Proper Golf

Monday, July 26, 2010

Career Update

I have been working for a full service golf course construction company for 4 months.
I have worked at 8 different golf courses. All renovation.
I have seen 1 architect.

Our mission statement might as well be: hurry up and wait; if you are standing around we are losing money. We do things by the book.

some jobs I (personally) have done: build irrigation/drainage, haul material on site, load, build cartpaths, finish tees/approaches/bunkers, cosmetic grass repair, rough shape mounds, cap/rough shape dumps, mix top-soil, tree removal

equipment i have used: JD 650 dozer, Cat d3 dozer, 6/7 different trackhoes w and w/out knucklebucket, backhoes, loaders, dump trucks, sod cutter, compactors, saws, and done plenty of shovel/rake/hand work

Of those involved in field work, I play 99.9 percent of the golf

are there things I wish could be different, of course, but as someone who has "been in the business" for 4 months, I am getting an unbelievable education. I cant imagine ever building/designing a golf course without being where I have been. It is extremely difficult to run a small business these days, when you are keeping track of aprox 100 pieces of equipment and 10 full time employees, sometimes things need to be done a certain way to stay in business.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blank Slate... Manufactured Golf

The Biariz Hole at Yale

If you had a site such as a Bayonne or a landfill/toxic site that required 100% fill. You had to completely manufacture a golf course from your imagination, no help from a single natural contour. Imagine it was dead flat and square.. Import the soils of your choice. What kind/theme/style/motif/project statement would you choose?.. Money is always an issue.

Obviously the tendency, at least from what I have seen, is to call it a links course and build rounded mounds with fescue and retention ponds. I played a 9 holer in NJ like that yesterday, which got the wheels turning.. Bayonne, Shadow Creek, Lido, Ferry Point (under progress) are other examples of possibilities.

What I would do:
Using a combination of CMB and Tilly templates along with some templates of my own I would build using a loose geometric style.

Its guaranteed.. These golf holes are proven to be fun, playable, exciting, easy to build, cheap. I'm not talking taking specs from Yale a gps-ing a short hole in, I have my own thoughts on yardages, and I'm going to spend all my time on green contours.

If you are going to manufacture golf on a blank slate, it will always feel manufactured. So don't hide it, use it to your advantage and use the fill in a way that affects the golf course most. Golf courses are no place for decoration (unless natural).

I love the big and the bold. Its a personal preference. And easily transferable to a lose geometric style.

Routing.. templates, out of 100% fill, you can do a lot more planning ahead of time to get better estimates and models. Also easily tweakable.

I feel pretty confident that I could manufacture something extremely fun, certainly memorable, challenging and definitely economical/efficient in construction.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ballyneal: A proper review

Architect: Tom Doak
Holyoke, Colorado
18 - Solid finishing hole. Don't let your last memory of Ballyneal be double out of the bunkers, play to the right and take 6 out of play.

Located in the far northeast corner of Colorado, not far from Nebraska, Ballyneal has one of the best inland sites in the world. Due to the nature of the club and its membership, most of which is national not local, with their dedication to walking, the ground game, and keeping things as pure as possible, Mr. Doak had as close to an ideal situation as it gets.

2- Looking across the green, you can see the banking on the right side that influences every shot, starting way back in the fairway.

The routing appears fairly simple, probably as close to two loops as one can get while wondering around 1000 acres of choppy sand dunes. It even comes back by the clubhouse between 9 and 10. Although one knock on it would be that 18 green isn't visible from the clubhouse, so one cant spectate easily, when faced with the alternative of moving the green up closer wouldn't work, its to severe and would you really want to walk up the biggest slope of the day for a putt to win the match?

8 - Doak's favorite classic architects is MacKenzie

Another thing one must remember about the routing is that it changes every round. Since the club has a no tee marker policy, a different route is taken to each hole, every time it is played. The general rule is the winner of the previous hole makes the decision. Never has strategy mattered so much on the tee.

Doak takes advantage of the random tee selection, providing wildly breathtaking tee boxes that take the term "free form" to an entirely new level. Its clear that he tries to provide every type of golfer an opportunity to hit the most exciting shot on every hole, so everyone can feel what its like to be in position A, be a hero, play it smart, be adventurous and obviously think. Ballyneal gets an A+ for tee shots, putting it in a class with courses like Bethpage Black and Kiawah Ocean.

11 - Looking back at the tees and 10 green. You can go all the way back to the top of the dunes in the right corner of the picture.

The next strongest part of the golf course is Par-3's. Absolutely world class. All are different, and all play different individually depending on tee as well. Check for variety. The Golfmeister can't stand 15 hole golf courses, if you know what I mean. #3 is short and you can play wild bank shots or throw darts with wedges. #5 is normally mid-length and with a forced carry. #11 ranges from an awkward uphill wedge to skyline green (my favorite shot on the course) or +200 peak to peak beast. And #15, well how Blind v Short do you want to make it?.. Simply all world...

11 - My favorite pin, on my favorite hole on the course.

