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Architecture chat!

 TKD24 ·  
TKD24TKD24 Members  1101WRX Points: 96Handicap: 8±1Posts: 1,101 Platinum Tees
Joined:  in Courses, Memberships and Travel #1

Hey all! After a short hiatus from the game with 2 young kids and a busy work schedule, life in the last year or so has finally settled down to get my addiction back in order! Plus, my 8 year old son is now into golf!

That being said, I love good golf course architecture, and I love chatting about it - Flynn, Doak, Ross, Dye, MacKenzie, MacDonald, Nicklaus,...Woods(???) - you name the architect, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Personally, I'm a member at a classic Flynn course in the Philly area where there are some really amazing tracks that have recently been redone. Aronimink's Hanse restore...Merion's Hanse renovation...crazy good stuff there.

Anyway...just trying to get a discussion going on anyone else who just can't get enough. Maybe enough of a discussion to get it's own sub-forum.

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  • birdiebeggarbirdiebeggar Members  41WRX Points: 35Posts: 41 Bunkers
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    Hey there,

    I'm in the same boat as well, love discussing architecture and sketching golf holes. I haven't had much experience with Flynn courses. How would you compare his stuff to Ross, Tillinghast, Mac, etc?

    Personally I'm a big fan of Doak and Jackson Kahn Design. Totally different stylistically but I admire both firms thinking outside the box and taking creative risks in their own way.

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  • TKD24TKD24 Members  1101WRX Points: 96Handicap: 8±1Posts: 1,101 Platinum Tees
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    I'd say that Flynn is pretty much on par with the rest of the Golden Agers - simple but challenging with the great use of the land given to him. Love a good Doak (and his book is a fun read too)!

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  • ChancemanChanceman Members  970WRX Points: 315Handicap: 14Posts: 970 Golden Tee
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    Yes I agree the Tom Doak's Confidential Books are a valuable read and reference for when you go travelling. He does like to promote his own designs but hey they are usually pretty solid. He is quite fair to his rivals too.

    Always good to find interesting courses based on their archi history. And not all private either. Courses like Northwood in CA (Alister Mackenzie), Bethpage Red NY (Tillinghast), Redlands Mesa CO (Jim Engh) and Rams Hill CA (Fazio) have been great little discoveries for me.

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  • mallratmallrat Members  3344WRX Points: 482Posts: 3,344 Titanium Tees
    Joined:  #5

    I’m curious how you guys feel about some of the lesser known guys that may be primarily local to your regions. Around here Bunny Mason has designed quite a few courses and they are generally loved or hated. On a bigger scale John Fought has done a lot of more well known courses around here.

    Architecture is an awesome conversation and I learned a ton during our course renovation. I had quite a few conversations with Dan Hixon, I don’t / didn’t agree with all his designs but very interesting conversations. Also it can never be underestimated how important their shapers are.

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  • PhiresidePhireside Members  1385WRX Points: 185Posts: 1,385 Platinum Tees
    Joined:  #6

    Hope this thread takes off. Interested to lurk, as this is something I'm starting to take an interest in.


    Which books would you recommend to get my feet wet? And would they best in paper form vs digital copies, assuming there would be a fair amount of photography.

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  • ChancemanChanceman Members  970WRX Points: 315Handicap: 14Posts: 970 Golden Tee
    Joined:  #7

    The World Atlas of Golf is a good start - naturally its about all the famous courses.

    And a really good one is The Spirit of St Andrews by Dr Mackenzie.

    Then go from there as the mood takes you.

    Personally I like paper but there is an incredible amount of stuff on golf architecture online.

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  • EDT501EDT501 Members  33WRX Points: 81Posts: 33 Bunkers
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    I’ve been playing golf all my life, but just recently got into the architecture of courses. It’s so exciting to be making my way around a track and notice a feature and think “ah-ha this is here to trap this miss or encourage me to bail out leaving that angle into the green.” Just read Doak’s books and now frequently play one of his courses (Memorial Park in Houston) and I really do think having some insight into the course gives a competitive advantage. Would love to see more discussion about course architecture here.

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  • TKD24TKD24 Members  1101WRX Points: 96Handicap: 8±1Posts: 1,101 Platinum Tees
    Joined:  #9

    Definitely some good choices. Anatomy of a Golf Course by Doak was a good reason, but as mentioned earlier, he does tend to promote his own course design. Nevertheless, a fun read to see how he took influence from other archs.

    I think I'm spoiled here in the Philly burbs - even a local semi-private track is a Donald Ross design, and there is a ton of Flynn, bunch of Nicklaus, and of course Tillinghast all within a 30-45 minute drive.

