Monday, 27 December 2010

1980-1990 - The Road to Excess

This happens to be the era I care for the least.

It began with Pete Dye building a new tournament course called The Tournament Players Club of Sawgrass. This was part of a grandiose dream of Deane Beaman to build tournament courses belonging to the players where the average guy could pony up some significant dollars to go tee it up on the same courses. The players would begin a slow and steady investment in these courses and would reap major profits down the road. They would even joint venture these with resorts and housing developments to bring in a bigger return. They would rule the world……well IMG would do a much more efficient job later, but that’s another story. The TPC courses (beyond Sawgrass), built using player consultants, are largely forgettable courses that have all gone under massive renovation. The most unfortunate thing about the look and nature of the course was it was roundly copied by many architects all over the world - and while I really like the course - there never should have been a second one.

At Sawgrass, Pete took a lousy property that was barely above water table and covered with bush, and slowly turn it into a brilliant piece of architecture and engineering. The course was based around most of his ideas involving smaller wilder greens, strategic placement of tee shots, clever strategic choices, but where it went two full steps further than his previous work was the addition of so much water directly into play. Pete had made the decision that the only way “to get those dudes thinking” was to use the finality of water as a way to make them blink. The ultimate statement of this was the island green built at #17, which came about by accident. This was the best source of sand on the site and they over mined it in order to cap all the fairways - and found there peninsula green had become….an island green. Once in play, they knew they had created the perfect tournament hole and a place the players feared from the opening tee shot. He had those dudes thinking and Pete Dye was in control.

Another architect who also would go on to embody the word “control” was Tom Fazio. Like Pete, the more courses he created, the more he wanted to control the site. Tom began with his uncle George Fazio creating tough layouts like the National in Toronto, but would eventually go on his own and create a very player friendly style that would define him as an architect. While Pete was into carry angles and deception, Tom preferred defining bunkers and a clear path to the hole. Tom seemed to be more concerned with hiding cart paths and grading tie-ins than he was about creating dilemmas. If anything, much of Tom’s work can be characterized as too safe and too fair to be great. Mackenzie always theorized that great holes began with initial controversy until they were understood - Fazio avoided controversy in favour of making a beautiful player friendly landscape.

The ultimate expression of his ability and style was Shadow Creek built in 1989. The course built for Steve Wynn in the desert and was a remarkable undertaking. Fazio began with a flat featureless site and moved millions of yards of sand. He then planted a massive amount of pine trees and landscaped the entire proprety to create a lush oasis with ravines amd wonderful rolls where you could only see the mountains in the distance but none of the flat desert right next door. The course is stunningly beautiful.

When asked about Tom as a designer, Bill Coore once remarked that he thought Fazio was a remarkable “Landscape Architect.”

Next Decade

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