Monday, January 14, 2008

What Might an Ian Andrew Course Have? – The Central Bunker



Do you attack the bunker or play short and safe?












A bunker placed in the centre of a landing area may be considered controversial by modern golf architecture despite the fact that is one of the greatest ways to develop a clear and concise choice for a good player to make. If the hazard sits somewhere between 250 and 290 yards from the tee and is near the centre of the hole, it sits exactly where a good player wants to play to.


Modern players try not to work the ball but to hit to general areas. They have so much confidence in their ability to execute shots that they play a positional game. They often simply hit different club to remove risk, in fact removing risk and execution has become the trademark of recent professional play. You can easily see why and elite player will be fully frustrated by a central bunker since it will sit exactly where they want to be. They like to hit a driver like to take advantage of their length. Smart play leaves a tougher approach, whereas a driver will have to flirt with this hazard – which they already think is “ridiculous.” Just look at the comments on the central bunker at TPC of Boston from last year.

They will have to make a choice to flirt or lay-up – both choices bother them – and that is the sign of good architecture since they are forced to choose (and to think!). Too many golf courses don’t make the players make a choice, they simply say this is where to hit the ball, here is the punishment for missing, now hit the shot. This central hazard has none of that simplicity – which good players like - it says here are all your options, here is a hazard exactly where you want to go, now make the best decision before hitting the shot. The wonderful extra bit of psychology involved in this hazard is that a good player is annoyed by an element that is “not fair” in their mindset which is a poor mindset to hit a good shot. Throw in a stubborn players insistence in hitting a driver regardless and you have all the elements for making bad decisions and posting a poor score through.

I believe it is my role to make the player think as much as it is my role to challenge their skills. Remember as Pete Dye said, “Once you get those dudes thinking, their in trouble.”
The funny part is they can do what they want to avoid the bunker entirely – like the average player will - but they are easily sucked in by ego involved in this situation. The fun part on the other side of the equation is the weaker player most often can’t get there so they use it as a target. If they can get there, they still take dead aim counting on the fact that the ball almost never flies straight so they will finish either left or right anyway.

The ideal central hazards are actually slightly off centre with a tighter and tougher side leading to an ideal angle of approach. The other wider side is an easier play but leads to a tougher approach angle. The Principle’s Nose at St. Andrew’s remains the best example in golf and the inspiration for this lies squarely on that feature. What is also important is to have something – trees, out of bounds, or other severe hazards on the narrow side to emphasize the risk of playing to the best place. The other side should have lots of extra space out wide to allow an easier play and thereby reinforce the strategic decision to be made.

14 comments:

Guy said...

It's funny how better players will accept a forced layup, but decry a central hazard. You're right, Ian, they just don't want to think about strategy.

chris said...

Would you hurry up and build a course already?!?!? ;)

dennis said...

Any thoughts about the central bunker on #9 at Mystic? Not sure if you have seen, or played it, but having only played it once, it did seem like it was too central, not providing a lot of option to go left or right, though the recovery actually wasn't too bad. It also wasn't clear to me then, or now, how going left or right was any advantage in terms of the approach into the green, other than being on the fairway. Maybe there was enough "extra space" out there, but the tee shot is a bit imposing anyway with a huge ravine in front of you to begin with.I of course landed in it with what I thought was a "good" tee shot. Maybe it served the purpose and I just need to play smarter. Just curious if you have any thoughts? RT seems to like that particular hole.

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