Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Value of Sweeping Fairway Contours


The sketches show the technique, but the sweep is greater on site






There is a wonderful A.W. Tillinghast quote where he states that straight fairways are akin to the travesty of placing a sugar bowl helmet-like on a child’s head and giving him a haircut. I tend to agree. While I occasionally encourage “straighter” lines with some restoration to keep the look authentic, I generally find long sweeping lines are what makes the best fairway contouring of all. Fairway lines are at best when they sweep left and right around either the bunkering or the natural features of the golf hole. They are at there very worst when they are quick swings back and forth that look more like an attempt to chase a snake than create beautiful fairway lines.

The first time I truly understood the power of sweeping fairways was at Mike Stranz’s Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Mike used the sweeping contours, large scale hazards and the sweeping panorama of the Monterey Peninsula to make one of the most visually stunning courses I have ever seen. I found his work fit perfectly into the spectacular surroundings and the scale and movement were magic across the open land that he had to work with.


The sweep is magnificent at this scale





The joy of these wide swings left and right is that they also make for excellent strategy too. The value is that they offer long carry lines that continue to work regardless of the changes in technology because the hazard and contour are still sweeping beyond the planned centerlines. This may be the most technology resistant strategy that I have seen. The key seems to be having enough movement left or right to continue the carry angle well beyond someone’s ability to carry the ball.

Making this all work requires room and scale. You can’t take a narrow tree lined corridor and make these happen. When you’re in a tree lined environment it is best to stick to modest moves to fit the scale of place. When the corridor is widened, you begin to gain opportunity to expand the horizontal movement. If there is no tree lines and the scenery is part of the setting, large horizontal movement of the fairways seem to fit the grandeur of the surroundings. The more room, the more appropriate, and they are certainly the best answer on a massive site. Look at Sand Hills, those are large horizontal moves around spectacular and large natural features.

If you wanted to employ this technique you will need to have a large site. You must employ or find hazards on a very grand scale. You must employ the use of long or natural areas to provide separation and definition. This could even be used to make something special out of a flat site as long as you had the room to meander those fairways.

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