Proper Golf

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dream Foursome

If I could comprise my dream foursome of any living "golf" people, including myself, here is who I would tee it up with.

Location- Since I have yet to play NGLA, the most historic course in the country, Ballyneal, a Doak design and home to the most fun ground contours I have played
would be a dream host

1. Bubba Watson - Easily recognizable with his large visor and pink shafts, Bubba is known mostly as the longest player on tour. One thing makes the hard swinging lefty a little different though, Bubba has never come across an impossible shot. Even known to draw the attention of Tiger Woods, there is no player in the game today who can make the ball curve further in either direction. Can you imagine what his shot selection is like when fun is on the line rather than a paycheck? I normally would never pick a lefty because I hate watching the backwards swing, but Bubba would be the ultimate partner at a place like Ballyneal.

2. Tiger Woods - Anyone who wouldn't include the most dominating figure in the history golf is a fool. Plus if Bubba is hitting 330 yard drives with 60 yards of right/left around sand dunes, Tiger might feel a little inspired to be creative. Tiger Woods Dubai golf course just halted construction today, its always interesting to hear him speak about architecture, he is always quoted as saying The Old Course is his all time favorite.

3. Tom Doak - A very difficult choice in the final spot, I wanted a representative from the golf course industry. Pete Dye in the past has been the face of architecture, certainly is an interesting character, and is no doubt one of the biggest influences on the modern game. Bill Coore or Ben Crenshaw would be great as co-designers of the #1 modern course and designers one of my personal favorites Friars Head. I've decided on Mr. Doak because I think his book The Anatomy of Golf Courses is the best of its kind on the subject. The opportunity to play with Mr. Doak on any of his courses is unforgettable, I still can account for most of shots I hit during my 10 preview holes at Old Macdonald, Oregon with him.

4. Myself

Alternate list:
1. Ben Crenshaw
2. Pete Dye
3. Geoff Ogilvy - If you haven't seen some of his quotes about architecture, search google.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Winged Foot West

Winged Foot Golf Club
West Course
Arch: A.W. Tillinghast, 1923
Mamaroneck, New York
(All yardage book photo's come from
actual 2002 PGA Championship Book.
Photos from Tillinghast books, The
Course Beautiful and Gleanings from
the Wayside)

Tillinghast's originial routing remains mostly unchanged

Winged Foot Golf Club was founded by a group of members of the famous New York Athletic Club. The NYAC demanded that C.C. Nobles and other members immediately halt all plans to continue with the building of a golf facility, or they would be kicked out of the club. Nobles, who would become the first club president, ignored their requests, hired A.W. Tillinghast to build the infamous 36-hole "Man-Sized Golf Course", and stole the NYAC logo... The Winged Foot.

The Tudor style clubhouse of Winged Foot behind the well guarded #9

The West Course has been home to five US Opens, the most recent where Geoff Ogilvy of Australia was named the national champion after Jim Furyk, Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickleson, and Collin Montgomery all had opportunities to take it in front of him. Winged Foot prides itself on having to make virtually no changes to the course from its regular setup in order to host tournaments of any caliber, much like Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh. While some of todays best architects will tell you that the course could be improved by the changing of some of their maintenance practices, the members of Winged Foot Golf Club for the most part could care less.

Note all the National Opens the East Course has also held over the years

After a huge tree removal program that received great acclaim, Winged Foot's West Course looks rather tame from virtually every tee. Obviously you have a narrow fairway to hit, but in general the target is rather simply laid out in front of you, and without a huge amount of hazards off the tee. The idea that if you do not hit it long and straight here you will not be reaching in regulation is simply understood. Don't be fooled by the relatively straightforward tee shots, Winged Foot is first and foremost a second shot golf course. Tillinghast has shaped some of the boldest greens and approaches to only accept the most precise and accurate long range shots any golfer could imagine. While there are certainly optimal sides of the fairway to choose from, and large putting surfaces to aim for, when greens are missed, players most certainly play lofted pitch shots for their third shot, rather than a putt or running shot. This is stereotypical Westchester Country golf on steroids!

