Sunday, May 07, 2006

Routing to Add Difficulty Part 2

In routing to add difficulty I wanted to discuss four (possibly more) different ways to make a hole more difficult by the way you place holes on the land. So far I have touched on using crowns and using cross-slopes to add difficulty in a routing. The lesson at Garden City is one of the best and easiest to use because the situation exists on almost every property right down to the gently sloping ones. The rest usually require natural undulation to exist.

The third method is the placement of strong topography right in the landing zone, so that the landing zone is in fact much tighter and much more challenging than the fairway width. I have two different examples of this, one is using a valley style hole that has the placement of the rolls of the hills make the tee shot tough to negotiate, the other uses huge bowls eating into a huge plateau to make placement important.

The first example is the 11th hole at Oakland Hills. The large roll on the left extends right across the fairway and deflects any tee shots to the right side of the hole. What makes this extra tough is the right side roll is where the bunkers are cut. The difficulty lies in trying to thread the tee shot by the bunkers by playing a draw, having to try take it down the left and risk a downhill lie in the rough, or having to lay short of them and having a brutally long approach into an elevated green. Convention would have had the fairway go further right creating a natural bowl shaped fairway, but when Ross kept the fairway left he made one of the better driving holes in golf.

The second example is the 16th at the National Golf Links of America. The tee shot is played to a huge plateau starting 180 yards out. What makes the shot fun is that three 30 foot deep bowls that eat into the plateau. The first one on the front right has a large bunker cut into it and it frames the tee shot. The one on the left is 240 yards from the tee and collects a tentative tee shot. The last one on the right behind the first one is 300 yards and collects the longest player playing too aggressive. The fairway runs the ball all the way to the bottom into the left bowl and far bowl and the player is left with a difficult and very blind approach to the punchbowl green. The alternating bowls make accuracy off the tee important on this hole.

The second type of hole is the use of the plateau. My examples involve green sites, but landing areas can also be a plateau and usually involve an elevated tee shot over a valley played to a plateau on the other side. But it is the plateau green that adds the most difficulty when used in a routing. The plateau green can come in two styles, the green that is set above the grade but is still visible to the player on the approach, or it can be much higher and not visible from the landing area. When there are no trees immediately behind these are often called skyline greens, because that is all you can see. The difficulty comes first from gauging the club required and then from having the ball repelled away from the green if the green is missed. If you take the extreme case at Pinehurst, sometimes the ball is repelled off the green even when you the hit green itself, but now we are heading more into the detailing than the routing of a hole.

The first example is sometimes called the volcano green site, because of its appearance. The 2nd at Pine Valley involves an uphill approach to a green that falls off in all directions. The green is fronted by deep and intimidating front hazards putting pressure on the approach, but missing wide or long leaves the ball well down a slope with the green running severely away. This is not a long hole, but is still one of the toughest in golf.

The second example is the finest par four I know, the 14th at Royal Dornock called Foxy. The green is about 10 feet above the fairway. The difficulty is in finding this green with your approach. In this instance the approach and sides are all cut short which means only a great approach will stay on the green, the rest are left to run off the slope and stay down in the valley leaving a touch chip back up the slope to try save par. The front and side slopes work to create almost a crown effect with the front of the green adding further difficulty to the approach, this is an extremely challenging hole with no bunkers.

There are others, like leaving uneven or rumpled land in the landing areas, and running greens with the natural slope which is away from play, but I think many of these examples cross over into detailed design. So I’ll leave this subject there…..for now


Guy said...

So many good holes like these come from breaking the normal "rules" of golf architecture. And yet every architect has his or her own set of inviolable principles ... I'd be interested to know what lines, if any, the author refuses to cross.

Ian Andrew said...


I currently have no rules on routing. I will admit the idea of using holes that work against the grade or playing to crowns are not strong draws for me unless circumstance steps in. The cross-slope hole, like a good natural redan site, are holes I instinctively want to find.

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- Greg