Monday, 10 December 2012

Interview with Buffalo Golfer

Turns out the interview was posted over a month back.

It can be found here:

an excerpt:

3. What are your favorite course/holes and why?


"Anything course full of choices stands out in my mind. St. Andrew’s remains the best example of what “most” golf courses “should” be like. The architecture is flexible. If you want to limit the damage you can tack your way around all the trouble, but if you want to shoot a score you must bring the hazards and complications into play to do so. The lower you try and go the more difficulty you will have to overcome. That is the ideal for “most” golf courses. The best examples of this type are St. Andrew’s, The National Golf Links of America and Royal Melbourne West.

I also admire courses like Pine Valley and Shinnecock Hills as the very best the game has to offer. Those two courses still possess the fairway width that allows players to try and play for a favourable angle or position. They are tough as nails in places but eminently. Where I struggle are courses like Merion, Bethpage Black and The Olympic Club where a great layout has been narrowed to a point where the brilliant strategies are lost in deep rough and the game is a one dimensional test of execution."

Laval-sur-le-lac Blue Course Retrospective Part 22 - 18th Hole

Remaining Schedule for the Retrospective Series

Tuesday - Designing for the Canadian Open
Wednesday - The Flexible Set-up
Thursday - Final Thoughts

Friday - Year in Review Series Begins (Part 1 of 6)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Landscapes Article about Historical Golf Course Restoration

The article is by Cecelia Paine and Kristin Brown and talks about Restoration of Historic Landscapes using golf courses as the primary example. I'm featured ahead of the article on a small segment and then includd in the peice. The pictures are all of St. George's and Highlands Links, the best known of my restoration work.

Click on each to enlarge and read

My Article in Golf Business Canada

Click on each to enlarge and read

Laval-sur-le-lac Blue Course Retrospective Part 20 - 16th Hole

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Today I sent a letter to the ASGCA

Today I sent a letter to our association, it reads the following:

One of the great questions we face is when to take a stand.

Most issues are very personal so it’s very difficult for an organization to take a stance on something that that may be important to some and not important to others. Preservation of important historical work has always been a contentious area among ASGCA members because not all of us share the same perspective. Some think evolution is important and others like me would rather see the most important works preserved for future generations to study.

While I may not personally like what some architects choose to do with historical courses, I had never seen a proposal so egregious that I thought we as an organization needed to take a stand.  Until now. The latest proposal for renovations to the Old Course in my opinion crosses that line. While I’d prefer they let well alone, it is not the entire proposal that compels me to write this letter. It is the desire to alter the contours of the land. Any change to the undulations or green contours shows a complete disregard for St. Andrew’s hallowed ground.

I’m not foolish enough to believe any course should be locked in time or not allowed to make change, but recommending changes to the ground contours and green contours of The Old Course is a travesty.

The architecture of the Old Course represents the wellspring for all of golf course architecture. Almost every exceptional idea brought by a future generation has a direct link back to the Old Course. In particular the Eden hole with its magnificent green is perhaps the single most copied hole in the history of the game. All the great architects who visited St. Andrews have made mention of the qualities and attributes of the Eden Hole and yet three men propose to toss this legacy aside to accommodate a tournament that comes for one week in every five years.

This is a breach of the Public Trust and something we must ask them to reconsider

Yours sincerely,

Ian Andrew

The only way for this madness to stop is for all the architecture societies to openly question the work. 



Saturday, 10 November 2012

Why I Think the Future of Golf Architecture is Bright

Thursday I found myself listening to a 30 minute interview with Camille Paglia. She was in studio to discuss her latest book Glittering Images: A Journey through Art from Egypt to Star Wars. I was a little taken aback when she stated that there had been not a single significant figure of profound influence in the visual arts since the 1960’s. She explained that in architecture and performance art we have seen many important works in recent decades. Even industrial design was in a golden age particularly with products by Apple and others, but the visual arts were artistically dead.

She believes the multimedia revolution of the 1970’s has sapped artistic creativity and innovation in the arts. In the past sculptures and painters spent a great deal of time perfecting their skills long before they achieved artistic success. When you look at an artist like Monet and marvel in the length of time it took to perfect his techniques before he began to create his greatest and most admired work. While there were a few prodigies like Picasso, most great artists were Masters who spent decades refining their skills and honing their craft. Yet today’s society seems unwilling to consider the long route to greater success.

