mercredi 28 décembre 2011

Courage in golf course architecture

It's rare that I write about a golf hole I've never seen... but I was playing golf on the computer today and stumbled across the 13th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links. Since I've seen this hole so many times on TV, I allow myself to write about it.

It takes courage to built a hole like this, especially in 1969. Many architects have built all-carry approaches before. Mostly on par 3's and short par 5's where they thought they could predict the length of the approach for every player. Fewer have built all-carry approach with no alternative on par 4's and most of them used a natural feature, like a lake, a creek or a steep slope as the element to carry.

But to built this:
An all-carry approach with no bail-out (except long) to a tiny green completely and tightly surrounded by a man-made feature takes courage. The bunker was no inspired by a landform of any kind, it was a pure design decision.

Even though the design is credited to Pete Dye (architect) and Jack Nicklaus (consulting architect), this green, as Mr Dye recalls in his book Bury me in a pot bunker, it was his wife, Alice Dye who made the suggestion for this unique green complex.

Out of literally nothing, the construction of this green complex generates a dramatic moment in the round. The ball might hit the railroad ties, or be on the wrong side of the green and a chip might be necessary from the putting surface... memorable moments can happen there and this is why most people play.

It is courage and it is genius, and here's why:

1) at 378 yards from the back tees and 325 yards from the middle tees, the hole is short enough so most players playing under a 20 handicap have a legitimate chance at trying this unique approach.

2) the bunker demands an aerial approach to the green and combined with the trees also protecting the putting surface, it creates pressure on even the best players. Even if it's only a 3-iron or an hybrid on the tee, they know they have to hit a precise shot to have a look at the green on the approach.

3) the bunker is severe enough to be cool. This one is hard to explain, but only random bunkers would not make the shot work, you need and have a unique feature there.

All that in 1969, when the hard par easy bogey was the dominant mentality.

It took courage. (talent too)

Funny enough, Alice Dye is also the one who suggested to built the Island green on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass about 15 years later... She is an important part of Mr Dye's work... and she might well be the most courageous golf architect ever !!!

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