Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bunker Week – Part 6 – Strategies

The 6th at Cypress Point

Alister MacKenzie said it best with, “It is much too large a subject to go into the placing of hazards, but I would like to emphasis a fundamental principle. It is that no hazard is unfair wherever it is placed.” St. Andrew’s has bunkers at an infinite variety of distances in some of the more unusual locations. What works well there is they affect all classes of players and all lines of play. All bunkers punish the misadventure yet all offer another route around them to the hole. What begins to make many strategies is when the player can play safely to the left but face a tough approach, or they can play among more bunkers on the right to receive a much more open approach to the green. Therein lies a strategy that is often missed but very much part of the course.

I thought I would provide a series of architect’s comments that sum up their beliefs on the use of bunkering to make strategy. Jack Nicklaus said, “What I like to do is make [the golfer] decide between the glory of the long ball and the practicality of another alternative route.” I find Jack bunkers often on both sides saying if you want to hit driver, than you better hit is straight. I’m fonder of the carry angle that is described by Mike Stranz when he says, “The more you flirt with a hazard – the closer you stay to hazards or successfully carry hazards – the shorter the distance you should have to a hole with a better angle of approach” If you choose to play wide, you avoid the hazard, but face a longer approach in. You take on the hazard and succeed, you have the best and shortest shot in.

Gil Hanse said, “that perhaps centerline bunkers should be the rule rather than the exception when it comes to fairway hazards” Now this is a far more interesting idea when you consider how effective this idea is on the 16th hole at St. Andrew’s (the Principal’s Nose). The player now has to either; skirt the bunker, try fly it, or play short. Where this works best is with keeping strategy when using wide fairways. Alister Mackenzie said, “A hazard placed in the exact position where a player would naturally go is frequently the most interesting situation, as then special effort is needed to get over or avoid it” If you think about bunkers like the 6th at Carnoustie, the Principal’s Nose or Braid’s bunker at Nairn each one makes you realize how valuable they are “in” the landing area rather than lost on the sides. This technique represents an important reintroduction of width and options to the game, all while keeping strategy and challenge.

William Langford said, “That hazards should not be built solely with the idea of penalizing bad play, but with the object of encouraging thoughtful play and rewarding a player who possesses the ability to play a variety of strokes with each club” When we set up a hole with bunkers we have many intentions. We want the player to flirt with most in game of cat and mouse. We want them to challenge a few for the reward of accomplishment. We also suggest that at least one or two should be avoided at all costs. All bunkers should make the player think.

Robert Hunter has a quote that best approaches my own personally philosophy, “The best architects seek, in placing their hazards, to call forth for great shots. Some of their best holes reward handsomely fine golf, but have no obvious penalties for bad golf. Such holes are so cunningly laid out that those playing bad shots lose strokes by the position in which they find themselves” CB MacDonald’s interpretation of the way to use The Road Hole bunker accomplishes this best of all.

I haven’t taught you hardly anything yet, so now you understand why nobody can teach placement and strategy, it is a long slow learning process through observation and understanding.

Next up Visual:

1 comment:

paul m said...

Hi Ian,

Great insights. I feel that strategic, thought provoking bunkering is one of the things that is most lacking in modern "standard" architectural fair. Simply using them to frame a hole lets the golfer off to easily.
I played Highlands Links alone last Friday and I have to thank you for helping me to see that golf course for the masterpiece that it is. Your insights and comments are opening more minds to the wonders of truly great architecture.

Paul M.