Wednesday, November 14, 2007

10 Things I Don't Like - #7 Island Greens














Golf Digest once had a worst golfer tournament where they took the four worst “avid” golfers and had them play 18 holes against each other at the TPC at Sawgrass. Three of them ran out of balls except one brilliant guy who putt “around” the 17th hole and “across” the causeway to preserve his last ball and so that he could finish – and win.

The 17th at the TPC at Sawgrass may be one of the greatest holes in golf due to the tournament and the influence it has on the outcome, but it is also one of the worst concepts ever to be copied by architects. Admittedly this idea actually goes back to Herbert Strong at Ponte Vedra Golf Club and Pete’s version was not the first – but the 17th at Sawgrass is the ultimate version of the idea. As a one off, the 17th is an exceptional hole and ideal for the tournament format it serves. It teaches us a lot about nerves, psychology and finally shows us a way into the players head; and not just for that hole, but the entire round. Think about how much the impact would be reduced if the hole were the 3rd or 4th.




















Now let’s look at the island green as a concept. The concept has no recovery unless the island is expanded beyond the green perimeter – although even that is still semantics to me. I’ve played a couple of these and when the wind howls it becomes ridiculous. Every shot is either hit or miss the island – not long on options is it? Think about this, the approach shot is a forced carry. The approach shot has no safe play or alternative route to reach the green surface by skirting around trouble. A player could easily find themselves in a position where they can not finish the hole and potentially the round! All the great holes that I have shown you over this year have at least the opportunity to recover – this is one of the few exceptions in architecture (architorture?). My personal belief is that recovery is a key component of the game. There is a fine line between extremely difficult and unfair – and this crosses “my” line.


















I can feel for those guys at the TPC. I played in an event last spring that involved an island green on a private course in North Carolina. It was best two scores of four players – after the round we found out every group had two players that did not complete the hole. How could that possibly be fun on a daily basis for the average player? As much as I enjoyed the 17th at TPC, and I did find the green, the thought of playing it daily is dreadful. I watched my playing partner hit 6 shots before giving up. It works well as a resort experience, given the circumstance of the annual TPC Championship – but not as a hole concept.

13 comments:

henrye said...

I think the island green works in the right environment and when the green is large and the hole is short. The 17th at Sawgrass is something like 130-150 yards. I think it's 150 from the back, so the average guy is hitting 130 or less. The truth is, it's not a tough shot, but is very intimidating. Even a high handicapper can hit the green 50% of the time and when they do, they feel like a pro.
Surround that hole with bunkers or some other safer hazard and no one feels like a hero when they hit the green.

Ian Andrew said...

Henry,

I really do love the 17th at the TPC - I dislike the fact that we got 100 more of them.

It works in certain circumstances - but most copies including Dye's are all too long since most come in at 160 yards.

I still think there are better versions of the same idea - like the 10th at Pine Valley - that accomplish the same pucker factor with sand.

henrye said...

Isn't Pine Valley's 10th notoriously tough in that it's a small green with trouble all around? I agree that they're both visually intimidating, but Sawgrass really isn't that tough.

cc said...

Couldn't agree with your comments more. Not having seen the 10th at Pine Valley, all I can say is the best island green in the world has no water at all on it - the Postage Stamp. Miss the green and, like hitting the ball in the water, it will probably cost you two shots or often more, but with the added fun that a great shot might just save you a par. Every bit as intimidating as an island green, but with so much more enjoyment.

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