#1 on the West has one of the devilishly contoured greens in the world. Split into
4 different sections (one in front and 3 vertical sections on top) this back/front
sloped green must be played from bellow the hole

The tone for any round at Winged Foot West is immediately set by the first hole. Tillinghast, who loved to name his golf holes, called this open par-4 "Genesis". Ideally played up the right side of the fairway, this shot has become more difficult over the years with the driving range that runs parallel to the right rough and marked by out of bounds stakes. If you have enough distance to get home in two shots, leaving your approach with an uphill putt is a must, otherwise your round will most likely begin over par. In the 2006 US Open, the two hardest holes compared to par were #18, and #1. If this hole isn't the most fitting opening statement of what lies ahead, you clearly do not understand what this golf course is all about.

Scorecard, inside with hole names.

As you work your way towards the Northwest corner of the property by Griffen Ave one of the architectural highlights would have to be the green at #2. With one of the giant Elm Trees that Winged Foot is known for hanging over the green, the chances that this hole would ever be constructed in the modern age are slim to none. Also the length of the par-3 #3 and wild contours on the very difficult to hold #5 are needing of mention, but the best moments of the front 9 on the West Course come on #6 tee and at the short par-3 #7.

Note all the lines I've drawn trying to capture the difficult slopes of #6

#6 is the shortest par-4 on the course, and sometimes drivable by the longest players. With an extremely narrow entrance and a green contoured to accept only the most highly lofted shots, it is rare to see a drive stay on this green. When drives miss by falling short in the thick rough surrounding the bunkers and green, the golfer is subjecting himself to nearly impossible flop-shot recoveries and thinned balls running through the green. Others chose to try to attack the green with a full short iron or wedge from back in the fairway by playing a long iron or shorter wood left off the tee, just short of the fairway bunker. This strategy seems be the choice of most, for it generally takes the larger numbers out of play. #6 seems so harmless on the tee golfers often attempt to get too much out of this hole because the severity of the green is masked by the green-side bunkers from the tee, giving the greatest advantage to the thoughtful player.

Next is the hole called "Innocent Babe in the Woods". The short par-3 is anything but innocent. Pushed up well above the surrounding flat ground and guarded by two extremely steep faced bunkers, the main defense for #7 is the severe false-front to the small, steeply sloped green. If your ball catches the slope and is brought back all the way down to ground level in the fairway, tight and difficult lies await you in the sea of scrapes created by thousands that have come up short before you.

The central knob on #9 green is a simple yet extremely difficult
defense to those who approach in two shots or three

Sometimes converted to a par-4 in championship play, #9 would fit right in with the stereotypical domed greens of Pinehurst #2, and offers wonderful variety to the aggressive contours which litter all 36 of Winged Foot's greens. What makes this hole so great is the effect the centrally located knob Tillinghast built into the middle of the green that extends all the way back to the tee. The only chance one has to get the ball close to the hole is by approaching one of the biggest putting surfaces on the course from the left. The extensive shaping efforts to build up the back side of the green should also be noted as #9 buts up against the clubhouse and #18 on the East Course; Winged Foot is a classroom for push-up green design.

A Golfmeister rendering of #10 - "Puppit"

A quick walk past the clubhouse brings you to the start of the back 9, and what is easily one of the best par-3's in the world, #10 - "Pulpit". Measuring 190 yards and with the backdrop of an enormous Westchester Country Estate, #10 is always the hole I look forward to the most. Tillinghast provides plenty of fairway for bouncing approaches, lay-ups and chipping area, but do not be fooled by all the short grass, no golfer is assured a safe route onto this putting surface. It is not uncommon for golfers to putt off this green, or hit from bunker to bunker, and any ball long of this green is dead. With eighteen of the most challenging approach shots in golf, #10 at Winged Foot West may be the greatest inland long iron approach in the world.

The rest of the course stretches back along the South side of the property to Griffen Ave, before turning back for #16-18. Holes #11, 14 and 15 certainly have the most interesting drives on the course. This section of the course plays through the most naturally interesting part of the property, Tillinghast took advantage and devised some of the best driving hazards on the course using the larger ground contours. #15, is remarkably similar to #15 at neighboring Quaker Ridge Golf Club, a more understated world class Tillinghast design no more than a pitching wedge across Griffen Ave from green-to-tee.

