Thursday, 9 January 2014

For goodness' sake, Bulle Rock, it's only a golf course...

Do you suppose the committee actually signed this off, or is it just a freelance project...?
You have to hand it to Pete Dye (for this Maryland course is another of his designs) - drama of one sort or another seems to follow wherever he goes.

This actually looks a rather understated layout by his standards (aerial view here, extensive photo gallery here) which isn't meant as an insult, although the course did garner mixed opinions among those who have played it in the memorable forum thread - Is Bulle Rock Contemptible?

My own immediate reaction concerned the funky bunkering at the par 3s. Do you really need sand that far away from the green on the 3rd? And try as I might, I am still trying to imagine a pin position that brings the back bunker at 12 into play on its own merits: isn't all that water enough on its own?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

"Golf is a dangerous game..."

English: Low-resolution image of poster for th..."It essentially involves whacking a bone crushing projectile in unpredictable directions at speeds that can exceed 200 mph."

I know it's the job of lawyers to guard their clients against life's pitfalls rather than help them smell the flowers along the way but it's hard to imagine anyone buying a golf course ever again, once they have read this sobering precis of what's involved from Hotel Lawyers' Guy Maisnik.

Only 30 per cent of courses profitable, too, according to one survey cited by the author.

Keep calm and carry on, people...

Monday, 6 January 2014

Anvaya Cove, the course Spyglass Hill might have been...

While it's easy to develop golf course fatigue when scouring the 'net for details of new builds and renovations, I share BunkerShot's unbridled enthusiasm for Anvaya Cove:
"The 7030-yard course, designed by Golfplan partner Kevin Ramsey, opened for play Dec. 7, and the initial reaction from members, international media and course raters has been straightforward and uniform: Wow.
"Perched on the West Philippine Sea, 2.5 hours from downtown Manila, the course routing at Anvaya Cove Golf & Sports Club runs the gamut of pulse-quickening golf environments. Several holes play directly alongside the beach, while others occupy bluffs some 30 meters above the surf. Several more cut daring paths through thick, tropical jungle, while the remaining play along ridges 100 meters above sea level."
A layout plan is here, notes for each hole here and a collection of enlargeable images here. Although it's good to hear architect  Kevin Ramsey talk about being able to give holes the width they need, what strikes me is how he has been able to route the course's seaside stretch - its own Amen Corner - so that it takes place at a climactic part of the round - the 11th (pictured above), the stunning 12th and 13th.

As I studied these holes, I thought immediately of Spyglass Hill, condemned to peak visually in its first five marvellous oceanside holes before slithering into the trees for the remaining thirteen. Designer Robert Trent Jones called it a "change of pace" but I'm more inclined to side with golf course entrepreneur Mike Keiser's assessment as "an anti-climax" and "schizophrenic".

Time will tell how good Anvaya Cove becomes. Having an edge on Spyglass Hill, however, is an auspicious beginning.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Why I'm not backing Notah Begay to be the next great golfer-architect

Some weeks ago, I went a little tongue-in-cheek with Notah Begay's course design at Sewailo Golf Club. Sadly, the former PGA Tour pro isn't exactly encouraging me to sit up and get serious.

After reading this review, I'm not sure whether its author is being scathing with exquisite irony or genuinely complimentary but I do know that Begay may need to hang out more with the likes of Geoff Ogilvy if he has any plans to make a go of course design:
"Building and funding Sewailo from casino revenues might have been the easy part. Attracting enough golfers to the first tee — and getting them back again and again and again — will be the trick. 
"It is expensive. 
"It is unusually difficult. 
"And it is a long way from anywhere.
"Undeterred, Begay, a Stanford grad, stood at Sewailo’s 10th tee last week — it’s a ridiculously brutal 638-yard par 5 — and winked when someone asked him if “six golf balls” would successfully get him around the course. 
"'You might hit six water balls on the first few holes,' he said, laughing. 
"I recorded several impressions on my scorecard:
  • Uphill green over hidden abyss.
  • Big carry over water.
  • Bigger carry over water."
If your co-designer Ty Butler hasn't already pointed this out to you, Notah - "unusually difficult", "ridiculously brutal", "big carry", "bigger carry" and "six water balls on the first few holes" aren't words you want linked to your course if it's just down the road, let alone a long way from anywhere. Not if your clients are pinning their hopes on repeat business.

But you laugh away; the flowers look very pretty.

Postscript: I am apparently not alone on this one.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas to all golf course junkies from The Golf Course as Art

I blog this stuff: what's your excuse for being here on Christmas Day...?