Camille felt today’s artist doesn’t know how to build or create anything with their hands. Computerization and the development of task specific software have revolutionized the ability to generate and illustrate a proposal, but it’s also created a new breed of designer and artist who are using computers to sidestep the process of actually “making” the art. The fear is that art may be stripped down to a thin veneer built around computer generated form.

I’m pretty sure it was Philip Johnston who recently lamented that students are no longer using a pencil to create architectural designs. The latest students are from a new generation of tech savvy kids who utilize the latest software written specifically to generate form. Many architects see this approach to design bypassing the essential intuitive stage of sketching, doodling and thinking with broad brush strokes. Once you turn to hard and rigid lines, you tend to turn to the logic side of the brain and use what you know best rather than take a creative risk.

One of the negative aspects of the internet is that designers look at what their contemporaries are doing and simple copy. They apply the same “visuals” to their own work and fail to realize the success of the project they are copying has more to do with how it’s played and less to do with how it looks.

I’ve always believed that it’s impossible to strive for something meaningful without philosophically understanding what you are trying to accomplish. Over time I’ve come to believe that you “can” design in emotion, rhythm, etc. into your work, but it requires understanding how each of those emotions works in built form and assessing why other examples have elicited that response. It does not guarantee you will receive the reaction you hope to gain, because emotions are personal, but you will have a better chance than those who have not considered how to create an emotional connection.  

And that is the crux of what Camille is saying there is no depth to the art. Modern art lacks any attempt to appreciate or understand the great works of the past and to pay particular attention to why they make us contemplate them.

There is no permanence in modern artist’s approach because their goals are so focuses in the now, which is essentially an immediate response to what they’ve done. Because of this newfound approach Camille suggests that much of the current visual arts are done to elicit a reaction rather than contemplation. Camille felt almost modern visual art work suffers from trying to be shocking rather than even provocative.

Perhaps that is why the scale of the projects has increased, to make up for the fact the intellectual reach has declined. Artists have gone bigger and bolder in almost an attempt to say “damned it, pay attention to me,” and not because their concept or ideas need a larger canvas to convey the message but they are literally down to their last trick. In many ways golf architecture is particularly guilty of this artistic sin.

To this day I’m still left breathless when I go to the McMichael Gallery to look at Tom Thompson’s study pallets. They are often the light on a single section of leaf. When you follow a dozen of these studies all covering different aspects of the work and then see the full canvas, you realize that your reaction to the work is not just to “the painting”, but rather to the full composition and all its small and fully realized details that draw you deeper into the work. I’ve sat down occasionally and gone from leaf to leaf.

I think golf architecture is a much better place than most arts.

There has been some profound and influential work done by the golf designers of this generation. The influence of that work is clear on the next generation. Interestingly, I think the economic troubles of today are good for the long-term quality of golf design. With less work, there has been an essential “thinning of the herd.” This has also played a role in the future designers too since they have been reduced to a very small group. Only the best and most serious students of architecture will manage to last and see the other side of this decade plus long drought we can expect.

Think of it this way, they are the ones who will be spending a decade or more out on site working on their craft. Think of them as a group of potential Monet’s or Tom Thompson’s working on an individual leaf each day perfecting that one and moving on to the next part of the composition. All that repetition and experience makes them butter prepared for the opportunity that will eventually come.

Unlike the visual arts there is no fear of the computer or multimedia ruining Golf Design because we are running hard in the opposite direction. I see the busy and successful architects using less “pencil” (forget computers) and spending any additional time in the field running equipment or even shovel. We have gone back to roots on so many levels.


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Restore, Renovate or Rebuild?

St. George's was a Restoration
My first work on my own was a couple of projects involving courses of historical significance. I was a very vocal proponent for the preservation of historically significant work and the clubs were interested in preserving their architectural, so the decisions were only about how to rebuild the features so they would be mistaken for original.

