Tuesday, November 13, 2007

10 Things I Don't Like - #6 Trees Directly in Play


A good example of willows blocking the ideal line at Taconic











We can all think of memorable holes where a majestic Oak or Maple sets the corner of a dogleg. As a golf course architect I have spent a great deal of time looking for these specimens to design a hole around them. Muskoka Bay was cleared to establish nearly 100 specimen trees just inside the tree line of the holes. Yes, the rumour that I hate trees is in fact untrue.

We are awed by the scale of those trees and the importance that they have for those holes. It’s exciting to play a tee that flirts with the trees in order to gain an advantage on the hole. The basis of Parkland Golf is as much the setting of golf in tress as it is the need to work the ball around a well placed one during the round. As Tillinghast stated the trees can have strategic value “as long as it does not interfere with the sound play of the game.”

The problem I run into time and time again in my work with existing courses is that too many trees are playing too large a role in the way holes are played. The majority of these trees are not encroaching at the edges but instead acting as sentinels blocking the path. For a large tree to be used architecturally it should be isolated. This means that no other trees are inside the drip line which allows alternative shots to get around the tree or recovery from underneath. The hole must have enough width between trees so that a player can play to the other side to avoid the specimen tree altogether.



This tree will only get bigger and bigger









When you think about the tree as a golf courses hazard, it represents the only vertical hazard in the game. Even a perfectly struck shot can be knocked down by the branching and redirected into deeper trouble. Only a hazard that can be flown should be used in the direct line of the hole. Where committees make the most mistakes is when they place a tree that in the short term can be flown or avoided. They forget with growth that their small tee will eventually block all play and remove all the options on the hole.

The most offensive of all trees is the one in the fairway. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a situation where a player can hit their very best into the centre of the fairway only to be either knocked down by the tree or stymied on their next shot. Often it’s both. There is not one great central tree in golf – each is as ridiculous and inexcusable as the least one. Their only value is the firewood that they will be eventually cut into.



While a strong player can often get by - the average player is punished on a regular basis





Trees should be used only to frame the hole and reinforce the strategy. They tend to remove all the options on a hole when they are too close to the line of play. When options are they key to creating interest – trees should be the last choice for creating the strategy of the hole.

17 comments:

henrye said...

I don't know why, but I love that tree (or is it two) on the 15th at the Osprey Valley Parkland course.

Anonymous said...

Ian,

What are your thoughts on Harbour Town? Have you played it?

Anonymous said...

ian,

for the most part, agreed.... however, i take issue with this:

"The most offensive of all trees is the one in the fairway. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a situation where a player can hit their very best into the centre of the fairway only to be either knocked down by the tree or stymied on their next shot."


if one hits their "very best", it surely shouldn't be in the centre if it has the chance to be stymied by a tree on the next, no? Line of charm, anyone?

rpf.

zach said...

I don't understand the willows blocking "the ideal line" at Taconic. Do you mean to say the golfer wants to go right down the creek line on the left? That is suicidal. If you're talking about the large willow short right of the green, it only comes into play with drives hit far right through the fairway. Anywhere relatively in play doesn't have tree trouble in the slightest.

Anonymous said...

#6 at St.Catharines ring a bell Ian?

Jeffrey Prest said...

Ian, I'm enjoying this series but this is the only one so far with which I'm not in full agreement. I've just blogged my reasoning but in summary, if you know a tree isn't going to grown unfeasibly large and there are bale-out areas of fairway to one or both sides of it, I think it can be an enjoyable quirk.

At then end of my Nov. 16th post, you'll find a treat that I'm sure you'll want to enjoy again and again...

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