Saturday, August 14, 2010

Forsgate

Charles Banks was generally considered the less-talented member of the trio yet his distinctive style can hardly be called “lite”. He likely had little of his own ideas to input as he was a construction man and in fact once the oeuvre was created in the first five years of their work as a design team, little else was added by anyone. Banks cannot be faulted in any way for lack of creativity. Some of what he did was of course to finish off the work of Raynor when Seth passed on. Macdonald gets most of the credit for introducing the design principles first brought to America in most grand style at NGLA. Chicago Golf Club, Raynor fully gutted to create a “superior design” in Macdonald’s words and much of what we know is done in Raynor’s style at the courses Macdonald Raynor and Banks put their names on. Banks is honored at Forsgate and his design especially at the green complexes has been lovingly preserved and enhanced at Forsgate. The aficionado should seek it out as it is certainly contending for top 25 in golf-rich New Jersey.

Banks is a bit of a forgotten man at the triumvirate with much of his distinction being proffered by critics as more crude and of course more mechanical and angular. The Banks course at Forsgate in Monroe Twp., NJ, is a fine example of Banks work. It is immediate to exit 8A of the New Jersey Turnpike, exceptionally easy to find. I was first introduced to it years ago and indeed felt fortunate to be playing two Charles Banks in a seven day span. Later that week in Bermuda I had my sole play at the exquisite (N.L.E.) Castle Harbour. Sadly what exists now as Tucker’s Town is not a Banks course and has little of architectural interest or curiosity. Forsgate on the other hand keeps getting loving attention bringing it further forward as a particularly good example of Banks’ work.
Bold Greenside Bunkering

Eden (ish)

Reverse Redan (aka Nader)

A Bold Biarritz, 63 paces deep

Swale in perspective


Routing: Overall a simple affair with a bit of parallelism but extremely walkable without a glitch. The greens are immediate to tees and nine next to ten, rather good; quite efficient if not too dramatic.
Overall quality of individual holes: Par 3’s are exceptional with Biarritz, reverse Redan and Horseshoe (Short) all exceptional. Eden (not really an Eden, but none ever are) is also a fine hole. Par fours have some variety, mostly at greens with little heroics needed to negotiate their play. Par fives, lacking interesting fairway bunkering come down to the greens although the Plateau ninth has excellent rolls in the fairway. These aren’t up to the level of the other holes.
Cohesion of the course: Excellent with such a tight routing and consistent style, it is a pleasure to play and there is never a questioning moment.
Green Complexes: These generally fall into a couple of types – templates, rolling waves and the more simple affairs. Punchbowl is not quite, but the reverse Redan is spot on fallaway, the newly-revved-up Biarritz is astoundingly good (it always was notable,
Bunkering schema: A bit tame except certain spots most notably the Biarritz, recently renovated. Much of the fairway bunkering is un inspired but commensurate with aspirations.
Conditioning: Superior turf on greens, rest more than serviceable for an enjoyable round, a good balance actually.
Use of trees: Kept to the periphery, one struggles to find a criticizable tree.
Ideal: Rather better than average as water is not in play and rough is severe only when far off line.
Rest of Club: Pretty average but that’s far better than over-the-top -matches aspirations. Extremely comfortable.