Sunday, 27 March 2011

Template Series - #9 Crown

can't post pictures - not sure why...

The short par three 11th at Shinnecock Hills is one of my favourite holes. There are lots of great elements from length to layout, but the key element is the unusually brilliant green and the short grass beyond.

The front three quarters of the green has a very strong pitch forward with some subtle undulation. The closer you get to the front, the more aggressive the slope becomes until everything simply rolls right off the front. The middle of the green contains all the major pin positions with the easier pins involving a putt from below and up towards the back.  Around three quarters of the way back into the green, the green crowns and the drops off very steeply by the back edge which leads into a short grass swale behind the green. This feature is one of the best four or five ideas I have ever seen.


Any shot played beyond the crown will pick up speed as it exits the back of the green and more often than not leave the player with a downhill lie for the recovery shot that must be then pitched into the hill to make it hopefully die just beyond the crown and remain on the green. Short returns to the swale and firm is off the front. The delicacy of the chip is unimaginable.

So how do I use this template?

This green concept can be used on any hole as proved by the three examples below. Shinnecock Hills is the most extreme example and in my opinion only suits a short three or reachable five. It does a wonderful job of balancing opportunity and risk on shorter holes.

The gentler version has more applications on longer threes, long fours and strong fives. It’s also an opportunity to use a semi aggressive version to create an extremely challenging four when required like the finisher at Merion. The features requires the use of short grass beyond the green to provide the ability to play creative shots from beyond the crown, otherwise the hole can be too onerous for regular play.

Influences:

11th at Shinnecock Hills
18th at Merion
15th at Augusta National (don’t like the hole, but do like the green)

The List:

#1 Riviera
#2 Redan
#3 Azalea
#4 Road
#5 Peninsula
#6 Serpentine
#7 Ridgeline
#8 Sideways
#9 Crown

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Template Series - #8 Sideways



The tee shot with creek up the left


The 5th at Merion is special. The creek on the left defines the left edge of the entire hole, first as a diagonal carry from the tee and then as a hazard against the left edge of the green. The tee shot is hit into the natural bank rising from the creek. The tee shot can be a draw used to gain the flatter left side but even a slight pull will be wet.  The more common approach is a cut that hits and stays up on the bank, but at least minimizes the risk of the creek. Unfortunately the second shot is from a lie well above your feet, where a pull or hook will definitely find the creek left of the green. So most try to throw the ball well up where Wilson left ample room for a bounce in approach, what’s not obvious is how narrow the margin for error is on this approach.


The other version of this hole is at Garden City. The 15th falls hard from left to right from landing to green. The tee shot must be drawn to hold the strong cross-slope and then the second must also be drawn to keep the approach on the green. Since the draw must be played from a fade lie and the green is a perfect cross-fall. The difficulty is incredible even though the hole appears simple from the tee. It looks so simple, yet its so incredibly tough to play.
15th at Garden City


So how do I use this template?

I think the template works the same way in both cases. The land and green must share the same cross-fall. I like the Merion approach where the inclusion of a hazard with a slight turn in the hole allows for a little more opportunity and playability.

When no water is in play, I love the idea of the straight-on approach where the hole falls sideways and the shot must be shaped to deal with the cross-fall. I think this is such a simple answer to adding difficulty and disguising it within the routing.

The key in both instances is having a green that sets up ideally for a shot that is shaped and the land wants the ball to turn the opposite direction. This is the ultimate test of player’s ability and something that needs to be used more in place of length.
 
The approach with same hard cross-slope including the green
 
The one important note is this is definitely a template for only a four. Otherwise it unwinds the best parts of the design.






Influences:

5th at Merion
15th at Garden City
16th at Huntingdon Valley


The List:

#1 Riviera
#2 Redan
#3 Azalea
#4 Road
#5 Peninsula
#6 Serpentine
#7 Ridgeline
#8 Sideways





Sunday, 13 March 2011

Template Series - #7 Ridgeline

5th tee at Crystal Downs

One of my all time favourite holes in golf is the 5th at Crystal Downs. I think the reason I love the hole so much is I’m not really sure there is a logical way to play the hole and for me that is a thrilling prospect. For the longest time I thought the hole was a one off. I assumed that the landscape was critical and Mackenzie’s unusual routing was sublime.

I’ve never found such a perfect hole as that, but lately I’ve noticed other similar ideas being used. One of the better ones is the 4th hole at Bandon Trails where Bill Coore used a high diagonal central spine to set up a fascinating driving hole. The concept for the green is different, but they are too holes that I feel are exceptional and unique

The problems stem from the hole being short and players not willing to play very cautiously. The drive over the ridge is uncomfortable due to the high ridge. The player is given multiple clues for lines, but none of the bunkering indicates the line most choose. Since most players play for the ridge or beyond close to the green, they unwittingly take on the toughest shot possible without realizing the unnecessary risk.
From the green looking back at Bandon Trails

There are two other options both shorter and more right, but it’s hard to take those lines when the left seems so inviting. What most fail to comprehend is how much the green is cut back into the other side of the hill and how much it matters that you are well positioned. Throw in the problems of side hill lies and most players struggle with the hole despite its benign length. Only a well placed shot, far to the right can find a flatter lie and easier approach, but few ever venture there.

I always loved how Mackenzie or Maxwell placed a bunker dead on line with the green to suggest the carry to the green was possible, where in reality this line is pretty much certain death, particularly with the fall of the green.

