Monday, 31 January 2011

10 Things I Don’t Like in Design - Area Drains in Fairways

The area drains dominate Tobacco Road
One of the reasons I enjoy older courses is because you still see the natural flow of the land uninterrupted by man-made contours. I even prefer flat fairways over ones that have been shaped to create artificial rolls. The modern idea seems to be that fairways must be rolling to be interesting and receptive to be fair. Because of this ideal often fairways are reshaped to achieve both. In order to make this work most architects have come to rely on the use of area drains in the fairway to deal with the water.

The new fairways not only come across as contrived but usually feature a “moon like” appearance where the area drains have been used. The placement is often so uniform and predictable that the shaping around the basins often upstages the bunkering. Even courses I love like Tobacco Road come across as over-shaped due to the extensive use of area drains in the landing areas.

The main reason they are used is to collect water and get it underground as quickly as possible so that play will continue uninterrupted after rain. The problem with this technique is it has secondary implications. The low areas around the basins tend to remain wet. They also are notorious for compaction and ice damage along with consistently weak turf. Since most balls shots tend to collect in the low points the lies are often poor in these areas, or worse in a divot since they concentrate wear into small areas. I’ve never understood their extensive use since they are expensive, create agronomic problems and make the course look artificial.

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