    I agree that there are a bunch of public charmers out there. It's interesting to try to dig up some dirt on these folks to try and figure out their influence. For example, Bobby Weed designed Glen Mills in our area and has definitely taken some chapters out of Pete Dye's book having studied under him.

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  • CMCSGolfCMCSGolf Members  653WRX Points: 167Posts: 653 Golden Tee
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    I'm all for a good architecture chat, but more often than not they devolve into a series of posts that are just random lists of courses. Very few people actually write why they like or dislike something that can lead to an actual discussion. Even on a site like golf club atlas, it seems like half the posts are rankings or someone saying golf on long island is excellent. Thanks, that's relevant to no one. It's hard to think of and write why something appeals to you, so I get why people don't do it much. But a post that says you love Ross without details on what features or holes you found interesting is hard for most people to appreciate.

    I personally think architecture chats would be really interesting if we took the most played muni in any city and discussed what the best hole on it is and why. This gets the conversation away from course and name dropping to discussing what is interesting to play on the ground. If you're in the know, it means something when a poster says they like Doak or Nicklaus because those architects have some tendencies. If you told a story about how your favorite Nicklaus course has a hole you love because of XYZ, I would love to hear about that. A list of your favorite Nicklaus courses is meaningless most of the time.

    Maybe this is just a rant, but maybe we can use this area to say why we like Flynn and Ross with as much detail as we can. Otherwise, it could be another thread of lists next to anonymous names.

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  • smashdnsmashdn Let's cut them trees down. Members  2656WRX Points: 1,048Posts: 2,656 Titanium Tees
    Joined:  edited Jul 31, 2020 8:59pm #11

    Books

    The Midwest Associate - Chris Clouser - A Perry Maxwell bio, Doak's books, Spirit of St. Andrews - Mackenzie, Routing the Golfcourse - Forrest Richardson, Missing Links and Lost Links - Daniel Wexler, Golf Course Design... - Dr. Hurdzan. I even picked up a book on routing through residential developments so I better understood the limitations that archies faced due to houses and insurance and making the financial stuff work. Interesting read but not exactly a ground breaking new take on The Redan.


    Langford and Moreau are under rated (imo) and somewhat regional. Bob Cupp and Art Hills as well. Serviceable golf though not particularly groundbreaking from an architectural standpoint. Pick a Strantz design (and hold on).


    Andy Staples redesign of Meadowbrook in Michigan looks amazing. Visually an afront to minimalism and "courses laid upon the ground" but it looks like a darn fun place to play. One of those courses you could play everyday and not get tired.

    Kyle Franz has done some great work in NC.


    I hope 50 years from now these great redesigns that are occurring do not get sterilized.

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  • smashdnsmashdn Let's cut them trees down. Members  2656WRX Points: 1,048Posts: 2,656 Titanium Tees
    Joined:  #12

    I think bottle holes are an under-utilized template.

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  • ChancemanChanceman Members  970WRX Points: 315Handicap: 14Posts: 970 Golden Tee
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    Golf Architecture to me is probably about how a course is designed and built and how that interacts with the golfer.

    Like why is the par 3 7th at Pebble Beach of any interest apart from the backdrop? Because its dangerous - only 80 yards or something, downhill and totally exposed to the wind. So you have to decide what club to use and where to aim it. Use a 7 iron when the wind is in your face and you will be on the green, use it when the wind is behind you and you will be in the drink. In calm weather use a wedge and hit it straight -all good.

    The next hole, the Par 4 8th is incredible. The drive is blind to a cliff. So choose you club carefully as there is also a cliff right. Then there is a huge carry over the beach. If you want par, go for the green and maybe finish short in deep trouble. Or go left, take the shorter route across and lay up, A bogey or double is likely.

    These are extreme examples I suppose. So take any straight par 5. Fairway bunkers might dictate your lines all the way. But what if there one in the middle or a creek across the fairway or a pond on the right. That changes your whole perspective. Doglegs provide even more possibilities fror cunning architects.

    Then there are greens. Some are flat and boring. Others can be multiple levels and killer slopes like you see at Augusta. Some have drop offs, bunkers and water all around.

    That's how I see it anyhow.

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  • 2bGood2bGood Members  5636WRX Points: 866Handicap: 3-8Posts: 5,636 Titanium Tees
    Joined:  #14

    Thanks for starting this thread. I am eager to follow it.

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  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members  1296WRX Points: 907Handicap: 12Posts: 1,296 Platinum Tees
    Joined:  #15

    One of my thoughts about architecture is that it is mostly lost on players of my skill level, because my abilities reduce golf to a game of not hitting it in the sand or water, and otherwise hoping to keep the ball on the planet.