So how do I use this template?

The diagonal ridge is really the key. It’s makes the drive a nightmare since you have the complexity of the angle which forces the ball to be turned over and then the risk of being too short or way too long which can cast a tee shot into big trouble. Since the green is cut on the far side, coming up short is a bad angle with a green going away. Contrastingly long will finds the down slope and unless the ball is turned over will be propelled way long and through the fairway. That’s why a key is to shorten the hole and allowing shorter clubs to be played, it justifies adding all this complexity. There is subtle version of this on the fairway on the 7th at Riviera.

Influences:

5th at Crystal Downs
4th at Bandon Trails
7th at Riviera


The List:

#1 Riviera
#2 Redan
#3 Azalea
#4 Road
#5 Peninsula
#6 Serpentine
#7 Ridgeline

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Template Series - #6 Serpentine


The hole from the tee

I remember coming off the 3rd green at Bethpage Black and being stopped in my tracks as I looked out over the 4th tee and up the entire hole to the flag. It wasn’t the awesome bunkering that catches most people’s eye that I focused on, but some of the most beautiful serpentine curves I had ever seen.

The architect himself said this of the hole, “It should prove one of the most exacting three-shotters I know of anywhere. In locating and designing the green, which can only be gained by a most precise approach from the right, I must confess that I was a trifle scared myself, when I looked back and regarded the hazardous route that must be taken by a stinging second shot to get into position to attack the green.”

From above

The tee shot on the 4th calls for an aggressive play down the left hand side. This can be achieved by carrying the single diagonal bunker on the left, or by using the cant of the land and employing a strong draw designed to use the land to skirt around the bunker. The more aggressive the play the easier the second shot or the better the opportunity to go for the green.

The second shot is a second carry angle, but this time in the opposite direction. The longer and further right you dare to go, the more chance you have to open up the green. The big risk you take on is the bunkers which are around twenty feet deep and so enormous that it’s easy to misjudge the carry and be left with a tough recovery.

At the second landing area the hole once again bends back in the opposite direction to reveal a green located behind a small rise covered in bunkers. The green mischievously falls away from the direct line and only by playing well right on the second shot can you find a receptive angle for the third shot.
4th approach from middle of hole

What always impressed me about this hole is all the contrasting land forms and carry angles. I love how each one was emphasized by Tillinghast’s enormous bunkers. This is a hole where placement and character are rewarded over length and I’m always looking for concepts that work well uphill. This is the best uphill hole that I know.

So how do I use this template?

This hole is all about contrasting angles and reinforcing those angles with impactful bunkering. The bunkering makes each carry angle or diagonal visually stimulating for the player which makes attempting the carry very compelling. Since they have serious depth the bunkers reinforce the strategic value of each shot. The fact that original hole climbs makes the carry and depth even more dramatic, but this concept could make it to a flat site and be just as effective. This is definitely the best par five template that I know of because it involves no water.

Influences:

4th at Bethpage Black
6th at Monterey Peninsula

The List:

#1 Riviera
#2 Redan
#3 Azalea
#4 Road
#5 Peninsula
#6 Serpentine

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Template Series - #5 Peninsula

I’m looking for reproducible ideas, so I will surprise you with some of my choices. I appreciate the comments I’m getting because they are making me think about possibilities.
 
The opening tee shot
I don’t think there is a finer opening hole than the 1st at Pine Valley. What I love is the hole allows you to attack or accept the situation and play a smart. It all comes down to what you’re trying to shoot.

The opening tee shot features 80 yards of fairway straight ahead. On the right side of the hole is an enormous waste area dotted with copses of Pine and Oak. Because the hole is a dogleg right, the waste are creates a spectacular diagonal off the tee that can be flirted with to shorten the hole. The obvious play is straight out with a 3 wood or even rescue club, but the diagonal compels you to consider taking on the corner.

The apprach does not explain the danger
 
As much as I like the tee shot, it’s the approach that is absolutely brilliant. Everything leading to the green is at the same elevation as the green which allows for a running approach. The player has the option of playing short to remove the trouble at the sides and back and trying to get up and down for par. Par is tough from here, but possible, but you’ve eliminated any big number by being prudent.

But if you are trying to open with a solid par or birdie, you are more likely to attack the green and that is when you bring the potential for disaster into the equation. The green is deep and the pins tend to be towards the back. While the green is wide open at the front and tremendously inviting, the green narrows as you move towards the back making an aggressive approach very dangerous.

What I particularly like is how the drop off gets steeper the further back you go since the green is also narrowing at the same time. It’s a very subtle way to create something nasty that appears almost easy on the approach. I love the idea of lulling people into a massive error in judgment and this concept delivers that in a large way.

This hole is easy to build on any ground making this a very clever template.

So how do I use this template?

The hole is so easy to re-create that it begs the question of why is this not more commonly used. The key factors are the opportunity to play aggressively over the diagonal which allows players to attack and take risk, the availability of an easy longer and safer route around the trouble, the approach is inviting and on the same grade as the green, the green has enough depth to require players playing deeper into the green, there is nothing to stop the ball from rolling over the edge, the fall off gets worse as you go back making the most aggressive miss the worst penalized.

Influences:

1st at Pine Valley
9th at Fishers Island
12th at Banff Springs (green site but with River)

The List:

#1 Riviera
#2 Redan
#3 Azalea
#4 Road
#5 Peninsula