Monday, October 30, 2006

Bunkers Week – Part 8 – Following the Current Trend?

Pronghorn by Faz

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… golf it’s also a great way to tell when a trend has become old.

I really saw some interesting picture of a course called Pronghorn by Tom Fazio. It started off when a friend sent me a link to point out how much better the work is than the work done at Coppinwood. Visually the work is a feast for the eyes and impressive, but something struck me right away. I couldn’t get over how much they looked like the work of Bill Coore. We have all been impressed by the work of Coore and Crenshaw at Sand Hills and then Tom Doak at Pacific Dunes. I think everyone realized how popular these projects were and wanted to use the same technique to draw attention to their work.

Erin Hills by Hurdzan Fry

Just look at Erin Hills by Hurdzan/Fry/Whitten, they went as far as hiring Jeff Bradley who created Sand Hills and Rod Whitman who shaped much of Friars Head. The work again looks nice, but why didn’t the owner just go out and get Coore and Crenshaw to do the project?

The new #7 course by David Kidd has rough edged fescue faces although simpler in form still quite similar and obviously influenced by Doak’s work at Pacific Dunes. The pictures I saw advertised [when in Scotland] of the renovation by Tim Liddy to the Dukes course has bunkers very reminiscent of the work of Coore and Crenshaw too. They even had a former intern from Doak’s crew heading up the work. I even expect there will be a carry over of Sebonack to a new Nicklaus course. I think we’re now getting too much cross-pollination of one style. I’ve heard a dozen guys say this is where they want to go with their new course.

What I can’t get out of my head is the fact that this “look” is now appearing everywhere. I’m not questioning the use at any of the courses but think about how often this is now being built. It is only a matter of time for this look to appear in places where it doesn’t fit. I already question the look at one of Coore and Crenshaw’s projects where I personally think something else would have been appropriate.

The original, Sand Hills

I have even wondered if it might be time for Coore and Doak to show us something new in the way of a style [not the playing characteristics - just the look and feel]. You know what I love their bunkers, but for me enough is enough. Sand Hills, Pacific Dunes and Friar’s Head blew me away. Erin Hills, Sutten Bay and Pronghorn do not. Not that the work isn’t as good, but I’ve seen it done and it’s also too close to the original to have the same impact. I really thought at the time that the original work was innovative and creative and it pushed me [and other architects] to see more and try to be more creative in our detailing. But like the railroad ties of Pete Dye, once everyone starts to produce this look, the impact is gone. For me, [while I might have previously liked to have worked in this style] I know that I will build something completely different because of the popularity of this look.

Hidden Creek by Coore, do these bunkers work as well in this enviornment?

I think it’s too bad for Doak and Coore, since just like Dye, once they get so regularly copied it actually takes away from the impact their work currently has. It’s never been good for golf architecture when a certain style becomes fashionable. I still get a joy from the variety found in the Golden Age architects. I should get the same joy from the creativity of this generation of architects too.

We need more variety in our bunkers.