There are el­e­ments of de­sign that en­cour­age great and end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing golf. And then there are those things that make for bad golf or lesser golf. Here are some of the more an­noy­ing things.


Golf Australia Ar­chi­tec­ture Edi­tor Mike Clay­ton de­tails the six as­pects of course de­sign he be­lieves can lead to bad golf.

All good golf courses are vari­a­tions on, and im­i­ta­tions of, The Old Course at St An­drews where the prin­ci­ples of great de­sign evolved over cen­turies on a strip of land ideal for playing the game.

The ball bounced. Long green grass close to play wasn’t seen as a virtue. Rough ground o the fair­ways o ered up ran­dom lies and deal­ing with that un­cer­tainty was one of the games great men­tal chal­lenges. Play­ers were free to play the shots they wanted and to dis­cover how best to play the holes given the shots at their dis­posal. The course doesn’t par­tic­u­larly favour one type of player (other than the thought­ful one) and nor does it dic­tate any­thing much ex­cept you have to pitch in the air on the first hole to carry the Swilken Burn.

The Old Course con­tin­ues to ask the game’s most fas­ci­nat­ing ques­tions. It has its own in­cred­i­ble beauty. And per­haps best of all it be­gins in the town, fin­ishes back in the town and is closed for golf on Sun­day so peo­ple are free to wan­der the course and even kick a foot­ball around on the big dou­ble fair­way in front of the club­house.

It was ev­ery­thing golf was meant to be and it re­mains so. There are no closed gates be­cause there are no gates.

C.B Mac­don­ald built The Na­tional Golf Links of Amer­ica in 1913 and not only did he make one of the very best courses in Amer­ica, he did it en­tirely by repli­cat­ing the prin­ci­ples of the finest holes he found in Bri­tain.

Of course golf around the world usu­ally looks much di er­ent to the orig­i­nal form of the game found on the links in Bri­tain.

It went in­land. It went to cli­mates where the ground was soft, tak­ing some­thing from the orig­i­nal con­cept of the bounc­ing ball. On the PGA Tour we see the cel­e­bra­tion of a game played through the air with great power. It’s one-di­men­sional and not par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing – some­thing mak­ing the pro­fes­sional tour more a cel­e­bra­tion of com­pe­ti­tion and well-con­di­tioned courses than it is of great Amer­i­can ar­chi­tec­ture.

Ei­ther way there are prin­ci­ples mak­ing for great and end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing golf.

And there are also things mak­ing for bad golf or lesser golf and this ar­ti­cle fo­cuses on a few par­tic­u­larly an­noy­ing things.


The best holes in Australia ask sim­ple ques­tions. It’s ob­vi­ous the ideal drive on the 17th hole at Royal Mel­bourne is close to the fair­way bunker on the left be­cause the big green­side bunker on the right of the green and the con­tours at the front of the green make play from the right more di‘cult.

It’s clear you want to drive close to the bunkers on the out­side of the dog­leg on the 7th hole at The Aus­tralian. The green clearly opens up from close to the bunkers and like so many worth­while holes the mid­dle of the fair­way isn’t the ideal line. The 280-me­tre 3rd hole at Kingston Heath looks much di er­ent but it asks the same ques­tions. You just an­swer them with di er­ent clubs and whilst the ques­tions are sim­ple, the an­swers are far from ap­par­ent. Any club from a 5-iron to a driver is a le­git­i­mate choice from the tee and its ge­nius is the con­fu­sion it en­gen­ders in the minds of both short and long hit­ters. Alis­ter MacKen­zie’s great 3rd at Royal Ade­laide qual­i­fies as a sim­i­lar hole of world-class.

The opener at Royal Syd­ney is a com­pa­ra­ble length hole but I’ve al­ways found the ques­tion a mys­tery. What ex­actly is it ask­ing?

The green doesn’t re­ally o er any sug­ges­tions be­cause, un­like the afore­men­tioned holes, there isn’t an ob­vi­ous place to play from giv­ing an ad­van­tage to the well-thought-out tee shot.


