Friday, October 27, 2006 article on Ian Andrew Golf Design

Robert Thompson has written an article that captures where I am in my first year of business. He knows me very well and captured a lot of my personality including his comment about me being a glass half empty guy. I like to think I’m cautious but even my wife reminded me that I always assume the worst to avoid disappointment. Funny thing is when I go to interview I’m always feel so confident in getting across what I can do. Sometimes these articles make you realize something about yourself you don’t want to admit that’s true.

Here’s the article:

Bunker Week - Part 8- Building a Travis Bunker

The plan and layout for the bunker

I thought it would be fun to watch a bunker get built one stage at a time.

1 hour in.

Before building a bunker the sod is stripped. This is done so the bunker is built only with soil. The reason is that the sod will break down and the mounds will settle uneven if you don’t do this. Before construction the Travis mounds are laid out on the ground and all fill required comes from the interior.

2 hours in

The excavator takes the place of horse and pans to stack up the fill about four feet high in each mound location. Each mound has its own unique “mountain range” like shape. The key is a top heavy mound that looks like dripping ice cream to get the Travis effect. The fill is placed in lifts and pounded with the bucket for compaction. A bulldozer will not get the right forms.

3 hours in

Once the three mounds are in place and packed. The next stage is to build the low transitions between the mounds to tie all the forms together. Once done, the cavity or bunker interior will be formed to create a smooth bowl shaped interior. A real Travis bunker was flatter, but this bowl shape is done for quicker drainage and to help keep the ball to the interior.

5 hours in

The bunker lines are cut into the interior by hand (by me) to create a 6”- 12” lip that will create the bull nose edge which is desired for the shadows it creates and the old fashioned look it provides. One additional note is that most Travis bunkers were grassed to the bottom, but like most clubs, this club needed to be able to see the sand from the tee. This project would not have proceeded without this concession on my part.

6 hours in

The final picture shows the mini-excavator cleaning out the interior ready for packing and tamping to get a perfectly smooth finish. If you don’t get a smooth bottom the raking will begin to destroy the interior and contaminate the sand right from the beginning. If the interior is bad enough, the bunker will hold ater too. The drain line will be excavated out from the bottom and the drain will be backfilled with the bunker sand. This can be choker sand or pea stone depending on the situation too. The white plastic was added to show the top of the sand faces and was used to check the bunker lines from the tee which is about 20 feet lower than the bunker.

8 hours from start

The bunker exterior is then raked and sod with a fescue/bluegrass blend so that the mounds can be grown long in the future when all the bunkers are done. The sod is not trimmed and allowed to extend into the bunker where it will be left till it knits in. Finally the sod is trimmed back to the bottom of the bullnose and the interior is prepared and tamped back to the new drain line and bunker sand is placed in the bottom and packed ready for play. (There are no pictures because of the rain that came when this was to begin)

From the tee (click onto the photo to enlarge)

That is the basics to building a Travis bunker - or at least one style of his bunkering.

Architects note:This was a test bunker for the club. To be accurate the sand should not be flashed up - but the club was insistant that the sand faces be raised on this bunker for visibility - the club is now realizing the location of the bunker is clear from the mounding and is reviewing whether the sand should go to the bottom as intended when the full bunker program is begun next year.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bunker Week – Part 7 – Visual

The movement and drama of Thompson

Bunkers are the most visual and memorable of all the elements found on a course. So much so that some including myself would argue that too much attention is spent on the aesthetics of the bunkers. This may be funny considering most feel that one of my greatest strengths is the quality of my bunkering. Almost all golfers and critiques revolve around the look and playing characteristics of the bunkers and often fail to notice the quality of all the other elements that make up a golf course. A great set of greens are far more important than great bunkers, but everyone is drawn to evaluating a course by the bunkers since they are far easier to judge and far more obvious to the eye. Since bunkers are so obsessed over, particularly the aesthetics, let’s take a look at that aspect.

