Monday, 15 December 2014

The Year in Review - Part Three - Golf Architecture

The Year in Golf Architecture

Larry Packard Passes

January began on a sad note when ASGCA member and past president Larry Packard died. He began his career with Robert Bruce Harris in the 1940’s and worked on approximately 600 courses in his lifetime, including Innisbrook, where he was living at the time of his passing.

The Donald - Part One - Buys Doonbeg

After a long and drawn out battle trying to build a second course and fighting new wind turbines, Donald Trump took his bag of marbles to Ireland and purchased the Doonbeg Resort. He planned a major rebuild of the course.

Pebble Beach – To rebuild the 14th and 17th greens

I’ve always found the 14th to be one of the more interesting and iconic greens I have seen. I understand the need to have more pin locations, but I’m fearful of the results since the recent bunker work seems to be driven by easing maintenance rather than preserving or restoring architecture. If the right side is indeed softened to for pin locations, the fear of a ball backing up that same slope and going “around” the front bunker will be lost. The hole will not be the same after. [i]Please be careful with this one![/i]

The Donald – Part Two - The Meltdown in Miami

There was no question that Doral had lost its teeth. So the Donald after buying the resort decided that it needed an update. He made sure to mandate Gil Hanse to return “The Blue Monster”. What nobody anticipated was the combination of 30 mph winds and the early firmness that made the course tough as nails. The golf course was still young, which meant that the greens were as hard as a rock and the wind was clearly redirecting the approach shots. Add some young turf on the banks of the ponds and anything close to the water went in. Only 14 guys were under par after the first round, then only four after the second round. Trump triumphantly said, “They haven’t even set it up hard.” The Monster was back...

George Bahto Passes

George Bahto was a friend. He wrote a remarkable book on the life and architecture of Charles Blair Macdonald called The Evangelist of Golf. He was in the middle of writing another on the life and work of Seth Raynor which I hope to see published with help from friends. He was also a wonderful architect in his own right who preserved and restored numerous works by Macdonald, Raynor and Banks. He is missed by all of us.

Water – The New Oil

The California Drought made a clear statement of how scarce the resource is in certain regions. There are clear limitations to how far this resource can be stretched when storage along the Colorado continues to decline. We did see some closures, mostly through economics, but water was brought up in closures for the first time that I can remember. It’s not a stretch to see a future where “water” limits the new development of golf and that excess run-off or rain become the only source. It’s quite likely that water – and not a real estate crash – that will end China’s golf boom.

Tree Replacement? – Part One - Ike’s Tree

News flooded out pre-Masters that Ike’s Tree on the 17th had come down. Many pointed out that the tree’s relevance had pretty much ended when technology allowed the ball to carry the tree on all but the coldest or windiest days. But traditionalists like Gary Player said, ”Purchase the biggest replacement known to mankind & replace it. The hole is not the same without Ike's Tree.” I honestly thought they would, but I love the fact they have not.

The R&A’s Lead Architect Dawson announces his Retirement

I should be nicer to him because this is for all the right reasons (family and health), but his constant tinkering with the Open Courses and not addressing the ball has driven me nuts for the last 20 years. His organization – and the USGA shares blame – has failed to address the problems that impact everything from safety through to cost. They had a simple answer called the ball, but instead he tinkered with the Open Courses in the name of relevance – while telling us there was nothing was wrong with technology.

The Donald – Part Three – Let the Threats Begin

One of the things many of us remember about the original build of Doonbeg was the environmental restrictions created by a microscopic snail found in key sections of the property. The Donald plans to rebuild the golf course, but none of that will make sense unless he can persuade the Irish government to overturn the current environmental status of the property. I never could figure out how he got it done in Scotland – so anything is possible – but I don’t believe lightening will strike twice.

The Donald – Part Four – Trump Turnberry

Donald Trump continues to expand his presence in golf by purchasing one of the most famous and highly ranked courses in the UK. There are more than few critics who have suggested that this was the only way he was ever going to see any Open on any of his properties.  The Donald talked about how much he revered this golf course, “Some of the greatest championships in the history of golf have taken place at Turnberry,” Trump said. “And the golf course itself is considered one of the greatest in the world. Some rate it as the best in the world. I’m not going to touch a thing unless the Royal and Ancient ask for it or approve it. I have the greatest respect for the R&A and for Peter Dawson. I won’t do anything to the golf course at all without their full stamp of approval.”

The Donald – Part Five - Pinehurst

From the @RealDonaldTrump, “I think Pinehurst is Ugly”

Sustainability - The US Open at Pinehurst

This was the singular most important moment in golf course architecture. The USGA – to their credit - was presenting a course where sustainability was a critical element in the redevelopment and restoration of this famous course. For those like myself that think sustainability is now a critical factor in any golf project, this was the landmark moment we need to help steer our clients towards the future. We needed it to look good, play well and hoped to have the media to support the “bigger picture” on this one. While the Augustafiles were aghast, there were lots of great articles written to explain and support what was accomplished. It still ran headlong into old and tired ideals of what golf should be, but it remained a great moment for golf architecture.

Is the China Golf Boom Over?

We all knew that things had slowed down, but as Dan Washburn (credit him for most of the information below) pointed out, that still meant China was building more courses than anyone else. Then very recently the slowdown became almost a shutdown with very few new projects proceeding. The government began to actually enforce the moratorium placed in 2004. They began to use satellite imagery to find projects and have even turned a number of illegal projects back into raw land. The banking industry became a lot stricter about the rules for lending on real estate developments. Speculating on real estate has begun to decline. Administrators in smaller provinces, who allowed the projects to happen assuming the distance from Beijing would insulate them from being noticed, became fearful when courses began to disappear. Finally, China has seen severe water shortages in particular regions and are becoming more serious about reducing any unnecessary consumption - golf is an easy target moving forward.