Maybe I’m miss­ing some­thing but it looks sim­ply to be an ex­er­cise in miss­ing the bunkers. In­ter­est­ingly the old aerial of the 1950s hole shows a per­fectly log­i­cal de­sign with a line of di­ag­o­nal bunkers chal­leng­ing the drive and a green ori­en­tated to re­ward the play­ers who had ac­cepted their chal­lenge. I’m fas­ci­nated to see what Gil Hanse makes of the new hole be­cause his in­cred­i­ble short par-4 16th hole on the Olympic Course in Rio is one of the game’s great driv­able fours. Few holes I have seen ask such a sim­ple ques­tion but o„er up a mul­ti­tude of con­found­ing an­swers.


So many of Australia’s best courses fin­ish with strong two-shot holes whether they are longish par-4s or short par-5s. Un­sur­pris­ingly – be­cause there are so many fine fin­ish­ing holes on our best courses – many think any other form of fin­ish­ing hole is some­how de­fi­cient. See the kerfuŠe over Hanse’s sug­ges­tion to fin­ish on a par three at Royal Syd­ney.

I’ve never thought the par-3 to fin­ish at The Lakes took any­thing from the course. If the 18th was the 17th and the 17th was the 18th, the crit­ics of the par-3 fin­isher would have an ut­terly di„er­ent view of the mer­its of the fi­nal two holes.

My guess is many would see it as one of the more dra­matic fin­ishes in the coun­try.

The par-3 fin­ish is un­avoid­able given the shape of the land and the po­si­tion of the club­house but would it make any di„er­ence if the holes were played in re­verse order?

The 18th holes at Grange West, Royal Ade­laide and Kooy­onga are short fours but all three ask worth­while ques­tions of both the tee shot and the pitch. None is a lesser course for not boast­ing a 420-me­tre par-4 to fin­ish.

One of the worst trends of the past 40 years in Amer­ica, be­cause it’s so predictable and over­done, has been to repli­cate the curv­ing hole around a man­u­fac­tured ir­ri­ga­tion lake. Robert Trent-Jones did it at Coolum as did Arnold Palmer at Sanc­tu­ary Cove and they were novel holes here but two is well enough. They are con­trived im­i­ta­tions of the great 18th at Peb­ble Beach and so ut­terly predictable to be best avoided. Largely they are on PGA Tour courses in Amer­ica where death or glory is a req­ui­site of tele­vi­sion and cheap thrills.


Any­one who has played golf in Scot­land un­der­stands blind shots are a part of the game. The great links at North Ber­wick and Prest­wick were made long be­fore big ma­chines came to re­shape the ground and make the game much ‘fairer’ and more predictable.

Sure, no one wants an over­abun­dance of it but ev­ery now and then it makes for some­thing di„er­ent and those who would crit­i­cise and elim­i­nate, miss the les­son of holes like the 17th at Prest­wick (and its di­rect spawn, the 3rd at Na­tional Golf Links of Amer­ica) the 14th at North Ber­wick, the 17th at Kingston Heath or the 8th at New South Wales. The blind tee shot at Kingston Heath’s 16th hole sets up the best long ap­proach on the course and it’s more than worth the payo„.

The les­son? Not ev­ery­thing should ‘be right there in front of you’.

If you ever hear a pro say that of a course it’s code for, ‘It’s bor­ing and not very good.’

It’s a mod­ern ver­sion of Gary Player’s line, “It’s the finest course of its type I’ve ever seen.”


It wouldn’t bother me if ev­ery score­card in the

coun­try just elim­i­nated par. Just play the holes and let’s go back to calling them ‘one shot­ters’, drive and pitch holes’ ‘ long two shot­ters’ or ‘three shot­ters’.

Of course, it’s not go­ing to hap­pen, but the mis­un­der­stand­ing of the con­cept of par has lead to some poor de­ci­sions be­ing made in order to have this group of holes play ‘harder’ be­cause on some level com­mit­tees un­der­stand they are very ‘easy’ par-5s. They don’t want to make them par-4s (which is what they are in this age if par is mea­sured by how a scratch marker plays the hole and a scratch player – not a 10 marker- is the mea­sure of the par of a hole) be­cause they would, with the stroke of a pen be­come ‘too hard.’

Of course the hole isn’t any harder or eas­ier – it’s just harder to par.

Too of­ten the de­ci­sion would be made to al­ter an ‘easy’ par-5 in order to make it more di€cult for the club cham­pion to par.

