Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Technology Part 3 – Defending without length

I couldn't find this post in the archives - I think I may have forgoten to post it when it didn't become an article for a magazine.

So what can an architect do to add difficulty without adding length and till maintain playability? Island greens, more water, forced carries, long rough, fescue and fast greens all add difficulty and 6 hour rounds, so what are the alternatives?

1. Make the player think. Alister Mackenzie said, “A first class hole must have the subtleties and strategic problems which are difficult to understand, and are therefore extremely likely to be condemned at first sight even by the best of players.” Giving the players options and tempting situations keeps them a bit off balance, even with the equipment they have today. If the strategy is simple and straight forward they will play to their strengths, but if a hole is full of enticing options they will often entertain the most foolish line trying to gain an advantage on the course. The 10th at Riviera is the perfect example, where the smartest play is the least obvious and the riskiest play is the most understandable.

2. Make them manufacture shots. The shot that the professionals are most uncomfortable with is being forced to hit a fade from a draw lie, or a draw from a fade lie. They would rather take their natural swing than have to manufacture a shot. Using the natural cross-slope of the land to influence play is the least used and most effective method to add additional difficulty to a hole. This is a technique perfected by William Flynn at Huntingdon Valley, where he routed many holes against the natural slope of the land to force the players to work the ball against the grade.

3. Place pressure on their expectations. Short holes are wonderful things; they give the average player a chance to make a par, whereas the great player feels the pressure to “make” a birdie. At Merion, the better player feels great pressure to score on the shorter middle holes and almost always become far too aggressive trying to score through this stretch. The results are usually disastrous, particularly when the shorter holes require more management than some of the longer ones.

4. Closely mown grass around greens. This has long been a staple of links courses throughout the world. Bluegrass surrounding a green offers only one type of recovery — the flop — a favorite of good players, and it also contains a missed approach. However, if the green surrounds are closely mown, the near miss often gets propelled away from the green. Now the good player must decide whether to putt, bump and run, or to attempt a flop shot. Options present opportunities, but also lead to mistakes. The US Open at Pinehurst showed the difficulty created by short grass around greens.

5. Bold undulations on the greens. With bold undulations on the putting surface, positional play becomes even more important to gaining access to many of the pin positions. It will even dictate strategy right back to the tee. If you miss the approach, you are left with a delicate putt requiring the player’s full imagination to avoid dropping a stroke. St. Andrew’s is a great example where a player will hit many greens and still make lots of bogies by being on the wrong side of the hole.

6. Bunkers that are a Hazard. Walter Travis had the following quote about bunkers. "The primary idea of a hazard is to punish, to the extent of one stroke, a poorly played shot, and to make the recovery exceedingly difficult, and even by the virtue of the following shot being extraordinarily good. If this end is not attained, the existing hazard fails to fill its functions." When the player aims at the perfectly groomed hazard because it offers an advantage, the hazard ceases to be relevant to the intent of the game.

7. Intimidation. A hazard with little penalty for a miss has no psychological impact on a good player and the player will swing with confidence. When the penalty for missing is severe, a player’s pulse will quicken and they will feel the pressure to make the shot. If the player begins to think about the consequences of missing his shot instead of a good result, the architect has intimidated the player. At Pine Valley, the first time player is so overwhelmed with the possibility of disaster everywhere that they rarely notice the wide fairways and large greens that George Crump has provided.

8. Removing the clear line of site to a target. As architects, we are always looking for a way to add tension throughout the round. The blind shot has the same psychological impact as water, out of bounds or a forced carry (without the penalty strokes). Players have come to expect everything to be visible and clearly defined on each shot, and any break in this modern pattern frustrates them. Even blocking the view of the green, but allowing for the flag to be seen, upsets the player’s ability to visualize the shot. Tobacco Road uses this technique to make the player uncomfortable, but as the Scot’s would tell you the hole is only blind once, and because of this Tobacco Road is much less intimidating on the second play.

Is a Larger Ball the Answer?: http://thecaddyshack.blogspot.com/2006/05/larger-ball-this-is-new-idea-that-has.html


Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions

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