Saturday, March 04, 2006

What's in a Hole Name?

Het Girdle, a well named par 3

Why is the 10th hole at Carnoustie named South America? What about Het Girdle at Gleneagles, Killecrankie at Highland Golf Links, or even Heich o’ Feisch at Osprey Valley?

Het Girdle describes the hot surface of a skillet than sends a drop of water speeding off the side. The 5th at Gleneagles is the best table top green I know, and a missed shot is severely punished with the deep bunkers surrounding the plateau green. The name perfectly describes playing the hole. Killiecrankie (or Killer to the locals) is described as a long and narrow passage through a valley. If you’ve been to Highland Golf links in Nova Scotia, you will know this perfectly describes the setting of the hole. The 4th at Osprey Valley – Heathlands was named by me and it means the height of trouble. I used the name to describe the very delicate little pitch into the 4th green and what would happen with a mis-placed the approach. I have named every hole that I have worked on – some clubs, like Osprey Valley have made them part of the course and the card - others like Ballantrae chose not to. Golfers remember great holes, but when a name like Pandemonium or Purgatory is attached they become even easier to remember.

Hole names are one of the unique charms of golf. When well done, they help describe the situation, shot or setting of the hole more eloquently than a simple hole number. A clever name like Too Soon for Scarboro’s treacherous par 3 2nd hole simply speaks for itself. A.W. Tillinghast and Stanley Thompson both professed to be huge fans of hole names and often named their holes. James Braid even went so far as to name a hole Braid’s Brawest – just to let players know which was his favorite.

The most famous hole name of all must be The Postage Stamp. The hole was actually called Ailsa for the crag in the ocean beyond, but Willie Park described the hole as “a pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp” and the name stuck. So how did we get South America?

At the turn of the century a young lad from Carnoustie decided that he was going to spread the word of golf to the south of America. After a party held in his honor, he decided to start out on his trek that night. Obviously the party involved lots of drinking because he was found fast asleep at the 10th hole of Carnoustie the next morning. Hence the name South America, and golf is a richer sport for it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Kawartha Golf and Country Club - Stanley Thompson 1931

The 18 hole with the 12th in th background, the photo is from the early 1930's.

Yesterday was a big day for me, Lorne’s article, I got a cheque, and Kawartha Golf & Country Club gave me the go ahead to complete the remainder of the large projects. After this stage - only drainage, tees and the practice facilities remain.

Kawartha was designed by Stanley Thompson in 1931 for the General Electric Corporation “and their friends”. This commission was right after some of his most important courses were completed - Royal York (now St. George’s) being the most recent - and his stature was riding high. The interesting thing about 1931 was that I was the first quiet year for Thompson and this was his only major commission. The remaining work we know about were two renovations and a miniature golf course. We know he had lots of time available to be on site, and his best men were all likely at Kawartha. Kawartha was opened in 1932.

The 18th today after restoration. The back right bunker is 10' deep!

I was commissioned to do a master Plan for Kawartha a couple of years ago and it primarily focused on restoration of the golf course. For me personally this came at a perfect time, right after working with St. George’s, and I was well prepared for the work. Kawartha has been one of the finest clients I have ever had, they have directed me when needed, but mostly trusted me throughout. I care deeply about getting Kawartha right, I owe it to the club.

The first year was a bunker renovation and restoration program. The only reason I say renovation as well, is that I had to make decisions on some of the holes where I had no photos. This was not ideal, but I used what I found on site and in the ground as a guide. The contractor Donnie Robb was as patient and helpful as he was talented in his recreation of Thompson’s grandeur. I have enclosed photos of this work.

The 14th, with the "octopus bunker" on the left, and one of my favourites on the right.

This years work is to fix the only two holes that were altered. The 5th green will be rebuilt and returned back to the style of the original green. The contours and the size will once again match the rest of the course. The third hole which had the fairway completely moved and changed to create a dogleg (and add difficulty and length?) will be returned back to the original corridor. The containment mounding will removed and the option to go directly at the green will be returned. The hole will once again be a risk and reward short par four.

