Tuesday, 13 December 2016

2016 The Year in Review - Part 2 – Golf Architecture

9th Hole at Turnberry - photo courtesy of Golf Architecture Magazine
I no longer try to follow everything going on in architecture. But here’s my take on what caught my eye and the biggest stories of the year.

Changes to Turnberry

The 9th hole has been turned into an awe inspiring par three playing across the inlet of the ocean. The 10th was should be even better with the green set out at the edge of the cliffs. The new 11th is a tremendous improvement over the old hole as it hugs the rocky seashore and brings the ocean more into play. I had multiple plays at Turnberry in the past and saw the course as bit overrated. But these changes will make a big difference and change the discussion of the course. If only the ownership was different …

World Cup goes to Kingston Heath

Nothing thrills us more than when an event is played on one of the best designed courses in the game. Australia regularly delivers and Kingston Heath was the highlight this year. The course features superbly contoured greens, excellent use of tight turf in the surrounds and some of the best bunkering in the World. The fact that I’ve played there helps me understand the conundrums throughout. Kingston Heath is a master class in how to make a flat course spectacular.

Augusta National – Part One

The $27 million price tag, if true, to lengthen the 13th is a reminder of how much money The Masters generates. It provides me with my annual reminder of how much the improvement in equipment is STILL affecting design and renovation of courses.

Pebble Beach – Part One

The 17th went very well, so this should also go well too. They will be leveling off the upper part of the green and enlarging the tier at the back. But more interesting and concerning is how they handle the long contours on the right in an attempt to return a right pin to the green. What it will do is solve the pin location problem the superintendents have had for decades. Once they get that done, they can go back and fix the awful bunkering of recent years.

Course Set-up – Part One

Mark Russell, “We have done the same thing all week. We have been double cutting these greens and double rolling them and trying to get them firmed up. What happened today was just kind of a perfect storm with the weather. We weren't expecting a 20 mph wind all day, and the humidity 30 percent, not a cloud in the sky. And they just, you know, sped up on us.”

I like what he said. They were caught off guard and never intended to make this occur. Some players were angry, but a number said we were all in the same boat. What I can say is it was compelling to watch. At least the balls didn’t move after address …

The Olympic Course was very well received
Gil Hanse – Part One

The Olympic Course Karma has Gil front and centre on every new course project. Mike Kaiser said, "Gil is the front runner for the Sheep Ranch, but it's not a done deal." Essentially Gil is going to do Mike’s next project, whether its Bandon Mini, the 5th course at Bandon Dunes or the 3rd course at Sand Valley. The busiest architect in golf will remain fully booked for the remainder of the decade.

Pebble Beach – Part Two

Starting this month, the rate to play the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links, host of five U.S. Opens has been increased to $525.  If you can afford the experience – do so – it’s worth paying this once for the privilege.

Glen Abbey

The course is going to be developed, it’s only a question of when. David Lea reported, “Oakville council enacted the bylaw on Feb. 1, 2016 after the owner of the golf course (ClubLink) put forward a redevelopment plan that would see the elimination of the golf course in favour of developing approximately 3,200 residential units, approximately 80,000 square feet of office space and 80,000 square feet of retail space.” Course does nothing for me, won’t miss it when it’s gone.

David Kidd Seduced By Media

The following two tweets were issued by David, “I was seduced by the 'harder is better' Tiger proofing ethos sold by the media, incremental alterations are improving playabilityI was seduced by the 'harder is better' Tiger proofing ethos sold by the media, incremental alterations are improving playabilityI was seduced by the 'harder is better' Tiger proofing ethos sold by the media, incremental alterations are improving playability.” He later added,I will own it I'm just telling you where the influence came from, many mag rankings use difficulty as a major factor and I tried to please.” Love the honesty, but a huge mistake to place the blame on the media. Every decision we make as architects are on us, there is always another option and we have that choice.

Gil Hanse – Part Two

Pinehurst’s continues its transition toward more natural settings which began with the highly-acclaimed restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 by Coore and Crenshaw. The critcal and environmental success of that project has led to the next stage. Gil is being asked to rebuild the 4th course and restore the 1st and 3rd courses over a number of years.

7th and 8th at Portrush - courtesy of BBC Sport

Royal Portrush changes

Architect Martin Ebert has created two entirely new holes to replace the seventeenth and eighteenth holes on the Dunluce. The 7th is a pretty long par five playing up a mammoth valley. The drive on the 7th is threatened by a version of Big Nellie (original bunker on 17th) and the green is surrounded by massive dunes. The new eighth is a mid-length par four with a large drop into the valley on the left side. Players are asked to carry some of this feature to set up a better approach angle. These are excellent replacements for the plain finishing holes of the original course.

Tari Iti - courtesy of Golf Architecture Magazine

The Best New Course of the Year- Tara Iti

Designed by Tom Doak, the combination of an outstanding site and Tom’s penchant for interesting and unusual ground based details make it the only course with the potential to find its way into the Top 100 in the World.
Bluejack National - courtesy of the club
Runner Up - Bluejack National

I really liked the golf course a lot. The Tiger Woods design looks and feels too much like Augusta National and I wish some shaping was just a little more restrained, but they provided ample room to play and enjoy the round. I thought the golf course was really well done. Even more impressive is their concept of a modern club, this is the club I would join if I lived in Houston.

Renovation of the Year – Piping Rock

There are lots of great projects to choose from a vast selection of really brilliant architects. Moraine by Keith Foster, Winged Foot East by Gil Hanse, Tom Fazio at MPCC (Dunes) and Tom Doak’s work at Shoreacres, but the standout in most eyes is the work at Piping Rock by Bruce Hepner.

Architect of the Year – Gil Hanse

What a year … Olympic Course turned out great, opened Mossy Oak, has a new project in Georgia, built Streamsong (Black) and is strongly rumored to build the next Kaiser project. Throw in commissions at Winged Foot West, Southern Hills, Oakland Hills and the rebuild of Royal Sydney.

Most Anticipated Openings

Sand Valley by Coore and Crenshaw
Streamsong (Black) by Gil Hanse
Meadowbrook by Andy Staples

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