Elegant simplicity of Travis

The one wonderful impact of bunkers is there are so many possibilities. We have the rugged look of Coore and Doak, sod walls of the links, the wild fingers and bays of Thompson, Tillinghast and MacKenzie, the rugged faces and depth of a Colt bunker, the engineered steep walled bunkers of Raynor and Banks, right through to the dull maintenance and player friendly bunkers of modern architecture. Again, there are ven more from the raw scars to sand blowouts to the inverted bunkers of Travis and Emmet; I really only touch the surface with this list too. So we have established that the actual options are limitless. So why do some projects like Pacific Dunes and Sand Hill work so much better that Atlantic or other modern projects. Or a better question may be, why do architects only make one type of bunker when we have all this limitless option to choose from (that answer is comfort). The answer is that most great bunkering has more to do with reflecting the nature of the site than it does with even with placement.

The movement and artistry of macKenzie

Alister MacKenzie said, “All the artificial features should have so natural an appearance that a stranger is unable to distinguish them from nature itself.” When adding a bunker to a site, you have two options, you can have it blend in which will always work, or you can have it offer a contrast which when done well is spectacular. When done poorly it is a disaster! The work of Raynor and Banks offers an example of contrast that works well by contrast. Why does there work fit? Because they tie everything back into original grade despite the severity of the hazard form. The remainder of the hazard is a s natural as can be. Where it gets more interesting is the chocolate drops of Travis and Leeds that still are spectacular despite their obvious complete contrast. That is a harder thing to explain other than to point out that each feature is hand-made and none look quite like any other. The reason modern features look lousy is they are repeated endlessly because a machine has that ability. Robert Hunter describes this well when he said “All artificial hazards should be made to fit the ground as if placed there by nature. To accomplish this is a great art. Indeed, when it is really done well it is, I think it may truly be said a fine art, worthy of the hand of a gifted sculptor.”

In my experience only a handful of architects have been able to create bunkers that blur the line between strategy and art. The greatest of all was Alister MacKenzie. He was able to comine artistry, with scale, a little intimidation, a tremendous amount of strategy and the greatest blending an architect has ever done. He to this very day remains the standard to what any architect must hold his bunker work, since he is the only architect to manage to have it all work perfectly.

The blowouts of Sand Hills

There is one alternative to all of this to achieve really great bunkering. Go out and find a natural one that you won’t have to create. After all Donald Ross pointed out to us, “The fascination of the most famous hazards in the world lies in the fact that they were not and could not have been constructed.”

Building a Bunker:

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:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bunker Week – Part 5 – Psychology

No course gets into your head like Pine Valley does......despite the width and playability that is there

If a bunker is easy to get out of you will give it little thought during the round, but if a bunker requires you play backwards you will always be aware of its location and what you need to do to avoid it. Pete Dye made the comment, “Strategic placement of bunkers subconsciously forces the golfer to head away from the bunkers, when the better route is to hug them….when you get those dudes thinking they’re in trouble.” I think the comment is missing a reference to depth and how it affects the thoughts and mind of the player. There still must be repercussions that force those dudes to think. What gets a player thinking is the difficulty of the recovery. If a player faces a bunker where any club is an option then they will hug the bunker looking for an ideal line since they have no fear of missing the shot. They will also swing without fear since there is nothing to loose and nothing to get nervous about. Tell me how that hazard offers any strategy other than to high handicappers who fear sand in general?

If the bunker is nasty and recovery may not be possible, now the player is aiming away out of fear. He will also make a tentative swing at the ball trying to steer by the trouble rather than hitting a confident stroke. This is when a bunker has enough presence to get into the players head. Donald Ross said, “Hazards and bunkers are placed so as to force a man to use judgment and to exercise mental control in making the correct shot.” If there is no risk, why should a player exercise either judgment or control? The usual complaint is about recovery from such a bunker, but if the player has tried an aggressive line and failed you must ask them why not choose a line further from the bunker? I’ve never understood why a deep bunker in a key location is unfair when an architect provides either width or an alternative route around. As Donald Ross points out, “Often the highest recommendation of a bunker is when it is criticized. There is no such thing as a misplaced bunker. Regardless of where a bunker may be, it is the business of the player to avoid it”