That work was very well received by other clubs and it led to quite a bit of new renovation work. Most of that work was once again on courses of historical significance, but in many cases the courses had major alterations that could not be reversed and I was now required to make some decisions.  This became my first taste of renovation work and what I concentrated on was getting some of the original ideas to the new holes and making all the work to look like the original architecture and hide what had happened. I still preserved the remaining original features but this began the understanding of I would be asked to interpret what I was working with. I still tended not to stray too much from the original architecture and prided myself on re-creating what was lost, even in new locations.
Weston was a renovation

I remember calling Bruce Hepner to talk about restoration and renovation work because I was conflicted about some of the decisions I was being asked to make. Bruce and I share many similar opinions  on the big picture items like green recapturing (always), grassing lines (move them out where appropriate or possible), tree removal (necessary for sunlight, playability, views, health) and tees (more options equals better golf). We talked about everything from alterations to the original design for agronomic and technical issues through to dealing with the distance the ball travelled. Bruce helped me with some perspective on where to draw the line. Until you face the conflicts yourself, its hard to understand how difficult some of these decisions are early on.

Over time I began to get calls from other clubs where there was no architectural legacy to preserve. In this instance I took a much broader look at the architecture and set out to make the course more interesting to play. I looked at adding ground game options, playability, improving the strategic locations of bunkers, aesthetics and growing environments. I felt that was a critical role we had to play because we had more opportunity to address those issues than the superintendent because we were seen as impartial. I felt more comfortable with making bigger changes to these courses because often the routing was fine but the architecture was rudimentary.

Until recently I never really considered a complete rebuild. I always thought that I could solve the worst problems with the occasional rebuild of a hole or two and then a major renovation to the rest of the holes to make them more interesting to play.

Rebuilding of Laval's Blue Course was a Complete Rebuild

I have been involved in three in recent times.
 In Laval the club you had one of Canada’s elite clubs. They had a very disappointing second course with one of the worst routings I have ever seen for the second nine holes and two styles of architecture between the two nines. What they did have was the money, interest and second course to put all the club play on to allow them a complete rebuild of their second course.

The second involved an expropriation where they needed to replace nine. They rebuilt a very congested and short public course into a range and nine new holes. What I did do here was re-create the interesting greens for the original layout so they felt they still had part of their original course.

The final one will become the most common source of rebuilds for me. I have a club that has huge agronomic issues with its greens requiring a complete rebuild of all 18 greens. I have used this a s a chance to re-asses the architecture of the course and change the style of architecture to a course where the ground is no in play. The course is on an exceptional piece of land with a solid routing and weak architecture. I used the complete rebuild of the green sites to change the course.

Great architecture, regardless of who is the designer should be preserved or retained. Poor architecture, even by someone famous, requires you to consider your options and often suggest improvement. Rebuilding is a last resort when something is so completely screwed up that your better of starting again.

So how do I decide?  Since I never want to drive someone into bankruptcy, its 50% architecture and 50% economics. Regardless of your desires as an architect, you must put the long term financial health of the club or ownership first to ensure they can continue to operate a business.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A Different Look at Course Rankings

Delemere Forest's 15th
Boxing has the World Boxing Council, The World Boxing Association, the International Boxing Federation and the World Boxing Organization and because of this we pay no attention to them. Golf has lists from Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, Golfweek, Links Magazine, Scoregolf (for Canada), Golf Monthly, etc. etc.

To be frank I only follow just a single list, Golf Magazine’s Top 100 in the World. It provides me with a rough idea of what I need to see. I have played or walked 70 courses on their list. I figured it out a few years back that I will never play them all because around a dozen courses don’t match my taste in architecture and I would rather go see an obscure Raynor.
Woodland's 3rd

The original golf course ratings were done by Golf Digest in 1966 and it was put out as a list of the 200 toughest courses. It quickly morphed into a list of the 100 Greatest Courses and eventually became an important issue for the magazine. As the popularity grew, so did the controversy, which in turn drove additional sales and subscriptions. Other magazines saw the popularity and attention Golf Digest was receiving and set out to have their own ratings issue.

