Thursday, July 11, 2013

Top 100 per Architects

Top 100 per Architects

Golf Course Architecture Magazine polled over 240 architects in 28 countries to determine which courses they would have liked to design.  The top 5 is yet to be released as of tonight, 6-100 is listed as they  voted and were tabulated.  I have no idea why the list came out this way, but I believe that famous again played a big part.

The top 5 are yet to come, but as I guess(ed) them ....
1. Cypress Point                   
2. Pine Valley
3. National Golf Links of America
4. Old Course at St. Andrews
 As listed (Final)
1. Old Course at St. Andrews
2. Cypress Point                   
3. Pine Valley
4. National Golf Links of America

So I got a couple switched.  Famous and influential, isn’t that what architects want to be?
The Old Course and Pine Valley are collaborations, of course they will be at the top. I thought CPC would be up there because it was such a special property.

Harry Colt is the overall "Most Admired architect as I see it.  Adam will have full statistics.  More later including the link to download the .pdf (25 pages worth!)

The rest:
6. Royal County Down
7. Shinnecock Hills
8. Pebble Beach
9. Royal Dornoch
10. Royal Melbourne (West)
11. Muirfield
12. Turnberry (Ailsa)
13. Ballybunion (Old)
14. Oakmont
15. Pinehurst (No. 2)
16. Sand Hills
17. Royal Portrush (Dunluce)
18. North Berwick
19. Kingsbarns
20. Pacific Dunes
21. Merion (East)
22. Sunningdale (Old)
23. Lahinch (Old)
24. Carnoustie
25. Kingston Heath
26. Royal Birkdale
27. Royal St George’s
28. San Francisco
29. Cruden Bay
30. Seminole
31. Winged Foot (West)
32. Crystal Downs
33. Kiawah Island (Ocean)
34. Prairie Dunes
35. TPC Sawgrass (Stadium)
36. Portmarnock
37. Gleneagles (King’s)
38. Muirfield Village
39. Riviera
40. Swinley Forest
41. Royal Troon
42. Chicago
43. New South Wales
44. Castle Stuart
45. Valderrama
46. Bethpage (Black)
47. Whistling Straits (Straits)
48. Metropolitan
49. Friar’s Head
50. Tobacco Road
51. Walton Heath (Old)
52. Royal Aberdeen
53. Sunningdale (New)
54. Morfontaine
55. Utrecht De Pan
56. St Andrews (New)
57. Spyglass Hill
58. Royal Liverpool
59. Prestwick
60. Maidstone
61. Barnbougle Dunes
62. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
63. Trump International
64. Royal Cinque Ports
65. Casa De Campo (Teeth of the Dog)
66. Western Gailes
67. Machrihanish
68. Noordwijk
69. Mid Ocean Club
70. Royal Lytham & St Annes
71. Cape Kidnappers
72. Los Angeles (North)
73. The Country Club
74. Shoreacres
75. The European Club
76. Harbour Town
77. Formby
78. The Island
79. Baltusrol (Lower)
80. Monterey Peninsula (Shore)
81. St George’s
82. Saunton (East)
83. Pasatiempo
84. Bandon Trails
85. Chantilly (Vineuil)
86. Rye
87. The Berkshire (Blue)
88. Cabo Del Sol (Ocean)
89. St George’s Hill
90. Wentworth (West)
91. Capilano
92. Fishers Island
93. Loch Lomond
94. The Kinloch Club
95. Olympic Club (Lake)
96. Torrey Pines (South)
97. Peachtree
98. Shadow Creek
99. The Honors Course

100. Woking

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Slow Play in a Nutshell (aided by the Unified Rules of Golf Publication)

Deep Thoughts?  Certainly entertained after the Competition of the US Open.

From the USGA and R&A Rules of Golf Etiquette Section (abbreviated)

Play At Good Pace And Keep Up
Players should play at a good pace. The Committee may establish pace of play guidelines that all players should follow.

It is a group’s responsibility to keep up with the group in front. If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group. Where a group has not lost a clear hole, but it is apparent that the group behind can play faster, it should invite the faster moving group to play through.

