in mapping tech­niques can influence a hole alignment, bunker or green shape, or fairway edge. Often times, a distant mountain or other land feature can inspire a line of play or mound form.  The golf course architect takes in all these factors dur­ing the planning phase, and produces a design that also meets the client’s playability requirements and budget.

However, the true magic happens when the golf archi­tect and shaper join forces.

Communication is the essence of design — the ability to con­vey the designer’s intent to another party, who will create the vision. A plan can be pret­ty, it can be neat, but if the contractor cannot understand what is required, the project will most likely go over budg­et and fall short of the vision.  In years past, golf-course ar­chitects were rarely schooled designers. Some were agrono­mists, golf course superin­tendents, and golf pros. Oth­ers were physicians (Alister MacKenzie), or insurance salesmen (Pete Dye). They of­ten prepared rudimentary plans or no plan at all.

About the time I started my business, golf course archi­tects began hiring landscape architects to prepare plans as demands for regulatory re­view and producing a project within a budget became more important. Being a licensed landscape architect myself, I entered that niche and jumped into the golf design ring. My environmental back­ground, along with my com­mitment to professionally pre­pare documents, among other experiences, was my ticket to success in the golf design business.

My commitment to keeping the contractor to the plan was very strong in those days. I felt a good designer should be able to complete plans that accommodated any and all ex­isting conditions. Further­more, I felt that an architect’s dependence on a shaper was a crutch for the unschooled ar­chitect and that a true design­er didn’t need a shaper. In my early work, when the shaper would question me about the project I would simply say “build it to the plan.” While this technique allowed me to learn a lot since the product was truly mine, I slowly be­gan to realize that at best I missed some opportunities and at worst, there were some mistakes.  Fortunately, I never made a mistake that cost anyone any­thing more than a less enjoy­able round of golf and even my worst efforts are still suc­cessful today. Gradually, I rec­ognized that I could not possi­bly take note of every nuance during the design phase and as I interacted with more and more shapers I came to real­ize that collaboration often produced the best results.

Plans are still important, but verbal clarifications trump plans any day. This works for golf courses because there is an unwritten understanding that the project isn’t complet­ed until everyone is pleased with the result. Therefore, un­like other building contractors and most landscapers, golf­course contractors work with the golf architect until he/she is satisfied. Shaping is often expressed as a separate line item in a bid and it essentially provides the contractor with not only the fee to do the ba­sic grading, but also to tweak it. Therefore, the more famil­iar the contractor is with the architect, the lower the con­tractor’s bid. Architects also have reputations with regard to how much tweaking they might do. Some are known for blowing up an entire hole and instructing the contractor to start again from scratch.

Yes, ego is a factor.

But getting back to the shaper-architect relationship: understanding the glossary is critical. Cape and bay, steep and deep, illusion, mound, hollow, roll, ridge, crest and saddle are fairly straight for­ward terms, but others such as dish, undercut, contour, feathered, spot on, flash, ra­zorback, and others are not so obvious. The shaper-archi­tect relationship can be in­strumental in determining if the project goes smoothly.   Once the shaper realizes how the architect likes the landforms contoured, there will be few if any adjust­ments. However, the best de­signers are wary of such a comfortable relationship be­cause it can result in monot­ony. Repetitive bunker shapes with consistent slopes mesmerize the mind.  This can result in the visual drama of the composition being lost.

The shaper-architect rela­tionship is but one reason that experience is critical in golf course construction and renovation. As the title of my article says, “Shapers are the tailors of the golf course.” They take the architect’s de­sign and help fit it to the spe­cific site.

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, and executive director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17.