    Take the 18th at Pebble Beach for example. I can't really get there in two no matter how the drive comes off. I would aim my drive at the fairway trees at 260 out and hope. If I hook it at all I'm in the water, if I slice it at all I'm in the sand. Or I can lay back off the tee and contend with a tree, the ocean, and sand on the second, after contending with ocean on the tee shot anyway. Happy choice.

    Then the second shot requires me to balance the left side bunker against the greenside bunker and tree; the easier I make the second, the harder is the third. But I am amply capable of lining up down the right side and yanking a snap hook into the ocean. So again, no matter what I choose, I have to execute perfectly. Then I have to hit the green with shot 3, and try to take two putts. Sure I had to think about what I was going to do, but the so-called 'safer option' is just as fraught with danger as the risky one. Nothing is worse than deciding to go hybrid off the tee for 'safety' and winding up hitting 3 off the tee regardless.


    On the contrary, here is a local hole that does actually provide strategic options for my skill level:

    The centerline bunker requires a decent, but not impossible drive for me to carry it, but it's not dead to be there. On the other hand I have 80 yards to spray into and still be in the fairway. If I decide left or right, I am probably going to stay left or right and even a poor shot does not kill me, allowing me to explore the options. Left opens up to the green better, right makes the trip a little shorter, but the approach would be blind. A relatively short hole with a lot of width is what I need to be able to have strategic choices on a given hole.

    Long and narrow holes simply ask me the question 'can you hit this shot', (there is a place for that too). But a hole like the above is much more interesting for mine.

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  • TKD24TKD24 Members  1101WRX Points: 96Handicap: 8±1Posts: 1,101 Platinum Tees
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    I agree that the really interesting nuggets will come about once we can start to talk details about golf holes. My intention to start this thread was to just garner some interest and to see if we might be able to stir up the right group of guys to turn this into a subcategory of its own. Personally, I think it could be great to then break it out into additional subforums with the big name architects by course and by hole and a separate area to talk about some of the lesser known folks too. We can post satellite pics of holes to discuss (since not everyone will have played it)...should make for some interesting conversations, hopefully.

    This definitely starts to open up the conversation to penal holes versus hero holes versus strategic holes, but even that conversation gets blended a bit because the way people interpret those concepts can be subjective too.

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  • Schley Schley Love ya don't tell ya enough! Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaMembers  1522WRX Points: 309Handicap: 12.3Posts: 1,522 Platinum Tees
    Joined:  #17

    Well that is right out of Doak's definition of 3 types of golf hole designs: penal, hero, strategic.

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  • NolesNoles Members  1657WRX Points: 261Posts: 1,657 Platinum Tees
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    I am also from the Philly Burbs and I LOVE me a good Flynn course! He is by far my favorite architect. Willie Park is probably my second favorite. Now that he has been credited with Philmont North, that and Berkshire are 2 gems! I really don't like the more modern designs. Courses that overuse hazards and fescue aggravate me.

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  • ChancemanChanceman Members  970WRX Points: 315Handicap: 14Posts: 970 Golden Tee
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    What do you actually like about Flynn and Park?

    ps have you played the Architects course up the road from you?

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  • LarkLark Members  221WRX Points: 159Posts: 221 Fairways
    Joined:  edited Aug 3, 2020 10:35am #20

    I love reading about courses and course architecture. Some of my uncommon, non-expert views:

    • Nicklaus is underrated as a designer. Each one of his courses I’ve played have ranged from good to spectacular. Every one provides good challenges and makes you think how to play the holes.
    • Donald Ross is overrated. His courses are good, very good, but they don’t stand out to me like CB MacDonald or Tillinghast courses. Lots of lesser-known names have designed lots of courses of the same caliber of most Ross courses.
    • Doak is an enigma- I found his Streamsong course to be underwhelming, but have really enjoyed some of his other work.
    • This trend of massively wide fairways is a negative. I don’t find having a field as wide as a driving range when teeing off to be a good attribute.
    • Trent Jones seemed to be very good at routing a course and using the property, but was so repetitive in his green sites that many of his courses don’t hold up well.
    • The major magazine rankings overrate many of the old Golden Age designer courses.
    • Pete Dye should be on the Mount Rushmore of golf designers.
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  • NolesNoles Members  1657WRX Points: 261Posts: 1,657 Platinum Tees
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    The way they use the character of the land to design the course, plus the green complexes and bunkering.

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  • ChancemanChanceman Members  970WRX Points: 315Handicap: 14Posts: 970 Golden Tee
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    Well all you said there was that you dont like wide fairways. Can you be more specific as to what you do like in golf architecture?