I must admit I love Mike DeVries blunt comment of, “it’s a hazard, deal with it.” It always strikes me as absurd that many a member will tolerate or enjoy the most penal of hazards on the links courses and yet be so critical of a feature at their own club. It is the great hazards at our own courses, and how we handle them that define us as a player. Maybe the issue is ego, since I often deal with players who continue to attack a hole or pin where better judgment will yield better results. The fault is not with the depth or difficulty of the hazard; it is with the player’s decision making. Charles Blair MacDonald said, “The object of a bunker or trap is not only to punish a physical mistake, to punish a lack of control, but also to punish pride and ego” The game is about management and execution, shallow bunkers do not identify either skill.

Mike Stranz uses pressure to make a short course seem impossible at Tobacco Road.....but really it's quite playable

Pine Valley remains the ultimate psychological test for a player. You are immediately intimidated by the amount of sand and the perception that every miss will be punished. The brilliance of Pine Valley’s waste areas is that players begin to visualize disaster rather than concentrating on execution. When you look beyond the trouble, you find the course has plenty of width between trees, wide fairways and large greens; but all you see is trouble! Mike Stranz borrowed from this psychological ploy to develop his courses, including the use of depth and punishment to keep the players attention. He pointed out that we get a bigger sense of accomplishment in overcoming these holes than we would a course without any penalty. I agree.

Tomorrow I take on strategy…………..or try at least

Next up Strategy:

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bunker Week – Part 4 – The F-word…. Fairness

A bunker you can hit any club out of is concidered "fair" by some, a waste by other.

The origins of golf only had two rules that applied to hazards, play it as it lies and the rub of the green. Now there is too much money and too much ego wrapped up in the game to accept a bad break. We insist that bunkers be uniformly maintained, consistent in condition from course to course and fairly easy to get out of. We have gone from a bad lie being a bad break, to questioning the golf superintendent’s ability and the design of the bunker. The game has changed….for the worse.

We began with the uncertainty and unpredictability of links golf where bad lies were expected and simply played. We learned the lessons of humility and perseverance through the game, but all that has gone out the window for certainty and fairness. The whole modern concept of players aiming at bunkers because they can reach the green from the fairway bunker or get up and down easily from a green side bunker shows us how much the game has changed from the origins of golf.

George Thomas says, “Hazards should be arranged to tempt and challenge, but laid out so all classes of players have optional routes to the hole. Hazards should not unduly penalize from which there is no chance of recovery.” What he is saying is that the bunkers should encourage good players to flirt. The weaker player should have options to play around and away from trouble, and all golfers should have an option to recover based upon their ability.

These bunkers are spectacular and very deep, are they fair?

Others are harsher in their thoughts on the fairness of bunkers. Willie Park Jr. said, “If a bunker is visible to the player, and there is sufficient room to avoid it, it is the player’s responsibility to steer clear of it.” Once again there is the mention of options to play away from or around the bunker, and this is another form of fairness. Fairness has nothing to do with removing the hazards, but instead has everything with providing enough room beside the bunker to avoid it even with extra shots.

Bill Coore has always been one to advocate a mixture of bunkers from the simple to the fearsome thinking all have a place on the course. His philosophy comes across well through the open-mindedness of his opinion on hazards and bunkers, “No element that creates interest can ever be seen as unfair” The player must simply deal with what’s put in front of them with the most efficient use of strokes that they are capable of using. It is up to them on what they are going to contend with and how they are going to avoid the potential pitfalls. Everything is up to them and everything is fair.

The most unfortunate part of this is for nearly 50 years our architecture was dumbed down for fairness. When the difficulty was eased or the maintenance made more “player friendly” it all had a detrimental effect on architecture. Tom Doak has long been advocating the return to a more natural rugged bunker with a less clearly defined outcome. His bunkers bring back a much more natural appearance closer to the origins of bunkers. There is also more risk in getting a difficult lie; and most importantly it places more emphasis on the hazard being where you will likely drop a stroke.

The last word on this should go to Mike DeVries who simply says, “It’s a hazard, deal with it.”

Next up Psychology: