Saturday, 5 February 2011

10 Things I Don't Like in Design - The Predictable Finish

Doral's 18th is all about the water

I can’t think of anything more predictable and disappointing than having the final hole be the toughest on the course. This is such an epic letdown for me. How often have you got to the final tee to find a back breaking par four with water in play from tee to green? Not only is the hole staggeringly long, but you have to face the prospect of any miss being catastrophic.

I’m sure the designer probably pictures an Open being contested there, but the reality is they are almost always at high end public courses where most players are two sleeves further into the round than they want to be already. They just want one par to justify the six hours lost from the office.

It’s time that golf architects thought more carefully about the role of the finishing hole. We don’t need to look further than the 18th at Olympic, a short uphill par four with a decidedly tricky approach shot. It’s still a great finish, even during a US Open. Winged Foot’s 18th is longer, but not overly long, and is defended mostly by a very aggressive shoulder and a wicked green rather than bunkers or water.

Oviinbyrd's 18th with the typical pond

Why don’t we see more holes that we can attack at the end of the round? I love St. Andrew’s 18th where a birdie is completely in the cards but the hole is still full of danger if you become foolish. Think about all the links courses and the finishing holes. None have water beyond the occasional burn and yet many are brilliant at shorter distances. It’s such a pleasure to have a realistic opportunity for par, particularly when you’ve faced many other tough holes along the way.

 It’s time to mix up are finishing holes a little more and stop being so damned formulaic. We need a lot more quality finishing holes with much less emphasis on distance and difficulty as the key elements of the final hole.

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