My intent is to write more profiles of the places where I’m working and detail what I am doing in the field. I’ve been leaving all my field drawings with contractors for years, I will try photo them to post them as I go.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Article by Lorne Rubenstein....on me!

A hole that was fun and challenging to play at only 350 yards. The central bunker is 280 off the tee creating a tough decision. The mound hiding the left pin instead of a bunker creates options.
A great hole by Bill Coore

I have always had a deep respect for the opinions and knowledge of Lorne Rubenstein, undoubtedly Canada’s leading golf authority. Beyond writing, he has a passion for the game itself, and that comes across in his writings. I have had the pleasure of talking with Lorne on a couple of occasions and have enjoyed his views on golf architecture and the design business. Needless to say it was a surprise and thrill when Lorne called a couple of days ago, but to be honest, I did not expect him to be interested enough to write a story about me. So, to say the least I was thrilled.

And here is the story…..

Fun is part of making the game interesting. Unusual stances, options along the ground, the need to use the contours to feed an approach; these are all fun shots to hit! But how often does any architect ask you to try make that shot? Not too often. That’s why I went out to see the work of Doak, Coore and Hanse, architects that were trying to reintroduce these shots to their courses. Those are the 20 courses I was referring to in my discussions with Lorne. I’ve probably seen 300 classic courses in my travels throughout the world now, and that has loaded me up with so many ideas on how to take advantage of different sites. I can’t wait for the opportunity, and I’m confident that my courses will be really well received.

The Architect’s role is not simply to make the golf course difficult; it is to make the game interesting.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Breather Hole

The 11th at Highland Golf Links in the first few years

There is no question that the 11th at Highland Golf Links in Nova Scotia is intended as a breather hole. The first 10 holes at Highland run up and down the landscape like an out of control roller coaster slicing wildly through rolling wooded terrain. The 11th completely contrasts , built on the flat valley bottom almost like the high flat section on the roller coaster ride that sets you up for the next big drop.

The hole was designed as medium length par four – bunkered only for alignment – its fairway the widest on the course with an unusually flat and wide-open green. So how could this hole have architectural merit if it was so easy and inviting? The key is what the hole offers the player. The 11th is a chance to catch your breath, hopefully make a par, and prepare for the next dizzying run of holes over Highland's rumpled terrain. More importantly it offers the best view of the surrounding mountains on the course. Thompson let the player relax and enjoy the views of this magnificent hidden valley, giving them time to savour this special place.

Roller coaster designers know they must space their thrills with breaks to maximize the enjoyment of the ride. Architects from the golden era used the breather hole between dramatic sections to relax players before taking them through a second difficult or dramatic section. A well-designed breather hole also builds anticipation for the next section. Breather holes represent another design technique that modern architecture has overlooked, to the detriment of the game.

The awesome 2nd hole at Highland Links, showing the dramatic nature of most of the course

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Best Course in Canada - that No Longer Exists

Jericho Golf & Country Club

The course featured a seven seaside holes looking out onto English Bay, and 11 holes cut through tree lined rolling terrain, all with dramatic views of Vancouver and Vancouver Island. The upper holes were described to have such drama that very few traps were required, and the seaside holes were rough and raw with open areas of hazard. The setting and mixture of holes made up what could be arguably the biggest loss in Canadian Golf.

It disappeared to become a naval base in 1942, likely because it was in an excellent location, and it offered the land required without expropriating houses.

Every BC course including the “new” Capilano Golf & Country Club were all compared to how they stacked up against Jericho. The architecture likely did not live up to Thompson, Alison or Park, but the setting was far better than almost any course in Canada.

The course would definitely make the top 25 list for Canada, and may have been even higher. The course would have looked and played like Capilano in the upper holes and had a similar feel to the Oceanside holes at Victoria Golf Club.