The enormous false front claiming any iron
not perfectly struck on #18

The final three hole stretch #16-18 all have three things in common, the trees act as major hazards on the left. Phil Mickleson made the dog-leg left #18 famous forever, but there are more unique design factors that go into #18. For the first time on the course Tillinghast chooses to guard with bunkers on only one side of the green, leaving a steep hillside to guard the right side of #18. With Tillinghast deciding that the right side wasn't in need of a bunker, its only fair to assume that any ball missing to the right of this green is bound to find a worse lie on the cut down hillside than in any other bunker on the course. The club most golfers play in for their approach shot is dramatically different from the long iron Tillinghast intended, but #18 still claimed the highest stroke average compared to par in the most recent Open.

Bobby Jones #18 1929 US Open playoff victory

Overall Winged Foot West has clearly made its case amongst the best in the world, however I feel the par-5's are exactly world class. While the par-3's certainly make up for most of the long holes shortcomings, the maintenance practices the club employs and unassuming tee shots keep the West Course out of the 10's, A+'s or what I call the top-15 in the world, but not my much. Apparently Gil Hanse has been approached about becoming the architectural consultant for the club, this could lead to a change in the previous statements.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: The Ocean Course

The Ocean Course
Kiawah Island, SC
Architect: Pete and Alice Dye, 1991

A fabulous walk along this beach requires the assistance
of a shuttle ride at the start of each 9

Pete and Alice Dye's The Ocean Course opened just in time for the 1991 Ryder Cup which will forever be known as "The War by the Shore". As dictated by it is name, the most obvious starting point for any review of The Ocean Course would be pointing out its location. With 10 holes set directly on the Atlantic Coast, and the remaining 8 holes also parallel the water, it boasts the most Ocean side golf holes of any course in the Northern Hemisphere. When the ocean, or the other water hazards on the back nine, aren't directly in play, it is still an amazing setting complete with real sandy dunes and a constant wind that was the most important aspect of the oceanside course considered by the design team.

The safe route on #1 is over the stairs, but Dye starts right with his eye
-catching angles, and balls are often drawn into the waste area on the right

One could not possibly attempt to describe the intricacies of the course without multiple plays due to the wind. As the caddies will tell you, it is possible to hit 3-wood one day, where you may hit 7-iron the next. Given that The Ocean Course was built to be one of the hardest courses in the world Pete and Alice Dye created a golf course of magnificent scale reminiscent of Bethpage Black, and The Course at Yale in order to provide the most difficult challenges for the best players in the world, and still a resort course where 36-handicaps would at least be able to play the game while facing a three club wind in their face. The Ocean Course, through its many sets of tees and remarkably wide platforms of fairway which have been created to optimize the views of the natural surrounds, the Dye's give the player a unique experience with the golf course every single time.

Stuck behind one of the many hazards on the twisting fairway of #2.
The cross hazard is just in front of the tree

In order to keep the strategic interest up on a relatively linear version of a figure-8 routing, Dye has designed: crooked fairways that resemble corkscrews, offsets tees and green sites that bend around corners that most would never have even considered. All design choices appear to be in the name of variety, and difficultly, yet still the course remains remarkably playable.

Hole #2 is a wonderful example of how players are given multiple options from the tee, ample landing area, no matter which line they choose. Golfers also have the option whether to take on the cross hazard that divides the fairway into two. Amazingly the divide is no more than 15 yards, yet it always seems to play such a crucial part in the strategy of the par-5. Downwind, aggressive players can get home in two shots by cutting across bunkers, but most are left with an interesting decision. Trying to avoid the trees and bunkers that Pete Dye has placed as hazards carefully guarding the best angle into the green for lay-up shots isn't easy either on the country's hardest golf course.

More hazards breaking up the direct line between tee and green #4

As with most great golf courses that are also extremely difficult, the player is able to somewhat control the level of difficultly based on a series of risk/reward problems throughout the round. At The Ocean Course, a lot of the flexibility comes from the variety in teeing grounds, the rest comes from the line the player chooses. Again, drawing comparisons to the great diagonal carry hazards of A.W. Tillinghast at Bethpage Black and the punishing consequences of the flat bottom bunkers C.B. Macdonald designed at Yale, the Dye's use sandy waste areas on virtually every hole to provide some sort of risk for those who seek danger.

Options on the tee at #7, cut the corner or go the long way around.

Since opening in '91 there have continually been changes made to the course. Most of these changes have been attempts at keeping The Ocean Course playable. If you look at older pictures of the course, a lot of the grass faces on the bunkers or waste areas are new. Also some of the sandy brush around the green complexes have been replaced with chipping areas. As one of the caddies explained to me, these changes aren't exactly making the course a lot easier, but rather when hosting tournaments, they don't want championships being decided by rules committees examining plugged balls. Also anything to limit the time spent searching for lost balls helps out the paying customer as well. Pete Dye is constantly coming back to oversee changes.

#9 is very accepting of putts from off the green as well as bump and run shots

One of the most important features of The Ocean Course is its acceptance to the running approach. With miles and miles of pipe buried in the sand, the drainage system collects and recycles all the run off from the course back through the irrigation system, protecting the surrounding coastal environment. The course is now grassed with a version of Paspalum which is very tolerant to salt and brackish water. This strain of grass originating in South Africa also makes the ground game come alive on the wonderful undulating property that rare for this low-lying area of the country, the key factor in transforming a good seaside layout into a great one.

A beautifully picturesque risk/reward tee shot on #10 opens the back nine

The course really starts to heat up once you reach #13 tee. At this point the water is no longer something to oggle at, it is now a full on hazard and strategic design feature. The teeing ground here is aligned straight down the waters edge, but there is plenty of room on the left if the "Volcano Bunkers" can be avoided. A technique used on many Dye courses, the green is built out onto the waters edge with bulkheading, asking the golfer to take more risks on his approach to all pins on the right half of the green. Some might call #13 a version of the C.B. MacDonald's Cape Hole, and that may be true, but over the years Mr. Dye has developed quite a reputation for himself by drawing even the best golfers into his visual traps through his use of allusive angles, especially with water and hardline edges (bulkheads and railroad ties are among his favorites).

The moderately adventurous line on #13 is between the shelter and "Volcano
Bunkers", any shot right of the shelter requires nearly 300 yards of carry

From #14 on, right handed golfers must fight off the added distraction of the crashing waves directly in your face. #14-#18 get take the golfer closer and closer to the waters edge as you make your way back East towards the clubhouse. #14, a very difficult par-3, has the added difficulty of having to remember that you have just changed directions and are playing into a different wind. With plenty of grassy chipping area to the right, Pete and Alice Dye bring in so many options into the equation for the recovery as parts of this green will run away from you. Both the par-4 #15 and three shot par-5 #16 can offer a golfer a final chance at birdie. It is only after multiple plays that one can see how the greens have been designed to wrap around the large and steep waste areas, making some pin positions extremely difficult to get close to with longer caries and harder angles.

Ground contours invite a running draw from behind #15

The final two holes in Kiawah always provide plenty of excitement. Mildly reminiscent of the Dye's other work at TPC Sawgrass, #17 is a treacherous par-3 over water. While there is clearly some bailout area on the left to make the carry shorter, many average golfers will still be hitting driver off the tee when into the wind, an almost certain disaster, but not without the chance for truly memorable shot.

Hopefully you calculated the wind properly in order to carry up to 220 yards over water

#18 is no slouch either, although it does provide a significant advantage for those capable and willing to take on the dogleg. Balls that can just sneak around the corner of the bunker often catch a big slope where balls will trickle up to thirty yards closer to the green. The genius of #18 is that Dye has manufactured the slope so if a ball is played slightly left to go around the bunker, it must travel a lot further to catch the same slope and distance advantage. The final green is sandwiched between the clubhouse and ocean, while on a domed plateau, making a running approach shot from well back in the fairway still an option to get home.

A drive over this bunker will likely lead to a victory in the 2011 PGA Championship

What makes The Ocean Course such a fabulous golf course is that even though it is brutally difficult, it provides so much variety between the wind, tees and pin locations that you could play it everyday and never get bored. Many golfers who do not find pleasure in the quirk and intricacies that makes The Ocean Course often have only a single round on the course, or made the mistake of playing from the wrong tee markers. The Ocean Course is so far and away the best course on the Kiawah Island, don't waste your time at Turtle, Osprey or Cougar; The Ocean Course has everything a world class golf course should have... they just charge for it!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: Bethpage Black

Bethpage State Park
The Black Course, 1936
Architect: A.W. Tillinghast (Renovation Rees Jones 2002)
Farmingdale, NY

Hired by The Long Island Parks Commission to design one of the largest public golf facilities anywhere, A.W. Tillinghast had the job of designing at least three different 18 hole golf courses, and renovating another. The four, now five golf courses increase in difficulty according to a color code. Spread out over a large sandy property located near central Long Island, The Black Course was designed to be the most difficult of bunch, and it certainly is. Anyone who has played The Black can tell you, it not only beats you up on the scorecard, but is one of the hardest walks one will ever take on a golf course. (Yes- Its Walking Only!)

