Friday, March 24, 2006

My first game with my son

I was reluctant to encourage my oldest to play golf, since it is a huge part of the bond that my father and I share. I became a golfer, and then a golf architect, because I inherited my father’s love for the game. Once I realized that Cam really wanted to play and I got over my silly worries, I was excited about teaching him the game. A brilliant man, Gene Greco, advised me to just let him tee up and hit it. Pick up if you need him to, let him walk a few holes if he wants to, but make him hit every chip and putt. What great advice.

Dad and I took Cam out to a local Florida muni for a lesson. Cam was carrying his very first set of clubs that I had bought to fit to him properly. I must say that the equipment manufacturers have created lines of cheaply price junior clubs of real quality. I think this is one group that has done its part to help promote future golfers.

My father is a good teacher, who wanted to make sure that he had a good swing before we even considered taking him out. He struggled for a while, as he made subtle correction to his grip and posture, until he proceeded to hit the ball regularly in the air with a nice swing. Before you worry about me, I have no interest in creating a competitive golfer, I just want to him to enjoy what the game offers.

He hit the ball well enough and consistent enough that we decided to play. It was a nice quiet Tuesday afternoon at the muni, and there was nobody on the tee of one of the three nines. Perfect let’s go! We went into the pro shop and said we wanted to play nine holes. At the local municipal course we were told “he’s too young to play.” He was 9. My dad said “there’s nobody out there and he hits the ball fine, besides he’s with us and we’ll pick up to keep up.” They said NO, there are too many regulars (seniors) who play at this time. I paid for a twosome in silence.

Needless to say, I stuffed Cam’s clubs in the side of my bag, and Dad and I went out as a twosome “with a caddie.” We played the first hole as a twosome and the rest he played without picking up.I can not possibly describe the joy of watching both my father and son play. It was the first round where I can not remember a single stroke of my own, but I remember every chip, putt and duff in detail. My father began the day slightly worried about holding people up, but by the middle of the round realized this was not going to be a problem.

The lesson I learned from this was there is no “right” age for kids to begin. It’s a matter of when they are ready.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

5 Modern Courses Worthy of Study

As a follow up to Dave's question, I offer my five modern courses.

The Golf Club is very understaed except the occasion wild bunker

The opener sums up th course well, understated and brilliant

The Golf Club – Pete Dye - variety
I distinctly remember my visit to The Golf Club, I was expecting the TPC at Sawgrass, and was very surprised at how understated the golf course was. Everything on the course, except a couple of very bold features, blended into the surrounding so much that it looked “found” rather than created. There were many great lessons beyond the look or the feel. Pete offered up the largest array of bunkering techniques I have ever recognized on one course. Hazards were central, non-existent, used for carry angles, used for deception, used to frame, and used for show. He did it all, and it worked well because he pulled it together with the overall feel of the site. Anyone visiting here will see where the new minimalists draw their inspiration from. For me it proved you don’t have to define or defends everything, variety is far more important.

The 4th, likely the toughest hole on the course

Pacific Dunes – Tom Doak – ignoring standards
There are many things to admire about Pacific Dunes. The setting and views down the coastline are obvious, but that’s just a start. Doak was smart enough to see this as a resort course and resisted the drive for length, instead he opted for a golf course that was beautiful and eminently playable. It took guts not to find 7000 yards or get constrained by standards. His unconventional placement of threes throughout the round is a testament to using what he found, and not forcing something in. He was also smart enough to recognize the golf course would be very exposed to the wind, and so he created lots of width in the course to keep it playable in tough conditions. The use of interior bunkering to place emphasis on driving the ball in a mild wind was a clever way of keeping width and challenge at the same time. This is proved to me that a great course could be built without length and still be very playable for the average player.

The 2nd hole is a transition from the wooded dunes to the potato fields, but you can't tell.

Friar’s Head – Coore and Crenshaw – the contours make the game great
It would be easy to talk about the magnificent routing that incorporates the Potato Farm with the Wooded Dunes, but Coore and Crenshaw bring something even greater to every site. They design in the fun. The main way they do this is with great contours. The ripples and rumples left in the fairway that add crazy stances or challenging lies for the approach. The humps bumps and hollows all left short around the green that ask your best imagination to solve their complex lines. Then finally at the green the use of humps, tiers and rolls to create greens that complicate an approach and are confounding to putt. This all adds up to a course that would change with each and every play. Isn’t that what we all want to achieve?

I’ve already recently profiled my other two choices

Rustic Canyon - Gil Hanse - ground contours

Monterey Peninsula (Shore) – Stranz - borrowed scenery

Two other courses that I concidered:
World Woods (Pine Barrens) – Tom Fazio
Bandon Dunes – David Kidd

The courses I wish I had seen that seem worthy of the list:
Sand Hills
Kingsley Club

The Travel and Leisure Golf Article that Came From These Lists: