Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Redan

The redan at Shinnecock Hills

My favorite hole concept is the redan. I feel there should be a redan green on almost all courses because of the interest it creates for the player. The redan is one concept that favors the shot maker as opposed to the bomber.

The “redan” can be described as quite an efficient technique in thwarting enemy approaches. The use of this unusual structure has caused many failed attempts at gaining on this position. This description could be describing the old fortification like the Great Redan in Sebastopol Russia, or it could also describe the most unusual and effective defense posed entirely by a green complex at North Berwick.

Horace Hutchinson interestingly described the front bunker complex as the redan. “The redan is a deep steep-faced bunker close to the green, but is of no great length or breadth. The driven ball may go nicely to the right of it and curl round as to lie on the green without crossing the great escarpment of the fortification at all. But it has an aspect of no little terror as one faces it from the tee."

He is right, that the name of the hole comes from the angle of the bunkering and the diagonal they create since they are similar to angle of the redan fortification. But in today’s context the name redan is used to describe the green contours and the concept of a fall away green set on a diagonal. To back Hutcheson up, the French word Redan actually means “jagged notch.” A redan is the extension outward of the wall between two parapets. The extension is projected outwards in the shape of a “V” and the redan is used to describe the extension. The tooth on a saw, if that helps you visualize it.

The redan hole is found in North Berwick and is thought to be a creation of the green keeper David Strath. The redan is a single shot of around 180 yards to a green that falls away diagonally to the left of the hole. The hole is partially blind over a couple of carry bunkers that provide the line. The left diagonal is defined by the “redan” created by the two deep fronting bunkers. The right has three deep bunkers short right and the green falls off sharply all the way around the back.

Strategically the hole is set up by the diagonal line presented by the front left bunkers, and the player must deal with the hazard, by playing over or around as Hutcheson suggested. Where the hole begins to get clever is that the land falls sharply off at the right, and if a player plays too safe away from the left “redan” bunker, they often end up in one of the three deep bunkers. The recovery shot from this position is the worst on the hole. The best position to miss may be long, but this area has some rough ground and you may come up with a delicate lie. The joy of the hole remains the dilemma from the tee, a high fade to hold the green, or a slight draw to feed the ball, either way it certainly is a fun hole to play. The key to the hole remains in a contour of the green that slopes away and to the back and left. Since there is no backstop or upslope commonly used to receive the ball, judgment and precision are put at a higher premium on the approach shot. The green is slightly funnel shaped so a ball finding the surface will be rewarded unless it comes in too hot to stay on the green, but anything missing the green leaves a tough recovery shot.

This green style has been used on par four’s by architects like Seth Raynor and been copied on countless par threes by Tillinghast, MacDonald, Thomas and Flynn just to name a few. Many copies of the redan were built at well over 200 yards since the architect’s like Flynn felt that length was important to retaining the original strategy. The green itself is an architectural technique, and a technique that should be used much more to combat the current equipment. This is one way to take back some of the technological advantage from the one dimensional “bomber”, and give the advantage back to the shot makers.


Anonymous said...

Nice explanation. Could you give a couple of redan examples on par four and fives please. I would think it's tough to replicate the true nature of the redan outside of a one-shotter since the architect cannot dictate the distance and angle of approach. That's why I would like to know some of the examples-to see how the architects have retained some of the integrity. Thanks.
Peter W. Sayegh

Northshore Golfer said...

Ian, I am a bit confused by your statement that Redans don't have an upslope to stop the ball. Several Raynor's I've played - Shepard's Hollow and Shore Acres enjoy a huge right side upslope which will recieve and then kick the ball left.
Peter, Dick and Tim Nugent built a short par 4 with a redan at Willowhill (just north of Chicago) It works because the hole is a drivable dogleg left (about 340, 300 as the crow flies across the inside dogleg bunkers)par 4. They added a small upper right plateau pin placement (to counter the fact that 99% will be using high irons/wedges on their approach) and replaced the right bunkers with a grass hollow - which actually make recovering from the right really tough unless the pin is all the way back left.

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