Golf Digest eventually set out criteria that asked panelists (now over 1000) to rate courses on the following criteria: Shot Values, Resistance to Scoring, Design Variety, Memorability, Aesthetics, Conditioning and Ambience (added later than the other criteria). My criticism of their list has always stemmed from the fact that all players have to be single digit making resistance to scoring and conditioning too large a focus in their rankings. I’ve played with enough panelists to know this is the case.
Enniscrone's 4th

Golf Magazine started a Top 100 Course in the World list in 1983. They pulled together a group of well-travelled and respected industry members to rank the world’s best courses using their own criteria. The list became as popular as Golf Digest because it opened up more new interesting courses and difficulty seemed to have less impact on the ratings. I particularly liked this one because it took me to places like Crystal Downs.

The two initial rankings complimented each other. This meant there were approximately four to five hundred people rating courses for these publications in the world. But with the birth of dozens of these new lists and each publication branching out into more, we now see thousands of individuals with some sort of rater’s card.

My issue with rankings is the magazines look to control the rankings by dealing with what they refer to as outliers. They want their ranking numbers to be consistent and focused on their view of how the rankings should work.

In my opinion a useful ranking is a smaller well educated group. It contains as many outliers as it does middle of the road personalities. I trust a group like this to wade through and find the special and unusual gems that are worthy of consideration. A list that plays it safe and down the middle is useless to me. The consensus teaches us nothing new.

Like Boxing, there are far too many lists, panels and people rating courses that everything has become noise and I no longer pay attention to any of the lists. I now look for people who can provide me with an outlier’s point of view. On a recent trip I played Delemere Forest simply on a friend’s recommendation and it was one of the greatest golfing experiences I have ever had. Perhaps were now too reliant on lists and I need to travel as others originally did. Pick a spot of interest and play everything and wait for the surprises that do come if you make the effort. We did that in Wales and I had the time of my life and none of those courses were on a list!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Why a Master Plan?


You don’t run a business without a business plan. So why would you renovate your golf course without a comprehensive look at what you are trying to achieve.

I believe this is the one opportunity to talk about the big picture and philosophy of what you are trying to accomplish before you start to look at projects. You need to talk about expectations. You need to address issues like attracting future members. You must talk about how you want the course to play on a day to day basis. Often many of these philosophical questions influence the direction of the Master Plan. Understanding growing environments may be the single most important aspect of this process.

The most important part of Master Planning is having a broad based committee that represents the entire club’s playing membership. If the committee is well struck, the Master Plan process is usually fun and educational since many members of the committee learn a great deal more about the play of other players and the issues a superintendent faces in meeting expectations. Once well educated about both, the process becomes a sorting through all the possibilities to find a solution that fits the culture of the club which must including the financial aspects.

The Master Plan focuses the club on what needs to be addressed or what needs improvement. It helps the membership decide on capitol allocation, which often competes with the clubhouse and other areas with “plans.” It identifies connected projects for efficiencies, provides a breakdown of costs and even includes a recommended phasing plan on how to get the work done within the typical yearly capital allocations available for improvements.

Most clubs have a culture of consistent in house work such as tree removal, grassing changes and tee work. Many superintendents use the plan to find small projects that fit manpower or left over capital in their own budgets. It allows us to take on some smaller projects in short notice if wither the circumstance demand action or the capital surprise opens up a late season opportunity.

My Master Plans happen to include a Master Plan Booklet, which allows new members on the board or committee to read through all the documentation and immediately come up to speed on how the plan was developed. This avoids starting the process again a few years later. I find it helps maintain the focus and avoid personal agendas. It also helps the process continue on through the decade without re-starting as boards change.
After Image from Laval Master Plan

I even recommend all documentation be shared on line with the membership. I provide the plan, images and booklets and suggest they be available at the clubhouse at all times. I also run multiple meetings with the membership at large to help engage the membership by explaining why we need to make the changes we recommend.

I see all of this as a written and illustrated step by step instruction about the club, what problems need addressing, what recommendations have been made, they have images that show what they will all look like, they have breakdowns of what it will cost and finally how will it impact you the member.

That’s why I do them, because the members of the committee and club can read through the entire process and answer all those questions by the time they finish the document and make an informed decision on whether they want to spend money on projects or not.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Tom Peters on Highlands Links

Stan the Man at the 1st Tee
From Tom Peters review on Highlands Links:

"The course is in amazing condition thanks to Hudson and his great crew. They have put the time and effort into putting this little piece of Heaven into such fabulous condition. Kudos to Parks Canada as well for financing the work which has taken the last three or four years. It hasn’t been an overnight wave of the wand type project."

It's been a mixed bag of comments on the conditioning. Some understand the complications and see the improvement. Others compare it to courses in better climates with new turf and larger maintenance budgets.

"In addition to the great restoration work of Mr. Andrew, there have been a couple of other neat touches added to the course. As you approach the first tee you are greeted by Mr. Thompson, or to be more correct, a bronzed statue of the famous architect donated by the Stanley Thompson Historical Society. The other neat touch is a number of 1941 photos of the course showing what it looked like back then. The photos are mounted and being placed in their appropriate locations around the course. It’s the little things that add to the feel of the place."

I wish what had been started four years ago would simply be allowed to progress.

The link to the full article is here: link

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Rubenstein on Defending Par and Laval

Great picture of Lorne from Sympatico Sports

Lorne wrote a wonderful article on defending par. We had an interesting discussion just prior and much of it comes up in the piece. I like the gist of what he said, which is it really can only be defended at the green in a modern context of excessive length.

Here is the full article:  Click Here

"We don't try defend par. I personally believe this is no longer possible if you still want the other 99% of players to enjoy the course. The game is a mess because the ball is out of control and the disparity between players means the games have no relevance to each other even with multiple tees.

At Laval we did shift some of the bunkers further down the holes to deal with longer players. But Mike and I refused to go long and lose the short threes, fours (3 of them) and fives that make the game fun.

What we set out to do is penalize the player who overplays their hand. And our primary defence is in our greens. They are smaller than normal. We also borrowed internal rolls from Augusta National and the edges from Shinnecock Hills to create a tough and varied set of greens.

Mike and I have designed Laval so that it can become much more difficult simply by changing the maintenance practices. You add difficulty by firming up and speeding up the greens, but because they are generally raised surfaces this emphasizes the impact.

Since there is no rough around any of the greens, by firming them up and shaving them shorter they have a far greater impact on the miss. The ball will be running to places where a recovery will become very complicated since there is nothing that contains a miss in most instances.

What we see at Laval is the pins being pushed to the edges where they pass from pin area to fall-offs and this will create a much tougher test. The margin for error can be made quite small with a clever set up.

For the members we simply raise the heights and keep the pins away from the fall offs and the course becomes fun again."

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Rick Young on Highlands Links

15th Hole from unusual angle
"Andrew has been instrumental in that process. The Brantford, Ont., course designer's focus (and passion for the project) since giving Parks Canada a master plan in 2008 was to return the golf course to Stanley Thompson's original design."

"If that's where the green was and that was the shape of the bunker that's what it is today," Hudson added. "Now all 18 holes are done. I've only been here five years but the difference between even three years ago to the shape and where the bunkers are today makes sense with the holes. The bunkering Ian's done is amazing. He's been so hands-on. He had a crew of five here and their work has been inspirational."

The crew of five includes me.... the boys were awesone, I think we did wonderes together with what little we had.

Here is Rick Young's entire piece on Highlands Links:

"None of this goes forward without Ian," applauded Hudson. "In our management scheme up the line not a lot of the Parks Canada folks are golf people but Ian has such a great reputation. He has an effective way of presenting things. Once he did they got it. When we sat with him and my boss's boss and Ian did his presentation he said, 'Wow.' He was on board. Ian's passion for this was huge."

None of this work goes ahead without Graham Hudson. He deserves all the credit for the restoration. He got the funding, which was much harder than you could possibly ever imagine. Kudos to the Park for coming through when things were at their worst.

The last work from Rick:

"Highlands Links is a special place. To me it's one of Canada's most significant golf properties, arguably Thompson's best work and a course golfers should have on their bucket list if not crossed off already. And despite the many questions and work that still remain, the golf course is at a point where I think Thompson would be proud of Highlands Links in its current state.
One thing is certain. The 'wow' factor has returned."

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Baltusrol (Lower)

4th and 18th - photo by Larry Lambrect - courtesy of Links Magazine

Baltusrol is a really good course. There is not a single weak hole, the conditioning is second to none and it is easily a championship test even on a daily basis. I don’t think it’s a top 100 course in the world and this is why…

The par three holes are all the same length. I found none of them to be particularly interesting, including the highly overrated and out of context 4th green. I was stunned that Tillinghast used the par threes as connector holes to help you get to better places where the land was more interesting for par fours and fives. This removes the opportunity to create an exclamation point with the threes making them collectively disappointing.

2nd green - Photo by Russel Kirk, courtesy of Planet Golf

The fours are stunningly similar, long, strong and very well bunkered. The sum of the fours is an impressive examination of whether you can hit great drives and accurate solid approach shots all day. They are repetitive in their presentation and strength. While they do turn in different directions and feature some really solid detail work in the bunkers, nothing memorable beyond a few interesting ditches in play on the 10th and 13th. The 5th is the one that stands out and the first few are memorable for difficulty created by the trees not for the quality of holes.  I will have issues remembering any four after the 5th.

The fives are actually the strength. The 1st and 7th are nothing special, but the final two are the two best holes on the course. I happen to think both are exceptional fives and perhaps that is what has makes the course memorable in many eyes. The final hole is brilliant, although I wish the fairway came to the pond on the tee shot.

I admire the course as a test of golf, the exceptional conditioning, the fine bunker work and the fact there is not a single weak or poor hole on the course. That’s rare in golf. But I was disappointed that there was not one exceptional hole that belongs in the discussion of the best of the game. The uniformity of “green colour” only reinforced the sameness that overwhelmed me. I admire the course, but there wasn’t a single element that I will take from it to my own designs and that is one of my critical measures of excellent design.


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A Return to Bethpage Black

The 4th at Bethpage Black

For context, I played the course about five years ago.  I’ll begin by sharing my impressions from five years back.

I was really love the scale of the golf course. The width of the tree corridors was massive almost completely taking the trees out of play on almost every home creating a wonderful backdrop of mature Oaks. The undulations in the become the focus because your allowed to see so much of the roll in the land.

Tillinghast has always impressed me with his understanding of scale and at Bethpage he backed this up with massive bunkering and some really impressive carry lines from the tee. He also built really wide fairways that fit the scale and allowed you to take on as little or as much as you dared. While the golf course was tough as nails, because of how penal it was around the greens, it was also playable because of all the room away from the aggressive lines. You could simply tack wide, lay short and play for par/bogie all day. It was a great version of penal golf.

Forward to Monday

I unimpressed with the new presentation of the course. The fairways have been narrowed to around 22 yards and while that may be the “appropriate” set-up for the US Open it made the course one-dimensional. There was no longer any room off the tee to play a safer line. Even the carry lines were unattainable because of the lack of width in the fairway, which meant all but the perfect ran through into the rough. Because there is rough between fairway and green, where there aren’t super deep bunkers, you couldn’t run an approach on. The golf course has been reduced to a test of execution, which is the most boring architecture of all. The round was drudgery and very uninspiring.

I was tremendously disappointed in what the course has become. The fairway width was the key ingredient to prevent the course from crossing the line from possible to impossible.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Mentioned in Golf Architecture Magazine

Adam's Image of the Dragon and Fireball

"The two year project has seen Andrew, assisted by the course's in-house crew, rebuild most of Thompson's original bunkers, plus a considerable amount of tree clearing and green space recapture.
Andrew completed the project in early September by restoring Thompson's bunkers on the par five sixth hole, known as 'Mucklemouth Meg', and by returning the two bunkers on the right side of the par three fifth green to Thompson's vision of a dragon and a fireball."
Adam Lawrence has written a small piece for Golf Course Architecture magazine that sums up the completion of the bunker work at Highlands Links. The rest of the article can be found here: Golf Architecture Magazine Article
I spent a wonderful couple of days with Adam that included this funny Facebook post: Facebook Link. We played golf, had a couple of dinners and he was even kind enough to buy me a bottle of wine for my birthday.