Doak has been quoted many times before saying that a golf course cannot truly be considered a 10, A+, world class, etc, without a good short par 4. Ballyneal has 3 great short 4's. While others can play like short holes depending on tee and wind, #'s: 7, 12 and 14. If you polled everyone who has played Ballyneal since it opened, #7 would win hands down. Any golfer can stand on that tee feeling like they can drive the green. A hook, carry and bounce, or the direct shot can all put you on the green here. The best part of the hole though is clearly the green. Its called the "E" green because of its shape, and often requires putts in the opposite direction to get it close.

7 - If you don't have fun on this hole, quit golf.

#12 may be the hardest short 4 I have ever seen. Your choices on the tee are, hit it as close to the bunker as you can otherwise end up blind long right, or try to carry the bunker and drive the green. The putting surface with its distinct way left and way right pins, has a severe swale, making it one of the hardest on the course. Depend on your line of approach 12 can also play like a skyline green.

12 - Reverse canted fairway, wild swale on the green, if you have been able to see the path of your ball for the entire hole you have made a very good score.

Ballyneal doesn't have a single weak hole on the property, and definitely has more than one world class hole. Ballyneal makes you never want to stop playing. You just keep wanting more, it is that fun. The short game shots here require so much imagination to play around the contours, how can one not what to go back out there are try it again. During a match I found myself inventing new shots from around the greens, which for me is the ultimate complement. Where else is the proper shot at split-hand hockey style 3-wood from 30 yards sitting in the middle of the fairway?

14 - Long is dead.

If you enjoy quirk. If you truly play golf for fun and enjoyment. If you don't mind a frilly bunker. And if you don't mind going well out of your way to experience something very few have.. Then you will love Ballyneal.

13 - Pick your route.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Modern Top 3

In no particular order, my personal modern top 3 list includes:

Ballyneal - Holyoke, CO (Doak)
Friars Head - Beating Hollow, NY (Coore and Crenshaw)
Old Macdonald - Bandon, OR (Doak)

Numbers 4-10:
Bandon Dunes - Bandon, OR (Kidd)
Bandon Trails - Bandon, OR (Coore and Crenshaw)
Kingsbarns - Fife, Scotland (Philips)
Queenwood - Surrey, England (Kidd)
Stonehouse - Williamsburg, VA (Stranz)
The Ocean Course - Kiawah Island, SC (Dye)
Tobacco Road - Sanford, NC (Stranz)

As you can see, I have a preference for bold design. Courses that provide variety in course setup, large contours, and courses that focus on fun and excitement rather than fairness are definite turn-ons. I look for 18 different mental and physical challenges, plus artistic and strategic experiments on behalf of the architect. When the natural and artificial blend together, everything is better.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Photo Essay - Pinehurst #2

Architect: Donald Ross
Host 1999, 2005, 2014 Mens and 2014 Womens US Opens

One of my first memories on the subject of golf was watching Payne Stewart's funeral on tv when I was 12. Pinehurst #2 was the lifelong project of Donald Ross. It has seriously evolved since, and comes with a lot of exaggerated stereotypes of what Ross golf really is. It also happens to be a very difficult golf course. On my last trip to NC, work had just begun on the C and C renovation for the opens.

1 Tee
1 Green.
Get used to false fronts. Also note how close the group on 2 tee is.

2 Green
Note the rolling terrain and mounding that flows from the greens into the surrounds.

3 Tee
Often mentioned with the best short par 4's in the world.

4 Green
The original home of the golf hall of fame.

5 Tee
Landing zone cant be seen from the tee. Right side of the fairway is best.
5 Green.
The hardest shot on the course is hitting this green.

5 Green.
Note the steepness



Green is split into a distinct right and left side. The best par 3 on the course.

From the front tee.

14 Green

15 Tee

15 Green.
Note how the cuts from the bunker and mounding work together with the contour of the green.

Don't forget about the blind bunker on the left when laying up.


Personally I feel #18 is one of the weakest holes on the course, but the history aka Payne Stewart make it plenty interesting.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Beef with Cartpaths

After putting down 600 ton of asphalt in 21 hours this week, I believe I have the right to gripe out cartpaths, the arch-nemesis of the traditionalist. (not that I am one)


Golf is a walking game, and there is no doubt about it. And in general I dont disagree with people who choose a golf cart, but I dont want 13 miles of cartpath around my golf course.

Its expensive. Its an eye soar. They will need to be replaced overtime. They create high traffic areas and poor grass conditions near curbs.

Its obvious that all golf courses need roads. Big trucks are always coming in and out of maintenance facilities with materials, and they need a way to get there and to the dump. And when road happens to be adjacent to a hole, absolutely use it as your carpath, but in general, I think we can do a better job of keeping the mileage down with the pavement.

Making a turn around a green, in out of play areas, wet spots, tees, absolutely is it acceptable to have cartpaths if your course gets heavy cart play. But I have to believe scattered carts through rough and fairways would be more than acceptable in terms of the balance between turf care and aesthetics/construction cost. And maybe it will even promote walking!

Picture: One of the articulating dump trucks used during the paving process.