Samuel Ingwersen, AIA
Please delve into the subject of landscape effects and how they may tend to corrupt qualities of the game of golf.
Readers may think of landscape effect as trifling, but many courses across the US. have many landscape effects that are obstacles or deterrents to enjoyment of the game. It only takes one obstacle posed by a landscape effect that may be experienced a few times by players to cause a negative attitude toward the game. Excessive expense and time also contribute to a negative experience. The subjects of landscape effect and qualities of the game of golf have little meaning when considered separately. When correlations are made of the two with benefit of illustrations, we better understand how landscape effects have influenced the game.
Hawtree wrote nothing about landscape effects and their influence upon the game. He would have been surprised to know that the research being done in his same era by French sociologist Roger Caillois (1913-1978), American Mike Csikszentmihalyi (b1934) and Australian psychologists Susan A. Jackson (b1963) would intersect with his interests. Their research involved enjoyment of games and sports and would reveal insight and understanding of the influence that landscape effect would have upon the game of golf. These social scientists were occupied with the subject of games but in different ways and interests in social experiences that bring fulfillment and enjoyment to peoples’ lives, their jobs, their recreations and games and the things that make them feel good in these pursuits.
Heretofore the study of games had been scarcely more than a history of games. The social scientists’ work explains why people are attracted to games, why they enjoy them and have fun. My book is more concerned with the negative aspects germane to my thesis that the beauty of landscape effect is corrupting the game. My emphasis is upon the influences of landscape effects that make it less likely for enjoyment and fun to occur and more likely for anxiety and frustration to arise.
So it is important to view and treat golf as a game?
Golf is classified as a game, a recreation. Such common metaphors as: “golf is the microcosm of the world,” “golf is like life,” and Buddy Hackett’s (1924-2003) metaphor, “golf is like walking naked in a strange place” explain what golf is like. The work of Caillois explains why we are attracted to golf through explanations of his categories of games. Three of Caillois’ categories apply to the game of golf. In his book, Man, Play and Games, 1958, Caillois expands upon the theory of games.
A further development of Caillois work is the work of Csikszentmihalyi and Jackson that I consider refinements of Caillois’ category of simulation, particularly a heightened state of reality; the joy in optimal personal experiences. The attainment of joy in optimal experience, the state of flow, as explained later, is considered to be the most memorable experience that one may attain in games and most often, followed with a desire to repeat the experience. A fun golf course consists of structural conditions that make it more likely to occur.
Does Caillois specifically reference golf?
In his book, Caillois does not examine golf directly, but a mix of categories that are applicable to games and recreations. One of the unique aspects of golf is that it is a rare combination of Caillois’ three categories of competition, chance and simulation. Given that competition and chance are more familiar subjects, the following discussion is focused more extensively upon the less familiar concept of simulation and state of flow.
Games and recreation have the capability to alter one’s sense of reality. These states of altered reality are divisions of simulation, which includes such things as creating a painting or viewing a painting, writing or reading, playing or listening to music. In golf, playing or viewing the game are forms of recreation with capabilities to pleasurably heighten, separate and extend reality.
Let’s explore Caillois’s categories of competition, chance and simulation.
1) Competition involves skill or merit. Factors that affect competition are rules, structure of the game which includes the course, organization of play, equipment and equity devices such as stroke handicapping, tee and double pin placement choices as depicted at hole #18, Jefferson G&CC, shown below. The unusual double pin on one green designated as one hole is a device that has unlimited Challenge/Skill (C/S) balance/potentialities.
Jefferson No.18 is a delightful scene to look at. The reflected images are a fascinating fusion of colors. The use of two flags shown on the green is also an ingenious equity device to be applauded when it comes to the objective of accommodating different challenge/skill balances. However, as depicted here, it remains unfinished. Players declare their choice of the white or black flag on the 18th tee. Here is an example of an innocently beautiful hole with an innocuous appearing water landscape effect, nevertheless another obstacle. Give the rabbit a break. Fill in 40 feet of the left part of the pond and fill in a sliver of the pond on the right. Replace these areas with inventive pieces of undulating chipping ground and it could become an immensely exciting hole for players of all levels of skills to enjoy. More holes with this type of manipulation as described, water or not, offer variety for C/S balance solutions.
2) Chance is synonymous with and involves luck or fate. Also factors that affect chance are the course layout and course design details. For example, early English course designer John L. Low advocated elimination of undulations in construction of the 18th green, its aprons, collection areas and adjacent surfaces. The layout of greens as a decisive factor of chance was important to Low, particularly the 18th hole if a match was tied. His objective was to reduce the element of luck and reward skill.
