Saturday, May 27, 2006

Design Credit

This is the 7th at ballantrae in it's original form. Ballantrae: routed by Doug, designed by me, two holes new holes by Cam Tyers.

There have always been a lot of questions about design credit. It is an issue for the associates within a firm. It is a much bigger issue when two architects go there separate ways. It is an issue after a major renovation. I thought today I would wade into the debate about design credit and provide some examples.

Let’s start with the idea of renovation and restoration. In any restoration, the restoring architect should never get credit for the work. The original architect should be the only one listed. I personally think that an architect must add at least a couple of holes before there is any credit given. A bunker job or rebuilding a few greens is not enough. Where it gets grey is rebuilding all 18 greens, and personally I think it would take all 18 greens to give design credit.

I have always believed that whoever routed the golf course should be given design credit for the course. Routing is so essential that even just a routing is enough to be listed as the designer or co-designer. I think if another architect picks up the rest of the project, they should get credit as a co-designer. On the other hand, I think if the architect is in the field on behalf of the firm, but did not have a hand in the conception of the holes; they probably should not get credit.

I think if an associate has laid out the course and taken it to completion on behalf of a company they should get design credit. Hurdzan Fry is a firm that handles this well, where they name themselves as the architects of record and then name the individual designer. I always thought this is a wonderful way of giving credit where credit is due. As a researcher and historian, I always want to find the architect who actually should be given credit rather than just listing the most popular architect as the architect of record.

One of the new nine holes at Nobleton Lakes

So why does this matter? Well to some it does not, whereas to others it does matter. Sometimes the credit issue can be the wedge that drives a company apart. I like to receive the credit for the work I do, whether it was for Carrick Design, or now on my own. I’m proud of what I do and I think it is important that people know what I have done so I get the proper consideration for future projects. Sometimes the desire for an associate to receive full credit leads to uncomfortable relationships between the principle of a firm and the associate. Many principles want to take all the credit even when there role was largely administrative because of the attention they receive (to make this clear - this was never the case at Carrick). Also, many seem to feel it is important not to recognize the associates to keep them for creating a reputation that may eventually exceed the principle.

When this tenuous relationship breaks down, we are left with the battles over credit after the associate leaves particularly if they did all the work. Doug and I seem to have done OK on this end, unfortunately it's the clients who usually list only Doug. To clear any misconception, I would like to point out that the Ontario Golf News piece suggested I may have been the lead on certain projects, whereas the reality is that I was at best co-designer on some but most often the man in the field. Doug is listed as the designer of record on all new projects and that is fine with me. At this point I don't want recognition for any of them, I just want it known that I got them built and that is where my experience comes from. It is the renovation and restoration work where credit is most important to me.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Philosophical Look at St. Andrew’s

St. Andrew's, the home of great architecture

St. Andrew’s does not conform to any set of rules. In fact it seems to contradict al the modern “rules” of design, like no blind shots, no crossovers, no featureless holes, only two par threes and par fives, a short easy finish, bunkers in the middle of the ideal line, penal hazards, houses in play etc.

Yet when you break down the course the strategies exceed almost any modern design by a great margin. Some lessons are subtle, like the value of ground contours and the idea of discovering ways to play the course. Others are clearer like the amazing mixture of lengths, the variety in size and difficulty of the hazards, the optional routes depending on pin, and the value of green contours.

I still get amazed when many of the leading architects and players dismiss the course as overrated. They talk weak holes such as 9 and 10, the blind tee shots, the poor definition, the ability “to hit it anywhere”. The funny part is often these comments are made on the first visit when the player or architect has not taken the time to really get to know the Old Course. The architects also try to justify their view when they talk about the criticism they would receive if they built holes like St. Andrew’s. I still think, in many cases, they are really trying to justify to themselves why there work is not held in higher regard when placed in comparison to this “cow pasture”.

So let’s look at what works well and see what we can draw from St. Andrew’s

1. Anyone can play this course, the wide fairways and large greens make this a course for all. This is a course that works as well for the dub as it does for the elite player. Sure they can go low without wind, but so what, how many days there don’t have wind. The weaker player can play safe towards the middle all day and likely not lose a ball. This makes the game fun for all.

2. The native ground contours dictate much of the strategy and influence almost all of the play. The golf course was found more than it was built. The uneven lies and wicked rolls and humps on the fairways and around the greens require creativity and imagination to solve St. Andrew’s. To play well means a mastery of the contours of the land and those wonderful rolls in the green. The green contours at St. Andrew’s defend the course from the great player; they require careful approaches to find the pin positions and a deft touch with the putter to score. The average player, in turn, enjoys the large greens and short grass beyond to get around in comfort.

Bobby Jones did not like the course at first, but it became his favourite in time.

3. The course does not rely on deep rough as its primary defense. The modern courses seems to be a series of targets surrounded by deep rough that is placed there as punishment for missing a single shot. It provides one look and one recovery option and removes much of the creativity. At St. Andrew’s the absence of rough provides an infinite amount of recovery options around the greens. It also allows the player to gamble and get themselves into much deeper or to make a miraculous shot to save a shot. Once again this adds more fun to the game.

4. The greens can be approached in any manner, whether up high or along the ground very few course give the player this many options when considering the type of approach and the conditions in which you are asked to hit the shot.

5. The golf course allows for the wind to be part of the game. The width of the fairways keeps the course playable in high winds and the style of the course allows for different shots depending on wind direction and severity.

6. The golf course requires far more imagination than it does courage. You are encouraged to try shots, invent approaches and think your way around. The route is there for you to choose and the challenge you want to take on is up to you. The modern course and designer would rather tell you what to do. So how is that fun in comparison to a round at the Old Course?

The Old Course is what golf is all about……fun