Aerial View of the Black Course, note the road
splitting the course into two distinct sections

Although there is always debate about how much of the design and construction A.W. Tillinghast was actually responsible for. At least partial credit is given to Joseph Burbeck. Either way, one cant really explain the beast that is The Black Course without first talking about the routing. The course is clearly divided into two pieces, not the traditional front/back or in/out, but rather a steep section of property where the clubhouse, opening hole #1 and closing stretch of of #15-18 are located. The remaining holes, where the real meat of the course lie, stretch out through forest and tall grass meadows, all the way to a small pond, before turning back towards the road.

As noted by the famous sign posted on the first tee, The Black Course is an extremely difficult course. One of the most demanding courses in the world, The Black Course is famous for its length, forced carries off the tee and elevated, well guarded green sites. The only thing that keeps this public beast playable is one of the most gently contoured sets of greens Tillinghast ever designed. Compared to the likes of Winged Foot, Fenway, Quaker Ridge or Baltusrol, The Black Course has relatively flat greens. Unfortunately Bethpage Black gets a bad rap for always having super narrow fairways, and ankle high rough, while mostly a product of recent US Opens and other State events, The Black Course could be improved for everyday enjoyment by widening of some fairways back to their intended widths, to allow for greater latitude on tee shots and angles around various hazards that await golfers on nearly every hole.

A classic Tillinghast template hole #4 is one
of the most interesting par-5's in the world

The opening stretch of holes #'s 1-3 appear rather benign, but not do not be surprised if you get drawn into the trees, trying to cut the corners of the doglegs at #1 or #2 in search of an early birdie. With the infamous double dogleg #4 and one of the most impressive diagonal hazards anywhere waiting for you at #5, having to play a long iron into the par-3 third is not easy either. Any ball tailing away from the right side of #3 runs the risk of winding up with one of the hardest up and downs on the course, catching the hillside into the woods below.

Holes #4 and #5 capture the true spirit of Bethpage Black. The long par-5 #4 gets all the pictures, and rightfully so. With tall gold grass bordering some of the most impressive bunkering the great depression produced, if you don't get excited to play this double dogleg and take on the Glacier Bunker, I suggest you find another game. The hole is actually easier than it looks, but golfers are so excited and often deceived, they to try to take on the long carries and get caught up in the massive bunkers. What is often missed in discussion of this hole is the contouring of the fairway inside 100 yards and how it truly is sculpted to reward a golfer who accurately lays up their 2nd shot on the right. This is the single most important design theory implored by Tillinghast, and what much of modern design is missing today.

Diagram stylized to resemble Tilly's sketches

On the 5th hole Tillinghast immediately follows with more heart pumping risk/reward forced carries. First on the tee, the golfer is forced to take on at least part of the Sahara complex, Tilly's take on a classic architectural feature. Set diagonally to the landing zone, a player who is willing to take on a longer carry up the right side of the bunker, the easier angle for the approach becomes. For at least the third time in five holes, the green must be approached through the air; elevated on a hillside and surrounded by rough grass, Dr. MacKenzie would not be able to play this hole entirely with his putter.

The surface of the green cannot be seen from the
fairway on #5, adding to its difficulty.

The next stretch of the course guides us into and around the far corner of the property. While #6 which is one of the few holes on the course that normally doesn't require a driver off the tee, it has an island green, completely surrounded by two large multiple fingered bunkers. The par-5 #7, which is also a great three shot hole for the everyday golfer, has lost a lot of its strategic intent for the games best players, and plays as a par-4 in professional tournaments. A.W. Tillinghast did not believe in designing par-5's to be reached in two. Holes #8 and 9 have had some of the more dramatic changes on the course. The chipping area and false front on #8 and the bunker that takes away from the intended variety from a mound as a driving hazard, being replaced by Rees Jones and the USGA as a bunker in the corner of the dogleg.

