Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Breather Hole

11th at Highlands Links
There is no question that the 11th at Highland Golf Links in Nova Scotia is intended as a breather hole. The first 10 holes at Highland run up and down the landscape like an out of control roller coaster slicing wildly through rolling wooded terrain. The 11th completely contrasts , built on the flat valley bottom almost like the high flat section on the roller coaster ride that sets you up for the next big drop.

The hole was designed as medium length par four – bunkered only for alignment – its fairway the widest on the course with an unusually flat and wide-open green. So how could this hole have architectural merit if it was so easy and inviting? The key is what the hole offers the player. The 11th is a chance to catch your breath, hopefully make a par, and prepare for the next dizzying run of holes over Highland's rumpled terrain. More importantly it offers the best view of the surrounding mountains on the course. Thompson let the player relax and enjoy the views of this magnificent hidden valley, giving them time to savour this special place.

Roller coaster designers know they must space their thrills with breaks to maximize the enjoyment of the ride. Architects from the golden era used the breather hole between dramatic sections to relax players before taking them through a second difficult or dramatic section. A well-designed breather hole also builds anticipation for the next section. Breather holes represent another design technique that modern architecture has overlooked, to the detriment of the game.

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