The difficult approach to the 11th
I have become obsessed in understanding how the flow of a golf course influences the way you enjoy a great design. One example is how Cypress Point was a slow build to a wonderful Oceanside climax, to me that reminds me of music or a great book. Where I’m more interested is how to use flow to effect the way a player thinks.
Darwin was a fan of Hunter’s book ‘The Links’ – but in the book Hunter argued that the 10th at St. Andrew’s (I believe it was 10th or maybe the 9th) was great golf hole. Darwin said he couldn’t possibly believe that, it was a non-descript breather. But Darwin said it would be a crime to touch the hole, it came at a natural point in the round (between some very challenging/confounding holes coming in and then going out) and its place in the greater scheme of the golf course was perfect. His thoughts are similar to Simpson’s who believed that the ideal golf course must possess at least one bad or odd golf hole
This got me thinking of Merion, a difficult start, a breather or shorter stretch, and a big nasty tough finish. I was at Merion last year and there is something special in the way Wilson has presented his eighteen holes. I was taken by the way every hole fitted together, but more so about how the course unravelled like a three act play. The first six holes are a build of difficulty to the 5th and 6th, where precision is paramount. He then takes down the distance with a run of short holes which are fraught with difficulty and lots of options. It is the thinking part of the course. It also presents the most pressure for a good player, since good players feels they should score well and gets really dejected when the inevitably drops too many shots. Finally Wilson comes in with a really tough finish getting progressively harder to the extremely difficult 18th. Each shot is more difficult than the last finishing with the iron to 18. The pressure and build to the final shot is almost epic.
The bunkering on the 3rd
Merion left me wondering if this flow happened with the holes just working out that way, or if this was an ingenious technique to mentally test and manipulate the player’s emotions. Most architects typically try to build the round like a good story leading to a climax. There usually try to build through moments of excitement interspersed with fun holes (peaks and valleys) along the way; all leading to something more dramatic or clever at the end. Merion’s lessons are very poignant and very eye-opening in regards to flow. The next time I do a routing I will test the flow as well as the holes to see if I can offer something unique.