Yet another forced carry at #10

The Black Course plays through the most open section of the property for holes #10-12. Back in the aesthetically pleasing golden tall grass often found on Long Island's great courses, and reminiscent of England's heathland courses. On the 11th tee, Tillinghast isn't afraid to use the native grass as a typical hazard, or to create visual uncertainty adding to the never ending string of demanding golf holes at Bethpage Black.

#12 is another example of the interesting risk/reward
problems awaiting golfers on the tees of The Black Course

Once you cross back over the road, playing through two more holes which have had some major changes by Rees Jones and the USGA, The Black Course shows its teeth again with a demanding finish. The final four holes play up and down the steepest section of the course, and after what is known to take 4 hours just to this point, #15 is the hardest hole on the golf course.

Bethpage Black #15, as hard as golf gets

#15 appears much easier than it actually is. First the angle of the drive is bound to suck you down the left side off the tee using a Pete Dye-esque angle. Tillinghast marches you up to the top of a hillside where the steepest green on the golf course is waiting. While it may not be the longest on the scorecard, #15 will often play as the longest par-4 on the course because of the severe uphill 2nd shot. Although I have not seen it for myself yet, #15 green apparently has undergone renovation to soften the green contour. An architectural tragedy, even today's tour players are unable to handle parts of The Black Course because of unplayable maintenance methods, which in turn cause architectural changes.

Behind Rory McIlroy, one of the games youngest and best
players, you can see the narrow terraced green of #17

After playing #16, another long par-4 back down the hill, you immediately turn around again for the long par-3 #17 set into the same hillside. #17 is the last real test The Black Course has to offer, as shown is the most recent US Open won by Lucas Glover in 2009. The narrow hour-glass shaped green is split into 2 tiers. If one fails to leave the ball bellow the hole on the front-to-back slope, or has to putt across from one tier to the other, big numbers can start to come into play. Phil Mickleson and David Duval were among a few world class players who saw their chances at a US Open title slip away at #17

The walk down the big hill from #18 to the fairway...

#18 is probably least interesting hole on the course. After hoofing your bag for roughly a 6 mile walk across the large state park in Farmingdale, most likely way over par, the smart thing to do would be to play short of the bunkers that pinch the fairway, and leave a full shot for the final approach to a well guarded, elevated green site. Obviously its the natural response by the amateur golfer like myself to pull out the driver and wail away one more time, leaving an awkward partial wedge shot and the chances of textbook par unlikely for the last hole at one of America's best public golf courses.

... only to be faced with this for your final approach. The walk
up to #18 green feels vertical after a typical 6 hour round.

Bethpage Black is flat out one of the best tests of golf in the world, however it doesn't lack problems. Obviously it has a bad reputation for long rounds, and has undergone some architecturally unfortunate modifications in order to host Major Championships, but The Black Course is surely a fabulous treat for locals, New York residents, and all who want a chance to play both classic architecture, championship venues, and all at a reasonable price.

The Black Course is not the best Tillinghast course, and it is not the best course on Long Island, but it clearly belongs in the discussion because of its collection of world class golf holes. Any course containing the holes#4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12, and 15 surely has its place amongst the best in the world. The only reason if restored to its original design (non tournament setup) that it would not considered as a masterpiece would be because of the lack of green contour. I once posed the question to Tom Doak in the bar of the Bandon Dunes resort: "As a native New Yorker, which do you prefer? Long Island or Westchester? Winged Foot West or Bethpage Black? Mets or Yankees" He replied, "Long Island because of the sand. Winged Foot because of the greens. And the Yankees, although the Mets were the better choice at the time." Ironically, the lack of green contour is the only thing keeping the course fun and playable.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Favorite Golf Hole on My Home Course

#11 at Quaker Ridge Golf Club, Scarsdale NY (AW Tillinghast)

In 2009 applied for the Renaissance Golf Summer Work Program, run by Tom Doak. One of the questions I was asked was to "Describe your favorite golf hole on your home course, and what you like about it." Here is my answer, that got me selected as a finalist and invited to interview with Mr. Doak during a round of golf at Old MacDonald in Bandon, Oregon. While Mr. Doak planned to have me on for what was to be the 2nd course at Black Mesa in New Mexico, the course never got underway.

