Sunday, November 30, 2008

A.W. Tillinghast reveals and implies

From November 16, 1913, Albert Warren Tillinghast writing in the Philadelphia Record (Joe Bausch)

“On Thursday a number of prominent Philadelphians accepted the invitation of the Pine Valley Country Club (sic) and visited the new course in Sumner, N.J. As they stepped from the train they saw something which caused them to marvel. We must remember those early days when some one said:

Now open your mouth and abut your eyes,
And I’ll give you something to make you wise,”

Which we did and on opening the eyes and shutting the mouth again we found a sweet tid-bit which pleased us immensely.

Although they were profoundly impressed by the first five holes, they were destined to reach the ridge near the sixth green before fully appreciating the vastness and grandeur of this valley of the pines. As they stood there the magnificent panorama held them in its spell and I think the thoughts of them all may be expressed in the exclamation of one ”I never dreamed of it!” There was the bright green of the course snaking its way through the somber masses of scrubbed trees, browned grass and white sand, which made the green more brilliant by contrast.”


This is all-important context, especially the last paragraph. Many speculate about Pine Valley in many ways but one area of most importance to me is the original use of trees in the design. Other than driving long enough on the first to reach the corner and grab a glimpse of the unreceptive green, trees do not and pretty much have not dictated any real strategic nature of the course. Tillinghast in his writings about Pine Valley has commented on the greatness of the recovery shots available at Pine Valley. The ability to recover from one's mistakes in life and as mirrored in golf are paramount.

One modern dictum applied to Pine Valley is that of Splendid Isolation a concept that I think is much misunderstood. The original design again as Tillinghast has penned (in the teens, mind you) involved a luxurious routing such that one could not play from the wrong fairway. This was accomplished by widely separating the holes - and as indicated by the "panorama from the sixth green" mentioned above - apparently not by corridors of trees and forest.

I for one prefer long views over a golf course to the corridors of memorial trees and horticultural gardens that golf courses in America seem to have become. Lehigh Country Club, my home club has also become a series of tree-lined corridors without them dictating strategy to the greater degree as well. Beautiful, gently rolling land is best left uncluttered with phalanges of trees everywhere and views of adjacent holes do not just expose the overall beauty of the land but also protect teh golfer by making others aware of their presence.

Most classically designed courses in the USA were constructed without an abundance of trees. That is not to say that the trees all should go, but "If in doubt, Cut it out" I am wont to say.

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