Be Ready To Play

Lost Ball

Priority On The Course
Unless otherwise determined by the Committee, priority on the course is determined by a group’s pace of play. Any group playing a whole round is entitled to pass a group playing a shorter round. The term “group” includes a single player.

As written, a committee CAN create other rules, however with the current initiatives to recruit and keep players in the game it is selfish and counter-productive to go against these guidelines that preface the unified Rules of Golf.

Why would anyone want to INTENTIONALLY and artificially take a stand against the principles so outlined and endorsed by the two worldwide ruling bodies of golf?

Answer: Selfishness

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Did We Learn at Merion?

Another USGA Open, this one a little sloggier than usual on a better than usual course.  As I have written before, great old courses have been given up as sacrifice to Major Tournament golf as the players who compete in them ironically make much more of the "Game Improvement" changes in golf equipment than the foozler that one would hope that they would help.  Distance improvement and control has disproportionately been facilitated by the best players the most (COR, forgiveness, power-lofting, ball aerodynamics, etc.).

Merion has along with its shoe-horn routing, has a particularly wonderful set of greens.  Professionals do not care about stimp 13-14 on the greens, as they do not get to play such surfaces  week-to-week on tabletops with pre-determined "traditional" pin positions every year at each site.  It's not the speed, it's the contour.  Modern construction drains greens from below including the suck(sic)-air systems which control the  greens so built.  The Masters has gone this route as well, but they've also tinkered with more than the occasional green shape and contour. Therefore, an Open at a site such as Merion with its potato-chip shaped contours have progressively changing contours on seemingly continuously-sloped surfaces to lead to progressive doubt and erosion of confidence. There are at Merion, as with many a course built or tinkered by Flynn, some rather simple pin positions, but they are not for tournament play.  These chosen pins were quite remarkable, perhaps nowhere so well-illustrated as on Justin Rose's putt on the seventh hole on Sunday.  He read it correctly, hit it correctly but was not rewarded until the last quarter of a roll into the side of the cup. Perfect read, perfect speed, perfect execution and then reward.

New tournament venues for men professionals yield great insight into the skill that is green reading.  It's less coincidence perhaps that the 2010 AT&T at Aronimink, a virgin venue for the PGA Tour had as its winner one Justin Rose, our winner at Merion, 6 miles as the crow flies from Merion East.  Rose probably can't wait for a Philadelphia tournament again in the near future.  The special mix of True Classic age green design and bent-poa (can't keep it out for long) mixed grass surfaces is a special treat.  In the Philadelphia area (Locally known as the GAP, one sees various degrees of grain in the greens, historically most severely at Huntingdon Valley (guess the designer) home to some of the most sober-serious golfers of quality in the area.

Unfortunately one of two things happen to great old golf courses interested in having professionals play or even more so major hosting.  Wholesale changes (Oak Hill, Rochester, NY, Oakland Hills, Birmingham, MI,  Riviera CC, Pac. Pallisades, CA to name a few to varied degrees) or what was seen this week at Merion's East Course, Frankensteinian changes of 24 yard wide fairways, deep rough raked against the grain, literally "Orphan Tees" such as 18 (The view from the back two at Merion's 18th is not a sight for small children) and 5 as well as the hijacking of the practice green for the sublime 14th hole to be stretched to rocket-ball size. One hopes that the members at Merion have the sense to return the course to its old self as it is plenty hard and rather charming even at 6400 yards. (The relative to par scores for 3, 5, 6, 14, 17 & 18 speak for themselves.) We have heard The Open at Merion referred to as "A referendum for distance", we'll see.  Has the "proposed ban on anchoring" been a test for a proposed roll-back of the ball?

The rough was ridiculous this week, they even fertilized it on Friday.  I won't go any further. Or deeper.