In the Hanse renovation, the "master pit"
was interpreted as a series of 3 bunkers

My favorite golf hole at Quaker Ridge, my adopted home course, since I have never been a member of a golf club, is the par 4 #11 which measures 404 yards from the back tees. As typical of Quaker Ridge golf holes, a premium is placed on driving, and finding the right side of the fairway on this hole is a must if one hopes to hit the green in two. Personally, I like to hit driver on this hole, although longer hitters may elect to take a wood or even a hybrid off the tee. Distance is not the key on this hole, but placement, which is very typical of Tillinghast. The drive, which crosses a natural stream, one of two crossings on the hole, must hug the right side of the fairway, getting as close as possible to the fairway bunker, which starts at 265 yards out from the tee. If one pulls a drive left off the tee, you will have to contend with a giant elm, which is nearly impossible to carry with the proper combination of distance and loft to hit the green while coming out of Quaker’s legendary thick rough which has been growing for nearly a century. Worse yet, you can end up taking two strokes for finding the stream, which runs all the way up, before crossing the hole just in front of the green and the great elm. The second shot, which ideally will be played with a pitching wedge or short iron, is best played with a right to left ball flight, not only to avoid the creek, once again, which catches all balls short and right, but will help you to stop your ball on the domed green, sloping back left to front right, on one of the fastest most treacherous greens on the course, especially with a back right pin placement.

While certainly not the longest or the most difficult hole on the course, #11 certainly is a textbook A.W. Tillinghast hole. It forces the player to think before he can bomb away with the big stick. The hole also is one of the best incorporations of trees, or a single elm in this case, I have ever seen. The great elm is truly a wonderful specimen, and for sure was left to grow to its towering dimensions by Tilly, a lover of trees. The hole also shows Tilly’s mastery of forced strategic play by the introduction of his “master pit” which sits just on the front left portion of the green and works perfectly with the fairway bunker on the right. The master pit, which some might consider a slight redundancy in this age, with the size of the great elm which stands about 25 yards in front of it, is a true signifier of the genius of Tilly’s design theory, and in my opinion is the greatest hole on “Tilly’s Treasure”.

This hole was renovated in 2010 by Gil Hanse. Once the snow clears and the final phase of construction is finished this spring, a full review will follow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Online Portfolio

I finally figured out a way to get the 52 page printed portfolio I made during my senior year of college online, and for free! Thanks google, I hate standing in line at the post office! If anyone would like a hard copy, please contact me, but for now lets try to be green.

If you click the photo above, you
should be linked to a Web Album.
Feel free to browse through
thumbnails or click slideshow.

All the work comes from my time at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Geneva, NY), Mungeam Cornish Golf Deisgn (Uxbridge, MA) and Parsons The New School for Design (NY, NY). For everything 2009 and on, please search blog archives and keep reading.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Origins of My Sickness

Looking back before my internship for Mungeam Cornish Golf Design, before I ever even heard of Tom Doak, when the game was still new to me, I can point to the two things that were most important to my discovery of golf course architecture. The first is a specific date, June 16, 2004, it was the Wednesday practice round for the US Open at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island. The second was more of a happenstance from growing up in New York City.

A Young Golfmeister

Wed. June 16, 2004: Shinnecock Hills, Southampton, NY. Hole #7.

The summer between Jr. and Sr. year of high school and The Golfmeister was lucky enough be to given a pair of tickets to the final practice round before the open. I had just completed my first season on the Millbook golf team and was determined to improve my game after being embarrassed in the New England Invitation Tournament that served as the Championship final match. I had probably played somewhere around 15 different golf courses, mostly through the school team before I got to Southampton. Oddly enough, one of the courses was actually The Hotchkiss School course designed by Raynor and Banks, although I wouldn't know it for years to come.

After spending the morning walking the course backwards in hopes to see as many different Pros as possible, I decided to rest the legs and sit down at a grandstand. I happen to pick the grandstand behind #7 tee. Group after group came to the tee of the 184 yard par-3, and ball after ball hit the green and rolled off to the left. Then one of biggest foursomes of the afternoon came through: Vijah Singh, Adam Scott, Darren Clark, and a 4th who escapes me, all dropping multiple shots on the tee, and not one could get it to stay on the putting surface.

Shinnecock Hills, Southampton NY 1891
(W. Dunn, Macdonald and Raynor, Toomey and Flynn)

I remember walking in to my parents room that evening after taking the train home, and telling my father about the seventh hole, how it was going to be the story of the week and was near impossible to play. Interested in what I was yammering on about, he turned on the Golf Channel Open preview, and there it was, one of the biggest controversies in golf course history.