Another is the stymie. Good luck is a pleasurable and exciting experience in games, distributed evenly without discrimination of skills. Bad luck may be a test of one’s mettle. Robert Browning in his book: A History of Golf, 1955, cited the reduced pleasure due to the diminishing presence of luck in the game: “…we have been so anxious in the name of fair play, to take all the elements of luck out of the game…and destroyed its value as a test of each man’s ability to stand up to bad luck. Modern golf is a stiffer test of skill, but has robbed the game of its charm as an “adventure” of the spirit.” Browning’s referral to “adventure” is actually an experience that is part of simulation.
3) Simulation is synonymous with and involves drama. Simulation has the capability, as may be found in most forms of recreation, to produce sensations of altered reality such (a) a heightened reality as a high or pleasurable excitement of a sensation. Simulation may also produce a sense of (b) separate reality, where one imagines, senses or acts out probable or real-life situations or events in a separate reality where one may take on an appearance or condition without the reality, as in a simulator, or a drama, or pretend to be someone, doing something or being somewhere else, like a dream. Simulation may also produce a sense of (c) extended reality, such as a remembrance. Simulation can also occur later over time in combination with all three phases of altered reality. Simulation occurs naturally, it may also occur with ingestion of substances that affect mind and feeling.
The particular state of heightened reality (3a above) is a condition that I consider to be similar to Csikszentmihalyi’s and Jackson’s trail blazing work associated with “state of flow” and their fundamental components of flow. Most all of the quotes on theory of flow in my book are taken from their work. My book does not examine all flow components, not in detail, but mostly those that are negatively affected by landscape effects of a golf hole.
Please elaborate on the State of Flow concept.
State of Flow, what it is and how it works in games with players of all skill levels engaged in game activities is described in Flow in Sports – The Keys to Optimal Experiences and Performances, 1999. It is the key to theories of fun in games. Generally “state of flow” is defined as joy and pleasure experienced by persons engaged in an activity.
Experience of flow may range from mild enjoyment to ecstasy of optimal performance. The description of how it works is that sense of flow is a psychological state which may be attained through attention to the fundamental components of flow control — or of the mind. Flow occurs with balance of a perceived challenge to a perceived skill. It is a delicate balance, requiring one’s consciousness of the subtle dimensions and components of flow. This short expose is not intended to prove anything, only to explain how the influences of landscape effects are likely to deny, frustrate or disturb state of flow while preparing, executing or reacting to a golf stroke.
In order to prove anything, big data is needed to produce useable, verifiable data. The Golf Logic Model, Appx. A, suggests an Experience Sampling Method (ESM) be designed using real courses to provide artistic and aesthetic criteria of a well-built golf hole that addresses experiences of negative and positive state of flow. A sample of thousands of experiences would be necessary to create a useful data base.
An experience of heightened reality may extend to any person who plays golf. William Furlong, psychologist, in his article “The Fun in Fun”_Psychology Today, 1976, describes the fun in a heightened experience: “A person, in the flow of a game, may lose self-conscious sense of himself and of time, and gain a heightened awareness of physical involvement with an activity in the sense he is in a dream state.” (8) How time is spent, without disturbances is crucial to experiencing and maintaining a state of flow. Once attained from engagement in an activity, it is a defining moment of joy and forever afterwards becomes a desire to return to by those who have experienced its pleasures. Those players that experience flow, the essence of fun, will most likely continue to play the game while expanding their skills to meet higher challenges.
So that lack of flow is clearly something you see as missing from golf course design. What is needed to experience flow?
Csikszentmihalyi and Jackson list many fundamental flow components which range from Challenge-skill balance to Autotilic experiences. My own experiences tell me that several fundamental flow components have an affinity with the game of golf. One or more of these flow components described as follows must be present to experience flow.
Challenge/skill (C/S) balance. The optimal C/S balance of a perceived skill vs. an opportunity (a perceived or estimated challenge) is a condition where the challenge slightly exceeds the skill. Where the C/S balance is optimal the joy is greatest. The C/S balance is the most important component in the execution of a golf activity. Understanding this component is critical for analyzing why a hole may be too difficult and of little fun for players of certain skill levels. Too easy the activity may be boring; too difficult the activity may be frustrating for certain skill levels. In life as in golf, research has shown that attainment of a challenge that is slightly above one’s skill capabilities is one of the most rewarding and enervating experience that may be had in pursuit of any activity.
