jeudi 1 novembre 2012

Playing 18 holes or playing the course

Very few courses are playing as courses...  Dissipating the transitions from hole to hole could be a way to bring the game closer to its origins.

From its original wilderness, golf has been analysed dissected and to a certain point standardized. From wild organic swings, holes and strategies, the game has been divided to a mechanical form Henry Ford would be rather proud of.

The continuity of the Old Course is remarkable. Look how it is difficult to "define" the holes (where are the tees and greens) on the Old Course (inside the red perimeter) compared to the New course and the other sister courses at St. Andrews. The mowing is only one contribuating asset of the continuous experience of the course.

Solid players of today talk about playing the par 5’s well, hitting fairways and greens, focusing on specific targets. Golf courses are predictable to a point where the game is about 36, or so, well struck shots and making as much putts as possible. It is the road to success on modern courses.

But certain courses tend to make the players divert from this mindset. The Old Course, Muirfield, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Oakmont Country Club immediately comes to mind. Throw a little breeze on the Old Course and the humps and hollows make the bounces unpredictable. Muirfield is so exacting that, unless your name is Nick Faldo, executing all those shots is inhuman. At Lytham and Oakmont, trouble is lurking everywhere so no holes are a guaranteed par, even the easiest of them.
From the 4th tee, looking the rest of the course, the player sees what's ahead. The bunkers numerously dispersed over the course is a constant test for the players.
In the same frame of mind, throw in a stiff breeze on any course and the game return to its wild form. The players have to pray for the best and be ready to welcome the worst. It is a battle over 18 holes where only the final score counts, not how many pars you’ve made. In these conditions or on these courses, a player has to make the most of every occasions, it is about avoiding disaster and holing the next shot whether it’s for a birdie or a double bogey.

Do you go aggressive, knowing you are going to get bitten once in a while... or walk carefully and slowly shot after shot  for 4 1/2 hours? Then golf becomes a sport.

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