Will a Reversible Course stay reversible?

Tom Doak and Brian Slawnick of Rennassaince Golf have been commissioned to build a reversible course. It’s an interesting challenge for the two designers who will both concentrate on a single direction. The concept is not new. Westchester by Travis was among those that were designed to be reversible. Intrestingly, even the Old Course eventually ended up played in one preferred direction.

Happy Birthday Eden Course

After seeing the front nine greens at the Eden Course this year I could help but think that they were in the discussion for the best set of greens in golf. One of the clear standouts was the 5th green. So what do you do to celebrate the 100th anniversary – rebuild the 5th … @#%#

Oh Canada – Part One - Cabot Cliffs will be Stunning

Bill Coore has said, [i]“If we don’t deliver a great course on a site like this, then it’s our fault.” [/i]All bets are on this one being a course of a generation and by a longshot the greatest course Canada has. Like everyone else, I can’t wait to see and play this course.

New Neighbors for Old Courses

Hey USGA, question for you … What’s the other impact of a ball flying too far? …that is flies further off line too! I expect the high profile court at Quaker Ridge could see a new precedent for an American clubs. The Islington ruling has had an impact on Canadian golf clubs. Imagine if it becomes the responsibility of the club to keep the balls on their own property… it’s a frightening thought.

Oh Canada – Part Two – Mickelson National Club of Canada … seriously?

OK, I laughed at the name. I laughed even harder at the idea of an 8,000 yard course [i]“for members play every day”[/i] It’s not completely Phil’s fault since he inherited the water filled layout and project from Johnny Miller, but in an era of “Tee it Forward”, this feels like a dinosaur.

Baltusrol Designated a National Historical Landmark

The designation was bestowed by the Department of the Interior for both of Baltusrol's courses. They have been deemed important designs of Golden Age golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast. It’s nice to see courses recognized as being important cultural landscapes because they are. My only question becomes, should there be any restrictions placed on a designated course. In my case, I have always believed Highlands Links should get the same designation and be frozen in time after restoration, but that’s because the people of Canada own the course.

Olympic Golf Course – Part One - Fazio Consults at Kasumigaseki

The club’s comments,“He has a great reputation, as we know from his role at Augusta National. He emphasized that he would respect what we have here. He will balance the natural feeling here with the improvements needed to challenge the best players.” It’s interesting that the club controls the agenda and not the International Golf Federation.

TPC Scottsdale Renovations

This was Tom Weiskopf`s original design (one which I liked), so it was his course to alter as he saw fit, but the Augustaification of this course was truly confusing to me.

Albert Warren Tillinghast – enters the World Golf Hall of Fame

It was about time! I’ve long been a fan of Tillinghast’s approach of building golfscapes. Whether he found holes, or completely created everything, he always managed to meld this back into the surroundings. His visions were often bolder and brasher than his contemporaries and often took an average site and created something magical. He among the best of the best in golf architecture and in my opinion should have been recognized the very first year.

Dr. Bradley Klein named Donald Ross Award Recipient from ASGCA

Brad's writings and books have helped inform and shaped opinions about golf architecture. He has done an excellent job of drawing attention to the history of architecture as well as push and prod the present golf architects for better answers and an improved vision for the future of golf architecture. Congratulations Brad.

The Donald – Part Six – Turnberry Renovations

The Donald announces major changes to Ailsa's ninth, 10th and 11th holes - which will see the ninth become "the most spectacular hole in all of golf" I think we`ve all looked at that cove and seen the possibilities, but I also think we easily underestimate the qualities of the ninth and how it fits into the flow of the course. I get this change, but don’t think it’s as necessary as other do.

The Donald – Part Seven - Tiger Woods Design

Dubai, Cabo, Houston … he may be one of the busiest architects in the business. But the combination of Donald Trump and Tiger Woods in Dubai is as intriguing prospect. Particularly when they provided lines like this,“Bringing Tiger Woods to Dubai is a testament to the luxury and quality that can be anticipated at AKOYA Oxygen – where fashion meets the outdoors, and green really is the new black.” what? ... I have no idea what that supposed to mean, but it made me cringe instinctively.

Olympic Golf Course – Part Two – The course can finally be built …

Judge Eduardo Antonio Klausner said in his decision that there are no new facts justifying a stoppage to the construction of the course … other than they’re done. The bigger question is how long after the Olympics will this course become development. My over/under is five years. Glad I saw it, even if only during construction, because it’s really good.

Tree Replacement – Part Two – Pebble Beach’s 18th Fairway Trees

Nothing made me happier than seeing that one of golf’s stupid trees on the ground. I’ve never been able to comprehend how anyone at any point thought this was good architecture when all of the greatest architects have described this type of tree as anything from fluky to nuisance to ridiculous. Come on wind, blow the other dumb tree down too.

From “0” to Hero in one Commission

David Kidd has seen his share of criticism of the years, including Tom Doak’s “0” for his Castle Course, all the while his career has progressed steadily along with a series of interesting projects. The end of the year brought praise for Gamble Sands and the awarding of the most anticipated commission - the second course at Sand Valley. You could argue that this was his year

... or was it the Year of Donald Trump?

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