The 447-me­tre par-5 8th at Vic­to­ria is one ex­am­ple. I well re­mem­ber watch­ing Bob Shearer crush­ing a 6-iron onto the green in the early 1970s so mak­ing a ‘par’ was hardly oner­ous. Pre­sum­ably a com­mit­tee saw the ev­i­dence of the play in the many tour­na­ments at Vic­to­ria in the early 1970s and de­ter­mined the hole needed to be more di€cult to jus­tify its par of five.

The re­sult was the in­tro­duc­tion of a copse of trees down the right in order to nar­row the drive. The hole was still a drive and a mid­dle iron but the width was gone, the beau­ti­ful view from the tee through to the green­side bunkers on the right was lost and el­e­gance was re­placed with in­el­e­gance. De­spite that the hole was still a long ‘two-shot­ter’ and it was still an easy four so long as you hit rea­son­ably straight.

The o‘end­ing trees are gone now, a short drive bunker was moved up to make it rel­e­vant for long hit­ters and it plays as a par-4 in tour­na­ments. It’s an eas­ier hole than it was but it’s a bet­ter hole and as a par-4 it’s ‘hard’.

At Kil­lara in Syd­ney the 9th is a 425-me­tre par-5 with a 15-me­tre gap be­tween the fair­way bunkers equidis­tant on ei­ther side of the fair­way at driv­ing dis­tance and it’s a re­ally


hard hole to make a four. With the bunkers filled in it would be one of the bet­ter holes in Syd­ney but as it is it’s just silly. The 18th at Royal Perth would be a muchim­proved hole for fill­ing in all the drive bunkers, added purely for diculty, short­en­ing it by 10 me­tres and calling it a par-4.

In the late 1960s the 13th at Yarra Yarra, 10 and 15 at Metropoli­tan, the 1st and 17th at Kingston Heath were all par-5s but in 1971 the golf as­so­ci­a­tion man­dated the mea­sure of a par-5 would move from 465 yards to 475 yards.

Does any­one se­ri­ously want to ar­gue the ball isn’t go­ing 25 me­tres fur­ther for scratch play­ers – over two shots – than it was in 1970?

I didn’t think so. PAR 72 Just over half the Top-100 ranked courses in the world are not par 72s.

Still many, for rea­sons be­yond me, stick doggedly to the untouchable 72 con­cept and many times the staunchest adherents are play­ers unlikely to ever shoot within 15 or 20 shots of it. Some­how in their minds 72 is a more le­git­i­mate par than 69, 70, 71 or 73.

I would give them Swin­ley For­est, Pine Val­ley, Muir­field and Na­tional Golf Links of Amer­ica re­spec­tively. Would they be bet­ter courses if their par was 72?

Of course St An­drews is a par 72 but good luck sell­ing the con­cept of two par-3s and two par-5s to the ‘72 is su­pe­rior’ lobby.

Royal Mel­bourne is the best course in the coun­try and it’s still a par 72 de­spite two back nine par-5s un­der 440 me­tres. So it’s re­ally a par 70.

Would any­one think it a lesser course for not hav­ing a par-5 on the back nine given it would be ex­actly the same course aside from two num­bers on the score­card?

The last of Me­rion’s two par-5s is its long 4th but Hugh Wil­son’s course has served ad­mirably as one of Amer­ica’s great­est courses for al­most a cen­tury. CLUTTER Ev­ery­one knows clutter when they see it and there is no place for it on a golf course.

There is no clutter at Au­gusta. There is no clutter at St An­drews or Royal Mel­bourne. There is clutter in my wife’s wardrobe. Clutter is ev­ery­thing that doesn’t be­long and any­thing you don’t need.

The prob­lem with clutter is it’s al­ways some­one else’s trea­sure.

The prin­ci­ples of great de­sign all stem from the Old Course at St An­drews.

Look­ing at the ideal line from the edge of the bunkers into the green at The Aus­tralian’s 7th.

Any­thing from a 5-iron to a driver can work from the tee at Kingston Heath’s par-4 3rd hole.

A large body of wa­ter along­side the 18th hole, like at Saw­grass, is too pre­dictable.

The lake­side clos­ing hole of The Pines at Sanc­tu­ary Cove.

Me­rion’s last par-5 is the 4th hole of the round.

The blind shot (from the right) over a hill and the Sa­hara bunker at Prest­wick.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.