This month The Golf Channel is proffering a war against slow play just as the USGA ironically rolled-out "While we're young" during an Open that no one could play quickly.  The mixed message is jarring.  Slow play works against getting and keeping players in the game.  Stimp slower, cheaper to maintain more contoured greens, no rough (No searching), less water in play - these are all things to speed the game. Shorter crooked drives are easier to find than long ones (ball roll-back).  One no less that the great Champion Jack Nicklaus has been harping on the ball for years. Little was done to address the ball directly at Merion, but it is the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

So we learned
-Par is still defended at the greens
-Green Speed in and of itself is not a deterrent, it's in the contours
-Rough is tedium, breeder of slow play
-Fast Greens also slow play
-Everyone wants us to play faster, but not playing on TV (5 hour 2-balls and the last group basically 2 holes behind)
-The USGA wants to defend par, no matter what Mike Davis says

We can hope that Merion's members return the course to the state where enjoyment for more than the Top 500 golfers in the world being tested to their limits is the norm.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

New Look at Lehigh

Ron Forse & Jim Nagle (Happy Birthday, Jim!) working a master Plan at Lehigh.  Here's some great updates. All enlargeable by clicking.

Rating Team from GAP rated changes to LCC Par 70(Every other is a Hybrid):

Black       73.0/132
Purple      71.7/129
Blue         70.5/128
Lt. Blue    66.7/127
White       69.1/125
Pink         65.9/123
Red          65.4/122

"Ladies Ratings", TBD              

People forget we are only an hour from William Penn on the Philly City Hall in their quest to belt notch Pine Valley and Merion.  Sorry, we do not have ribbon wide fairways nor calf-length rough, just world-class routing and greens by William Flynn.

My Criteria: (Critically and very harshly applied in a catholic manner) see right>
Routing: Absolute masterclass.  A very challenging property to lay a top golf course, Flynn used Anti-clockwise peripheral route for first nine, internal basically clockwise for second.  Three times up & down the hill, two on front, one on back. Three stream crossings, all reasonable, two holes alongside.  Very luxurious corridors of holes, width used to enhance strategy.
Holes (3, 4, 5): Tough nut of Par 3's, common for Flynn, generally longish with fair-sized targets, quite varied and spread through round.  Par 4's include charming and strategic short holes with superior strategic flexibility.  Lengthening limited sanely to longest holes where it's most needed and best used. #6 Par 5 very links-inspired, now 585 from back tees, no cupcake.  #1 most controversial but clever use of very severe terrain.  3 to 7+ are in play. I think #1, #11 and #18 are candidates for weakest hole, but one other member architectural critic has #11 as his favourite, so there you go ...
Cohesion: Very much a golf course with flow, not a collection of holes to play.
Bunkering Schema: Lightly bunkered although flanking Right and left greenside bunkers used a few too many times.  Holes such as 5, 8, 9, 10, 12 don't and are far greater because of it. A coouple of fairway bunkers (Notably #10) superbly placed, triple penalised by trees between green & bunker.  Easy enough to fix in an afternoon with a chainsaw and a crane. Flynn not golf's bunker genius anyway.
Conditioning: Good to at times very good.  Greens need help with surface drainage to make speed consistent from green to green (#10 gets extremely fast, #13 remains very slow - can be 1.5 feet stimp different),  One only notices this playing 50+ times a year in season. Rough - rather penal when it's been wet, fantastic if dry and low humidity, fairways hold moisture too long, don't remain fast enough long enough.  (Conditioning comments only from a very critical analysis) If members read, they'll think I'm crazy.  After 1000+ courses, one notices things is all I can say
Appropriate Vegetation: See for yourself, some unnecessary beautification, but hey! It's a "Country Club".  Does not affect play except for debris.
Ideality: The Foozler and the high-calibre player are each at home here.  Even The Good Doctor Mackenzie would have approved! Rarely does this get better than here.
The Rest & Milieu:  Lumped together because it is a fine country Club.  The course itself is so good, it should be a golf club, reserved for players and general nuts.  It succeeds as a country Club superbly, managed by a fine, talented manager, but I just need a place to play golf and a better Gin & Whisky selection.  I'll admit to being a round peg in a square hole .... but I wouldn't belong anywhere else until I got to Applebrook in the Philly suburbs, - an hour of truly fine golf courses away - for my tastes or Plainfield an hour in another direction.

I'm sure some of these comments will be mis-interpreted.  Read above carefully and in the spirit of the eternal critic. This is a truly superior course!