It was a pretty special insight into the possibilities of golf courses.

Shinnecock Hills #7: Redan

#2: NYC

There are ZERO golf courses on the island of Manhattan where The Golfmeister lived for the first 23 years of my, and where I still call home now in my 24th. That means travel is a must. Even with some of the city muni's reachable by subway, getting into a car is almost always necessary to play golf when you live in Manhattan.

I'm not exactly how it became my responsibility, but I was always the one in charge of picking our location, making the tee time, and finding the directions, whether my friend and I conned my mother into driving, were taking my friends car since he got his license early, or convinced my parents to lend me the car once I could drive. I had an assortment of publications for regional and local course listings that my parents had given me, and the internet to choose from.

The Hotchkiss School Scorecard
Lakeville, CT (Raynor)

It must have been because I had the strongest urge to play, but I just assumed resposibility, and kept scouring the pages of my books for better, closer, and different golf courses to try. Nobody I played with, mostly my mother and one friend, or occasionally my father on a weekend, really questioned my choices, as long as we didn't get to get up crazy early, and could be home in time to return the cars to their rightful owners!

I was clearly making decisions about which courses I didn't like, which courses I enjoyed and wanted to return to, and developing my own opinions on which courses I thought were worth a drive. Obviously the conversations about favorite holes, and the "would you go back?" would come up on the way home.

I wouldn't trade my situation, driving to NYC publics for a membership at a private club, as much as I would have loved it at the time. I probably wouldn't have developed by ability to question what I like about certain courses and holes if I played the same one for my entire childhood, even though I definitely would have been a better player.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Gnarly Bunkers

"A hazard placed in the exact position where a player would
naturally go is frequently the most interesting situation,
as a special effort is needed to get over it or to avoid it."
-Alister MacKenzie
The Spirit of St. Andrews, p 55

Somehow the designers of golf courses shifted to principally building hazards on the sides of golf holes. Sometimes built under the branding of words like "Penal School", this plague was particularly drawn to American courses.

Bellow are some of the gnarliest, most interesting, captivating, memorable, and horrifying sandy hazards that I've been able to photograph.

Volcano Bunkers
Kiawah Ocean 4, Pete Dye

Long Island Sand Dunes
Friars Head 9, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw

Colorado Blowout
Ballyneal 7, Tom Doak

Glacial Bunker
Bethpage Black 4, AW Tillinghast

Hell Bunker
The Old Course 14, St. Andrews

Road Hole Bunker
The Old Course, St. Andrews

Sandy Gorge
Tobacco Road 11, Mike Stranz

Spectacles Bunkers
Carnoustie 14, Allan Robertson and James Braid

Dormie Hell
Dormie Club 17, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw

Future Bunker
Sand Mine, New Jersey

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In Honor of reaching 2000 viewers... DRAINAGE!

The Bubble-Up

Bubble-up drains are the exits for the many variations on the french drain used throughout golf courses. In my experience, they seem to be used most commonly for preventing flooding in bunkers, but other features around the golf course as well.

Bubble-up drains rely on gravity to send the water down grade, where it can slowly seep back into the earth in an lower traffic area, often near tree lines. In cases of sever weather, the bubble-up will also act as a spillway to prevent floods. Much like the spillway sinks have (the little hole normally under the faucet), because the high point of bubble-up is below the bunker, water should continually spill out the bubble-up (why its called a bubble-up) rather than flood the floor of the bunker.

(Bunker Drainage)

Once the sub-drainage in our bunker has been installed so all the water collects at a low point in one of the outer corners, the water must be transported through a solid pipe to our exit. In selecting a proper location for our bubble-up one must consider 2 things. First, grade. The very top of our bubble-up, usually marked by a 12 inch plastic green vent camp, must be below the low point in the bunker it is draining, where we switch from perforated pipe and pea gravel to solid pipe. Second, we try to find a spot of relatively low traffic, where a little extra water during a storm wont hurt as much, and where the drain itself is less likely to effect play. In the northeast, it normally means tree lines.

Sizes can obviously vary, and installing a few breaks in the pipe, where vents can be tapped into and clogs can be blown up are always a good idea.