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  • Schley Schley Love ya don't tell ya enough! Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaMembers  1522WRX Points: 309Handicap: 12.3Posts: 1,522 Platinum Tees
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    Is that the Links at Summerly in Lake Elsinore, CA? I recall that being very similar to there.

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  • Schley Schley Love ya don't tell ya enough! Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaMembers  1522WRX Points: 309Handicap: 12.3Posts: 1,522 Platinum Tees
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    Couple points to keep in mind.

    1. The good land for building golf courses by and large has been taken over 100 years ago by the golden age courses. GCA's were selected by their clients to build a course on XYZ location. Primarily as private courses to wealthy benefactors. Everyone talks about how golf is so exclusive now, back then it was truly a rich mans game in USA (rest of world is a different story).
    2. Because they didn't have heavy machinery in those days they couldn't move thousands of yards of dirt. The land is what dictated what they designed and since they received sand based land they could make some great courses in those days. Drainage isn't nearly as much of an issue with sand.
    3. Environmental regulations were very small or nil altogether. You couldn't build almost any of the existing golden age courses today just due to this reason. Anything on the water would be very difficult, but that is where the links land with sand soil is.
    4. If we take out the massive overbuilding of courses throughout the 80's-2000's in housing developments I don't think I would shed many tears.
    5. Almost all of today's work as a GCA is restoration work as there are very few new courses being built. Thus ridding the course of tree growth, reclaiming green area and mowing lines are typical. Bunkers need maintenance and are expensive, thus IMO way too many bunkers exist on modern day courses for the most part.
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  • ChancemanChanceman Members  970WRX Points: 315Handicap: 14Posts: 970 Golden Tee
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    And yet we have Sand Hills, Ballyneal, Bandon, Cabot, Kiawah, Streamsong, Cape Wickham, Barnbougle, Erin Hills, Sand Valley, Castle Stuart, Kingsbarns, Carne, Old Head etc all being built in the last 25 years. It is amazing how much good land has been found and new golf courses built around the world. And what's more, all playable by the public under certain conditions.

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  • LarkLark Members  221WRX Points: 159Posts: 221 Fairways
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    I like courses that use the natural features of a good property in a good way, both in the strategic playing of the holes and aesthetically. Courses that incorporate elevations, slopes, valleys, ridges, water, trees, etc. in a good way. I like courses that use risk-reward features in a smart way that make you think about the different ways to play a hole. I like courses with variety- right and left, long and short, greens that are open to run-ups and greens that have to fly on, elevations up and down, etc. I don't dislike wide fairways. I like a course with a nice mix. I don't care for super-wide fairway; it makes a hole boring.

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  • LarkLark Members  221WRX Points: 159Posts: 221 Fairways
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    I agree with Chanceman. I believe the idea that all the best land was used 100 years ago is well overstated. There is so much land around the world that great properties can be found. And it is much easier to travel nowadays (pre-Covid of course). To Chanceman's list I'll add the Caribbean (Teeth of the Dog, Punta Espada), Cabo, Dismal, etc.

    I also don't think housing development courses should be dismissed just because there are houses. If some beautiful homes are near a fairway, I don't see a problem. If the course is still great, I don't mind it at all. I sure didn't mind playing along those beautiful homes at Pebble Beach. Sea Island is another great course where the houses don't detract at all. It all depends on how it was done.

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  • Schley Schley Love ya don't tell ya enough! Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaMembers  1522WRX Points: 309Handicap: 12.3Posts: 1,522 Platinum Tees
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    Chancerman all those courses are in remote areas with no development around and there are more of that, but the best links land around cities is all but gone for allowable builds today. It takes this remoteness to find linksland today, but a PITA to get to and costs are premium.

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  • ChancemanChanceman Members  970WRX Points: 315Handicap: 14Posts: 970 Golden Tee
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    Aha, now we getting somewhere!! Golf is not fun unless we have something to hit across or over or through or avoid entirely. I played St Andrews (TOC) once and really wanted to go into one of its famous bunkers even though it spelled death. I imagine its the same at say Sawgrass, going in the drink on the 17th would be as much fun as making it to the green. In Scottsdale it's fun to see all those balls embedded in the cactus!! On the other hand, trees look great but they are definitely not 90% air.

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  • LarkLark Members  221WRX Points: 159Posts: 221 Fairways
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    Have you played Sawgrass? I hit the green on my first shot on 17. That was more memorable and fun than any under-150 yard par three green that I have ever landed at any other course.

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  • LarkLark Members  221WRX Points: 159Posts: 221 Fairways
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    A good number of those courses are as close or closer to the main population center as Southhampton (Shinnecock, National Golf Links, Sebonack) is to New York City. Or St. Andrews from Edinburgh. Or Pebble Beach from San Francisco.

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