Monday, November 12, 2007

10 Things I Don’t Like - #5 The Overuse of Ponds as a Hazard
















I had the chance to look at someone else’s Master Plan for a new golf course the other day. It was typical of most modern courses that I have seen built in recent years, where every time the architect was faced with limited natural features he simply added ponds to create interest. I counted water “directly” in play at eight green sites. The architect had four holes with water in play from tee to green and two of those were par fives that doglegged around a large pond.

The reliance on water as a primary hazard began with the Trent Jones era – and became a staple of modern design. That was the era where “Championship” courses became the vogue and the use of the water hazard became the key intimidating defense that golf architects turned to protect par. Since most sites did not offer natural bodies of water, the architects simply added ponds to place it where it was most effective.

















Well this was all and good when the player had enough skill and control to avoid most of the water and this created a lot of excitement for people watching tournament golf. The problem came when the “average” player was faced with the same challenge. You see they are afraid of water and don’t have the control to avoid the hazard on a regular basis. The intimidation is much greater than a bunker or rough since there is absolutely no recovery from a pond. A ball in the water represents two lost shots. In contrast a bunker may represent no lost shots if a perfect recovery is made. Water’s judgment of the shot is absolute and final and to add insult to injury, in many cases the player is forced to repeat the shot often ending up repeating the performance until they have to pick up.
















I’m not total against the inclusion of water or even a pond – and I do like streams, burns, rivers and and lakes - but I don’t like the continuous use of ponds to bring water in play throughout the round. I also question the need to constantly bring water hard up against water the green when the hazard can be varied like the placement of bunkers. Water certainly has its place – but if the architect continually places water in play, he frustrates the average player by the relentless nature of the challenge. If the course is too challenging – golfers will stray away and support another area facility.

I looked at the proposal again and thought I’ve seen enough of those holes already. They all tend to look and play exactly alike. I kept thinking why so much water – and wondered who would want to play it on a regular basis.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think we are in complete agreement, however, on sites with limited or virtually no natural features, ponds are required to generate fill to create those landforms that make golf interesting. Ideally, we could excavate one large lake that is out-of -play or influences play on just a few holes. With equipment time running at $150/hr., using multiple ponds might be a solution to keeping the haul times between cut & fill sites shorter, and therefore keeping costs down.

Tyler Kearns

Vic Ferrari said...

Judging from your first paragraph, I dare say that the "soon to be bulldozed" Saskatoon G&CC West course was the inspiration for your comments. In fact, that course would make a good inspiration for your "10 things I don't like" series. Let's see: it has containment mounds aplenty, overuse of water, much use of railway ties, an aquatic range, a gimmicky double green, routing that causes first time visitors to get lost after playing the sixth hole, an island tee box (surrounded by railway ties of course), a hard hat zone in which people teeing off on the 14th, 15th, and 18th holes are risking their lives because of sliced shots on other holes (more good routing), and too many forced carries, over water and sand, for a public golf course. Good riddance to the West Course.

Vic Ferrari said...

As bad as the West Course is, The Willows GCC, in Saskatoon, is probably worse (and I think it was designed by the same architect). It has an extreme over-use of "ponds as hazards" and lays claim, so far, to 4 of the first 5 "things you don't like".

henrye said...

I agree with 95% of what you're saying, except about the water being brought "hard up" against a green or a fairway. IMHO, if you have water on a course, what is the sense in it being out of play? Water is a hazard and I see very little use for hazards which are kept out of the field of play.

BTW, I don't think I've played a course in Florida without the use of water hazards.

Jeff Mingay said...

Tyler,

See Chechessee Creek Club.

Ian Andrew said...

Tyler,

I'm not aginst sourcing fill - I am against those ponds always being in play - particularly at the green's edge.

henrye said...

You've stated your preference to exclude water as a hazard (at least as a repeated frequent
hazard or as a hazard, hard up against a green). I guess I have trouble understanding why a river, swamp, ocean, lake, or burn get a free pass and not a pond. They all constitute the same penalty (depending on how they're
staked). Water is clearly a hazard and to intentionally keep it out of play strikes me as odd. I think there are far fewer great holes with water where the architect has intentionally kept it out of play as opposed to great
holes where the architect has intentionally put it directly into play.

As an aside, on a hole like the 18th at Doral (a course where there are a number of ponds in play), which is truly the penultimate hole on the course, would you alter the green (slope it in the other direction, move it away
from the pond/lake, add bunkers on the inside)? I know you may dislike the course, but what would you suggest if anything? BTW, that course has a $350 green fee and is booked pretty solid 12 months of the year - by no means is
it a great course, but it's still pretty fun. Some people enjoy being tortured a bit.

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