#1 Tee 2013

a few years ago

New back tee 445y
#1 mid
#2 Tee
All the way back 375y
Left landing
90 out, semi-blind
behind green #2
 #3 Tee
from 230 tee
#4 back tee (new) 375y

 #4 front shoulder
 #4 from green to river
 New #5 tee 420y,
New #5 bunker (larger, deeper, farther) very challenging to carry
#5 Approach
#5 Green Complex with fairway left
#5 False Front

#6 New Back tee 585y
 150 out
narrow, canted green complex opening
Old #7 Tee View
#7 from top now 227y
 #7 New forward tee (150y)  
 #7 from 8 tee
New tees on #8, all re-worked, back added 420 + 80' uphill
 #8 Green complex (more later after sand pile removed
New #9 tee 447y and #8 green behind
 9 Green from right fw bunker, for discussion ...
#9 Green (I prefer no Arborvides behind ...)

#10 New tee 450y
Triple Jeopardy from L bunker (for starters trees & no fairway over the perfectly placed bunker)
 Behind one of Flynn's finest green complexes anywhere,  From here one can appreciate triple jeopardy - trying to keep the ball left on a canting fairway, challenging the perfect fairway bunker, access to the left side of the fairway past the fairway bunker 50 yards from the green for the approach to this supremely good green is completely unavailable. Just three trees ...

#11 rollicking mounded fairway over the hill to the green over the stream. 533y

#12, often a fave hole by visitors 390y

#13 185y

 note the spine
#14 380y + 75' uphill

 #14 green and newly cleared ridge near 11 tee
 14 green left, #11 tee, #15 tee, #10 green
Not exactly the same view in the past, great improvement

#15 new back tee 420y
 #15 standard tee
 #15 inside corner of dogleg, not the place to be
 #15 Approach from left, preferred by those who understand
#16 (175y back) older view, more shrubbery, round tees

New with less shrubbery (for now ...) and squared expanded tees (front shown)
#17, (420 y) a wonderful golf hole very difficult to present on imaging.  Very well-conceived green complex with a severe false front penalty, much cleared out from before but still too many trees down the right side.

An old view showing the inconceivably choking tree planting.
Old forward tee, note the cramped feel
Broad sweeping view showing right sided plantings
 Currently much more open showing the wonderful natural fairway contours
 Attractive jig-saw bunker complex
 Two of these were removed on Tuesday - 4 June - as the thought was that too many had been put back in place of the removed Evergreens!
Previous growth right side of 17 (also on R on #18)

#17 from false front
Entire hole with elevation changes apparent from behind
Actually from 18 tee showing old dense grove of evergreens on right (also R of 17)
#18 from 470 tee (new) also note thinning

Old view of 18, front regular tees

[new 18 green complex]

I've a few more to come, Still over-treed but vastly improved. Lehigh is a curious place, a "Country Club" so deeply rooted in the definition that golf probably is relegated to about third place in importance to the rank & file member.  It is not meant as an indictment although it has been taken that way when I have expressed the opinion before, but Lehigh surely is the least appreciated truly GREAT golf course of the Country Club ilk. I venture that there is not a better versed architectural critic that knows Lehigh Country Club better and more intimately than I do after 15 year as a member, too many rounds to calculate and perhaps 3000 or more photographs,  It is not a club rife with golf nuts, those who live and breathe for the game in its essence, it is foremost a social and business club with an enormously good golf course - able to test the most skilled and to be little chore for the foozler.  It is relatively hard to lose a ball there, but whilst the members know they have an excellent course, most haven't a clue why it is good nor HOW GOOD it is.  There is still some lamentation over the loss of ancient (less than 50 year old) trees. Most can probably now acknowledge that conditioning is the best in years and more consistent day to day, so good riddance trees although at least 50 more are begging to be removed by those who know why to do so.  This course can even be better, it is easily, architecturally speaking in the Top 100 courses in America - but it could be Top 50.  A nearby  Country Club is far more famous due to its long-standing relationship with the USGA, but one would be hard pressed to choose a hole from their 60 to replace a hole at Lehigh with said hole. It is challenging to pick a weak or least favourite golf hole at Lehigh and one will usually do so by picking a hole that doesn't play to one's strengths, fit one's eyes nor yield to one's advances.  At the best courses, one has toplay that game with knowledgeable mates and one will find nearly as many answers as there are people in the discussion.  Certainly anyone who cares enough to follow my blog is welcome at Lehigh to come and play.