New South Wales - not a stitch of rough anywhere...
Nothing had more impact on my design ideas than the courses of the Sandbelt did. While I enjoyed all the courses that I saw in Australia, it was the eight courses around Melbourne that offered me the most interesting ideas and a few key answers to some lingering questions that I had. The Australian architecture sent me investigating how to bring some of the more bold details into our work.
The biggest and most important lesson from the trip is the use of short grass. The origins of short grass around the greens stem back to the areas kept tight around greens on the links courses. There have been lots of attempts to bring this feature to North American architecture, but I honestly think that most is too contrived and too “collective” to emulate the great short grass area of the UK. I think the Australians are the only ones who have mastered how to incorporate it properly. Their architecture is simply better than ours.
Metropolitan - notice the surrounds are short, only the fingers in the bunkers are long...
The Sandbelt courses have no rough between hazards and targets. There is no rough between the green side bunkers and the green surface. They also have no rough between the fairway bunkers and the fairway. Occasionally, there is no rough on the other side too. Either the ball is in the hazard or it has successfully avoided the trouble. The simplicity is beautiful and the hazards are far more effective.
There is no rough around greens which means a miss always gets away. It may run away a short distance, bound away and into trouble, or occasionally run through into a bunker. The recovery shot is always fun and usually involve creativity. Good players may try a sand wedge with spin, but smarter players will just as often use the slopes and play a bump and run. The beauty is that any player can use any shot. The level of creativity is open to a player because the ground is always in play in Australia.
Victoria - the value of short grass can be the same as a bunker
Another difference between the North American approach to short grass and the Australian approach is the tie-ins. The Australian courses simply blend the short grass out to meet the grade or native vegetation. The short grass begins at the green and continues on grade out to the surroundings, nothing contrived, a few slopes are sharp, others are simple, and everything blends. The North American approach is to contain the shots, and because of this almost all chipping look like bathtubs, which never look natural.
It’s the short grass that ties everything together. It surrounds the green and allows the green grades to blend right out of the green complex and into the surrounding landscape. Since it surrounds the bunkers, it incorporates them right into the green site and everything becomes a single composition rather than a series of parts.
This is simply a better architectural alternative to what we do.