One hundred and five days to go (because I know this has got you thinking) - until then, season's greetings.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Golf course heritage blanks more down to arrogance than indifference

Official seal of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Official seal of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Good of the Wall Street Journal to propose this, seeing as how it treads on the toes of their own constituents somewhat, but this interesting article on American golf clubs waking up to their architectural heritage, proffers a persuasive theory as to why so many have been oblivious to it in the past:
"The case of Bloomfield Hills is unusual in that the wealthy club has no need to sell itself, but it does typify the identity issues that sometimes crop up when clubs peer into their past. "You have to remember that historically our boards were run by automotive guys who didn't care about the architectural history. They just wanted this private little gem," said Walter Schwartz, the club's current president.
"Bloomfield Hills' membership has always included chief executives and other top brass from the Big Three auto makers. Former GM chief Roger Smith lived off the sixth fairway. 'These guys had big egos. Their personalities were much bigger than Donald Ross or Harry Colt,' Schwartz said."
Nice as it would be to have a happy ending to the story, it would seem the renaissance of architectural awareness comes down to the same reason those country club top brass get to where they are in the first place.
"'Heritage sells,' said Bradley Klein, architecture critic for Golfweek and a consultant to clubs on their restoration efforts. His book Wide Open Fairways includes an 18-page Restorationist Manifesto. 'It's a good business marketing strategy for a club to claim a historical place for itself,' he writes."
So that's nice.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Architects' Week on Golf Channel's 'Morning Drive'

English: 18th hole of the Blue Monster course ...
18th hole of the Blue Monster (Photo: Wikipedia)
Geoff Shackelford has been picking the gritty bits out of Architects' Week on the Golf Channel's Morning Drive (Greg Norman fans should best steer clear) but I was struck by one comment on this post on Gil Hanse, which not only makes a fair point about his most high-profile client but also offers some feedback on the new-look Doral Blue Monster.
"I've seen Doral (several weeks ago) and it looks fantastic. It ain't your mother's Blue Monster anymore. The routing and replacement of a good number of greens looks brilliant, fresh and exciting. Knock Donald all you want, but the guy was smart enough to hire Gil & Jim and wise enough to let them build a a beauty sans waterfalls.
"Furthermore, the thing that will p*** off even more here is the fact that Trump can play. His swing is ugly and disjointed, but he gets the clubhead back to square and based on what I saw when I followed him around Congo a few years back, he can flat out putt as well. The man's ego may well be out of control, but he's a net positive to the game right now....putting $$ into golf when many other aren't."

Monday, 16 December 2013

Andrew's departure hopefully temporary

While some of us enjoy golf course design from the gallery, others explain it from the business side of the ropes and few of them did it with more diligence than Ian Andrew.

He didn't always get the audience he deserved but his blog is a rich resource, especially the pen portraits of leading architects which forms the foundation of my own Pinterest section on the big names in the business.

Never precious about his craft, he put it all out there and now that he has decided to enjoy a brief hiatus in his mission to explain, you could do worse than use the lull to follow the example of one commenter and work through his blog in full. Before the book comes out...

Friday, 13 December 2013

The golf course is art...

Two plugs for those who can talk about golf courses as art forms without being anywhere near as pretentious as the rest of us.

I still go hot and cold with delight when I remember how I stumbled across Hallowed Ground: Golf's Greatest Places last year, going for a £6.50 song in a second-hand bookshop in Brighton.

To see some of the world's most beautiful courses, so warmly brought to life in paint by artist Linda Hartough, made the 78% markdown feel almost a crime, although I soon got over it.

Here is a lady who truly has the gift and it is therefore good to hear that Hartough has been commissioned to provide the official commemorative painting of next year's US Open venue at Pinehurst No. 2. Not that she's a stranger to the gig, this will be her 25th such work and sadly her last:
“I think 25 is a good place to end the series...because I have painted almost all the classic courses in the rotation, and most are coming up again in the future U.S. Open schedule. Since I can do only three or four paintings in a year due to the time they take, it will free up more time to paint some of the courses on my ‘bucket list.”
And then there is the Grandison Art Gallery - 'FINEST QUALITY LIMITED EDITION PRINTS OF ENGLAND'S GREATEST GOLF COURSES BY AWARD-WINNING ARTIST WILLIAM GRANDISON' - whose website I came across yesterday and whose work speaks for itself. I mentioned warmth earlier and it applies just as much here.