Monday, November 05, 2007

10 Things I Don't Like - #1 Containment Mounding

This the K Club - look at the mound on the right side and how much it stands out from the land around it.

The following series will be about the 10 architectural features or techniques that I don’t like. The intent is not to put down the other architects that use these techniques because it’s a matter of taste. I have spent a lot of time talking about holes I admire and techniques that I would use in my new design work – what I want to do with this series is further clarify my style and technique by explaining what I won’t do.

The architectural feature that makes me “throw up” the most is the containment mound.

The containment mound is an artificial hillock that sticks up from the surrounding grade with no relation to the land around it. It is commonly employed to create separation between holes and to supply definition to a landing area or green site. They tend to be used in groups and quite often down the entire sides of holes so that the entire hole feels like your playing in a “valley”. Modern architecture can largely be defined through the extensive use of this technique.

So what’s wrong with them you ask?

Any course where they are used extensively tends to be very artificial in appearance. Trust me – no amount of fescue can hide these bad boys – they always scream “I’m man-made.” Alister Mackenzie explained to all of us how important it was to create new features that look like existing features so that they blend into the surroundings. Architecture is at its best when the beginning of what was created is not clear from what the architect left alone. The containment mound never blends – in fact it “blocks” out the land or trees beyond making a natural tie into the surrounding landscape impossible. It tells the player that the only thing that is important – is inside the high points. Imagine that at a place like Cypress Point!

See how the mounds block out the trees

But they help me aim my shot.

We come from an era where everything is over defined. If you have a carry bunker on a corner – it says make the carry and gain an advantage. Then why place containment mounds on the outside when the one single bunker defines the hole. It’s the addiction to definition that has made the containment mound far too common. With grass being different colours and different heights – it provides us with clear contrasts and definition of what is long grass, what is rough, what is fairway and what is green. Add a few splashes of sand for emphasis and everything is easy to understand. The reason the feature has become so common is that every time an architect runs into marginal land they feel there must be a limit to the hole when the reality is it can simply blend out to the surrounding landscape.

The technical problem with containment mound is as they tend to flank holes they also collect the water into the centre of the fairway. Often they create wet areas on fairways and lead to poor fairway turf. The common technique to deal with this is to use an extensive and expensive system of catch basins and sub-surface drainage. This is particularly a shame when there was often enough natural grade to remove the water across the fairway removing the need for catch basins and leaving the fairways firm. Not to mention the wasted earthmoving and topsoil stripping used to create them.

They are expensive to create and a blight on the landscape.

To Part 2


Chang said...

Nicely explained Ian.

I hope the rest of this series explains "things we should hate" as well as this .

It beats saying it looks shite !

Ian Andrew said...

My appologies to JG - in a quick haste to find an image this morning to illustrate mounds at a green - I managed to insult a friend unintentionally - my bad.


Anonymous said...

I grew up playing 'The Bear,' a Jack Nicklaus course in Acme, Michigan. Thinking back on my many trips around the course, I now realize it was riddled with artificial humps and bumps.

I like the course a lot, but it is guilty of over-definition. There's also some other issues with it that I understand are common on Jack Nicklaus courses... like the fact that it favors fades and has an excess of water hazards.

The mounding is just weird to recover from. It often leads to impossible, and unrealistic, chips and pitches around the green. Coming across a few shots like than in a round can leave even a good golfer a little bitter.

Brian said...

Ian , do you think over time containment mounding will bed in and look more natural ?

Or will it always stick out like a sore thumb ?

I only seem to notice it on modern courses.

Ian Andrew said...


No - fescue can lessen the presence - but a mound on a flat site will always appear made.

Most golden age work lacks the containment mound - the ones they have are accents in key locations for emphasis.

Using less mounds can make the ones you create less intrusive.

Blogger said...

I have just installed iStripper, and now I enjoy having the sexiest virtual strippers getting naked on my desktop.