Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Donald Ross Feast

Due to a very fortunate turn of events, your redanman has willingly visited six of Donald Ross's fine works this season to date. The breadth and depth of his work is something to behold. By my count of the 399 courses listed by Dr. Bradley Klein in his Excellent work Discovering Donald Ross (2nd Edition release imminent) I am right at sixty courses played. I have played others attributed but not documented in the First Edition but this year has yielded some treasures.
Oak Hill (East)
Black & Blue - How most feel after negotiating Oak Hill East

Sixteen - A brutish and representative long par 4


Part of a 36-hole complex originally by Ross but modified several times by localist Robert Trent Jones and also by the Fazio team more than once, it is the least authentic Ross of the recent treasures. It is a full-blown USGA poster boy of a course set for a major championship on a week's notice. First off, whatever issues I might personally have with the USGA and what their idea of a great golf course is, the Oak Hill Complex has absurdly superior conditioning. This kind of rough must keep the proverbial Blue Coats sound asleep at night. It is what you encounter at Medinah #3, The Olympic Club, Baltusrol Lower and I have seen it recently at Wilmington CC South. Of note, Oak Hill East is relatively tamely bunkered in the fairways and the bunkers are almost entirely out to the sides. The Yardage Book published by the club noted that Oak Hill is known for its Trees, narrow fairways and slick greens. The trees weren't quite flushed out, the rough was and the greens whilst not slick were perfectly true. Jeff Corcoran the Superintendent - who I was unable to meet - is doing a fantastic job. No one less than new Hall of fame inductee Ernie Els is quoted "This is the best, fairest and toughest championship golf course I've ever played in all my years as a tour professional." - on the club's home page. I won;t argue, it's tough. Admittedly it was damp recently cutting the roll, but I needed my 2-iron equivalent rescue many a time to reach the par 4's even from the White (6519 yard) tees. At Par 70, it is still 73.3/139. Fortunately I hit 11 fairways so it was very enjoyable for me.
Par 3 Eleventh showing difference from back to regular tees

As noted, the fairway bunkering is lateral, not jutting into the fairways very often. They are not in paired phalanges as Rees Jones has done to Oakland Hills South Course, but they are in some ways a respite from the lush rough which is beyond the capabilities of average golfers to hit more than an 8 or 9 iron. Several greens are re-built this year and were re-grassed, but all were pristine nearly 100% back from necessary aeration.
Notable Holes
Nine Par 4 454/400/377 (C/M/F)
-A lovely uphill par 4 dog-legging around a mildly-unkempt quarry like area and ascending uphill to a large sloped green was a real favorite of mine. Nice land very well-used


Thirteen Par 5 594/563/488
-Proclaimed Signature Hole in the yardage guide, it crosses a stream (Originally a rare pond in the original design) at 300-330 yards off the tee and then is all uphill from there to an amphitheatre-placed green with four back bunkers added to Ross's design. A tree guards the second third shot on the right side near 100 yards out forcing one more left. Again a very sloped green awaits the player who if above the hole wishes in very strong language that he weren't so located. It would almost be a better 18th due to its setting.



Four Par 5 570/542/466
-Bears a mention as I found it the most difficult drive on the course. Bunkers set into a small hillside of a dog-leg right beg to be carried, but the player who draws the ball might be out of luck as tree growth interferes with the preferred direction and even I a straight-to-fade driver went through on the left side of the fairway. A green with a lovely central spine awaits the player who goes at it in tow and hits the wrong side of the green.

Benching of the 12th Green

Third Par 3 211/176/168
Full carry required to this putting surface.
*
Fourteen Par 4 323/319/310
Everyone remembers Hank Kuehne going at this green in one in the Amateur. Quite the green (And a nice view of Irondequoit this time of year) awaits you on the green.


Seven

Five - Showing some narrowness


Fifteen - A Fazio Par 3, moved 30 yards right from Ross's spot

I certainly have a deep respect for the golfer with the skillset to play this brute of a course near par from the 7145 Tees.
Criteria
Routing
It's really a bit of a mish mash with the added par 3's and the seemingly 18th character to the 13th followed by an awkward crossover to get to the last five holes.
Quality of Hole Types (3,4,5)
Threes - #3 is probably the most exciting, not the courses strong point
Fours - Generally long, longer longest, with few exceptions. Gets old.
Fives - Both are significantly above average in appearance and interest mixing challenge with the oeuvre of the course.
Cohesion
You know you're on a world-class professional-evolved course every step of the way. Very cohesive.
Green complexes
Relatively simple affairs with speed and slope providing difficulty. Greenside Bunkers straightforward.
Bunkering Schema
Relatively bland. Heavy reliance on rough, trees and narrowness.
Conditioning
Absurdly good, among the most homogeneous grows I've ever seen
Appropriate Vegetation
Too many trees for my taste, fits the mold of what a "Classic" is for most rank-and-file golfers. Gets a bonus for "no fru-fru"
Ideality (rare)
Geared for the Pyramid Apex of the most skilled of golfers. Short crooked foozlers need not even show unless wearing peculiar leather clothing under one's golf clothes..
Club
One could be very, very content here. Regal Tudor & Brick clubhouse with seemingly its own ZIP code. Wow.
Milieu
Very easy to fantasize that you are ___________ (Insert your favorite professional golfer's name here) for an entire day. A true sense of place.

LuLu (Temple)

One of Ross's courses at the other end of the spectrum - very quirky - with its square punchbowl eighth green, uphill quarry (Volcano var.?) par 3 fourth maxing out at less than 115 yards and wonderful tree work and restoration done by Ron Forse and Jim Nagle has had its rough times in this recession trying to avoid failure. Last word it is doing OK and is likely to survive. It was hit very hard by the recent economic downturn. Roger Hansen backed out of a deal to aid, apparently building rights were reserved. A new National Organization management deal is on the horizon and not yet in place.

LuLu MUST survive - Home to some of Philadelphia's finest Quirk

Four Par 3
Unique and astonishingly wonderful Volcano or Uphill Quarry Hole

-courtesy Professor Joseph Bausch and The Bausch Collection
Eight Par 4
Approaching
-courtesy Professor Joseph Bausch and The Bausch Collection
Square Dell/Punchbowl Über-Cool

-courtesy Professor Joseph Bausch and The Bausch Collection

Riverton (New Jersey)

A lesson in routing.
-courtesy Professor Joseph Bausch and The Bausch Collection

Two parcels acquired at different times, routed distinctly differently. The portion with the clubhouse is newer and has triangular bits of routing to vary wind more efficiently. The left-sided parcel is a Ross-modification of an older pre-existing nine holes by.

Routing is a KEY element of design, this one is very, very special and I'll return to this club at another date.

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