6. Merion (Hugh Wilson) – greatness on a small property
Merion may be the best routing in golf. On such a small property Hugh Wilson was able to find a flawless layout. The fun of the golf course routing is that it has a number of unconventional aspects to it: all par fives are in the first four holes, there is a long run of shorter holes from 7 through to 13, all climaxed by a grinding finishing 5. It works so well for two reasons; the first is that Wilson has simply used the best available holes and not been influenced by convention. The second is the rhythm of the course, it works almost like a three act play. The player is given a firm introduction to the course and it’s challenges in the opening 6, he is given an opportunity to try and be much more aggressive or to even score if he dares for the next 7, and the final act is survival. Merion gives the player all they can handle in the final 5 to see how good they really are.
7. Royal County Down (Morris, Coombe and Colt) – sense of place
Royal County Down has bearded bunkers, brilliant purple heather, dark green gorse, magnificent golden dunes, the slate grey sea, spectacular deep purple mountains and a beautiful red brick hotel fronting the town itself. The architecture is great on it’s own, but the surroundings simply add to the experience and make Royal County Down one of the finest places to be anywhere. If you can combine great architecture into the right surroundings, you have magic. These are the courses that stay with us the rest of our lives.
The lesson is to find the right site first.
8. National Golf links of America (MacDonald) – understanding strategies of the great holes
Many people believe there are no new ideas to bring to the game, that everything has been done, and the newness is more the ability of the architect to adapt old ideas to new situations. Charles Blair MacDonald (a Canadian!) adapted the great holes and strategies to create the National Golf Links of America. The lesson is simple, to be a great architect you must study and understand the ideas of the great holes before you can design them yourself. MacDonald’s adaptations are some of the finest, and some of his more innovative uses of them are well worth studying too.
9. Cypress Point (MacKenzie) – blending in and standing out
If you polled the architects Alister MacKenzie would likely be chosen as the greatest architect in history. He had a wonderful knack of incorporating natural features, and in particular natural hazards, into the golf course. At Cypress Point his bunkers were the key. The blended naturally right into the dunes, they contrasted wonderfully while mimicking the tree tops, and they added an elegant flair to the ocean side holes without competing with all the natural beauty. The artistry of his bunkers is breathtaking, yet for all their character and movement, they still magically blend comfortably into the surroundings.
10. Riviera (Thomas) – asking the player to work the ball
George Thomas probably combined strategy and beauty as well as any architect. He was a master strategist, who rewarded a player for positional play, but liked to make the player work to get the ball into position. There is no course quite like Riviera, where a player is continuously encouraged to hit either a draw or fade off the tee. Where the course excels further is the continuous balance back and forth so that no player has an advantage; many of the holes call for fade from the tee and then the draw on the approach, the next hole will often ask for the exact opposite strategy so no player can gain an advantage. He expertly used a combination of Eucalyptus trees, bunkers, slopes of the greens, and the baranca to make the player shape their shots. Riviera is a remarkably well balanced test of shot-making.
5 Modern Ones Worth Studying: http://thecaddyshack.blogspot.com/2006/03/5-modern-courses-worthy-of-study.html