Thursday, 3 February 2011

10 Things I Don't Like in Design - Artificial Ponds

The most famous of all
I had the chance to look at someone else’s Master Plan for a new golf course built on flat land a few years back and was taken aback by the approach. It was the typical approach where every time the architect was faced with limited natural features he simply dug a pond to create a pond at the green in the perceived notion that this would add interest. I counted water directly in play on nine green sites including most of the threes and fives. The architect had four holes with water in play from the tee all the way to green and two of those were par fives that doglegged around a large pond all the way to green. If I lived there, I would play Tennis.

The reliance on water as a primary hazard probably began with Robert Trent Jones but it quickly became a staple of modern design. That was the era where “Championship” courses became the vogue and the use of the water hazard was seen as key defence in order to protect par. Since most sites did not offer natural bodies of water, the architects simply added ponds where required at the green sites to add the challenge. Photographers were drawn to the water and the popularity of the holes soared.

The problem came when the “average” player was facing the same level of challenge on an increasing basis. They are far more fearful and intimidated by water since they lack the control to continually avoid hazards. A ball in the water represents two lost shots, whereas a bunker may represent no lost shots if a great recovery is made. Water’s judgment of the shot is absolute and final and in many cases the player is forced to repeat the shot until they succeed or pick up.

I’m not total against the inclusion of water or even completely against “a” pond. In fact I do like the incorporation of streams, burns, rivers and lakes into a design.  But I abhor the continuous use of ponds to bring water in play throughout the round as lazy and dull. I particularly question the need to constantly bring water hard up against the green when the hazard can be varied like the placement of bunkers. Water certainly has its place, but the architect who continually places water in play simply frustrates me and the average player who plays their courses.

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