Acton-awareness merging. Unified physical and mental capabilities create a unified feeling and an acute sense of timing of action. Anxiety created by a landscape effect often leads to out of sync mental and physical action resulting in poor timing. Out of balance low skills confronted with challenges are not conducive to good timing and action in the execution of a stroke or a putt. The player’s experience may result in frustration or an interruption of flow and no fun.
Clear goals and sense of progress. For the enjoyment level of flow one must know what is to be done and have a sense of progress towards that goal. Too high of a challenge and blind shots induce anxiety at some skill levels and will deny opportunities for attaining flow. Any experience that is spoiled, frustrating, and disruptive or negative feedback of a flow opportunity may occur in golf. It only takes a few negative feedback experiences to create dissatisfaction with an activity or a game itself. Negative feedback in golf most often occurs from obstacles imposed by a myriad of landscape effects. Also frustrating are time delays and indirect time delays created by others, resulting in extra hours of waiting in a round of golf. Unpleasant waiting on a golf course may be mitigated by expectations of achieving a state of flow by those who have experienced it before and value anticipation of the thrill of it. However, waiting is not tolerated by new generations of golfers, simply because the thrill or joy of the state of flow in golf may be so rare to them never having experienced it before. Waiting to experience the possible thrill of state of flow is just not worth the wait.
Unambiguous feedback. To achieve flow one must have immediate feedback to know how they are doing and if things are going alright. Feedback from a shot is essential in making any required adjustments.
Sense of control. A positive sense of agency and control allows no conflict of anxiety or worry in preparation and execution of a stroke. The ability to progress toward a goal is essential to maintaining flow. Without ability to play a recovery shot there is frustration and/or interruption of flow.
How do these ‘flow experiences’ interact with golf landscape components?
The golf landscape components are: 1. water, 2. fairway, 3. bunker, 4. green (putting surface and aprons) 5. tree, 6. rough and margins, 7. foliage, 8. structure and 9. composition. The following paintings and narratives are divided into the first 8 groups. The paintings in each group are dominated by a single golf landscape component, water being the most potentially beautiful and the most abused.
1. WATER as a Dominant Landscape Component. Water is the most beautiful of golf landscape components, providing a visual delight that no other landscape component can do. Water in many forms is also a major landscape effect. Water scenes offer stunning beauty to course designers and beauty aggrandizers. But for players, water exacts the harshest of penalties while denying pleasurable excitement of game qualities of state of flow; C/S balance, goals and progress, feedback, recovery as well as separate and extended reality.
In the closing years of the 19th century Horace Hutchinson wrote: “…pleasant scenery is not golf, but golf is more enjoyable while surrounded by pleasant scenery.” One hundred years later, as the trend became apparent in the beginning of the 21st century, the pleasant scenery that Hutchinson referred to as not golf, is now golf. These beautiful, contrived landscape components of the course are now inextricably bound with experiences of the game, confounding the interests of players in search of both an answer and a choice of their interests: is it pleasant scenery or golf?
St. Andrews Old Course is the most famous course in the world. The only water on the course is Swilcan Burn which is a narrow ditch coming into play only on the first hole. How different course designers chose to use water provides insight into how they value the purpose of golf relative to use of scenic water. For example, Old Tom Morris placed great emphasis on functional purpose, economical construction and low cost maintenance of golf courses. There was no social imperative to make golf holes beautiful by design. In fact he avoided any scenic water contrivances. There are numerous references in early golf writings where golfers called the now famous Swilcan Burn nothing more than a “dirty ditch.”
About 80 years later, at the other end of that philosophic spectrum about water was Robert Trent Jones (1906 – 2000) who designed lots of ponds and water features to be directly in play and to be harsh, penal hazards, often shaping pond banks so that balls landed on dry ground would roll into the water. Jones saw water as extremely beautiful; but evidence of his work indicates that he didn’t worry too much about being fair to high handicappers.
Somewhere in the middle of that continuum in both time and thought between Old Tom and Trent Jones, was another design philosophy favored by A. W. Tillinghast (1876 – 1942) and Dr. Alister MacKenzie (1870-1934). Tillinghast and MacKenzie didn’t shy away from water as hazards, but rather used it in a simple and less harsh rather than an “in-your-face” way. For example, when MacKenzie designed Augusta National, Rae’s Creek was a stream on holes #11, #12 and #16, but in Jones remodeling he made the stream into ponds. They are lovely scenes and great theater for spectators watching triumph and despair beset the world’s best tournament players, but a little too much landscape effect for the rest of the world’s players.
Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Cse, designed by Gil Hanse (b1963), has 5 water holes that require either forced carries or are adjacent to line of play. Hanse considers St. Andrews, with countless opportunities for recovery play, the finest course in the world. He states, a revelation little understood by designers, that “… recovery shots are the soul of the game.” (9).
How ironic, there is no recovery play possible from his Rio Olympic golf course water hazards. Nor, the original Dick Wilson recently re-designed Hanse version for Trump National Doral Blue Monster GC, Miami, FL which has 14 holes with on-site water ponds.
Example 1: Baltusrol GC Lower Cse, No. 4. Light coming through a break in the trees at the left suggested a visually stunning painting. I produced my painting of hole No.4, shown below, by concentrating high light upon the putting surface.
Short leaves of grass on the putting surface mostly stand vertical thus reflect low morning, yellow light of the horizon. The bright putting surface contrasted with dark water and background made a dramatic scene. A case in point of making the course a pleasurable experience fair to both high handicappers and challenging to low handicappers is exemplified by Tillinghast’s original 4th hole, Baltusrol GC. Lower. His plan view is shown above, completed in 1922. Tillinghast’s par-3, No. 4 was 126 yards with a horseshoe-theme tee (shown above).
The 4th hole allowed rabbits play options to land in front of the green between the front bunkers on the left side of the green. Robert Trent Jones remodeled the hole in preparation for the 1954 U.S. Open. Jones’s avowed design philosophy was: “To make the courses fairer for the average player (according to NGF statistics, 50% of players cannot break 100) and harder for the low handicapper.” This may well be what Jones said, but not what he did; just the opposite. He altered Tillinghast’s option. His redesign would force a long carry by extending the water tight to the edge of the green eliminating any type of recovery play for a thinly-hit shot along the front edge where there is no apron.
Example 2: Lake Nona No. 13. The low sun creates enchanting light and long shadows that enhance contrasts of components of this interesting scene. The sky at the horizon through breaks in the tree line of pines is a pleasant combination of scarlet and yellow colors. The low angled sun highlights the grass, putting surface and sand. The eye, scanning the several passages in the scene, is quickly drawn to the ‘piece de resistance’, the dark water with reflections upon its surface.
The physical transition of water to earth is often interrupted with a structural wall; here there is simplicity in the forms where sand joins the water edges. There is no hard structural wall that would be out of character. The transition is a wonderful example of originality in use of traditional materials of water to turf and sand. Tom Fazio, designer of Lake Nona got into course design at age 17 working for his Uncle George Fazio (1912-1986). Tom said of his uncle, “ He was a dreamer … I think of him every day of my life.” His dreams have been realized here, in Tom’s work.
Lake Nona No. 13 is a beautiful hole, but a little too much of landscape effect, an unnecessary obstacle. Without changing the beauty of the effect, the pond might be moved to the left to improve the playability and the obstacle that confronts high handicapped golfers. As you view the painting, imagine relocating a goodly portion of the pond by placing your hand over the right side of the water. Would you agree that the aesthetic look remains the same, but qualities of chance, recovery and fun have been improved for 95% of golfers without diminishing the challenge to better players? It is ludicrous to even think that a scratch player would hit it in the water, so what is the pond for? Purely for the look.
Example 3: Oakland Hills South Course. No.16. The water is a typical, beautiful, landscape effect that might be considered a fair and acceptable design for the usual range of challenge/skill levels, but it is not. It is not because of the severe penalty for a slightly miss-hit shot resulting in lack of agency and recovery playability. The water hazard with two fingers located in front and to the side of the green creates a memorable, aesthetic, landscape effect. Thermals and light breezes stir water surfaces that reflect a fusion of delightful colors.
Trent Jones remodeled Donald Ross’s (1872-1948) South Course for the 1951 U.S. Open. His redesign brought criticism from professional golfers. Ben Hogan (1912-1997) called it a monster. Jones’s retort was: “… they were getting away with murder, and didn’t know it; playing courses that had been designed in the 20s.”
Walter Hagen (1892-1969) defended Jones’ severe course design: “The course is playing the players instead of the players playing the course.” (10) The players referred to here are not players in the sense of the word, but businessmen, certified male professional-tour golfers, the world’s best. They comprise less than one ten thousand of one percent (.0001) of all males who engage in golf in the world.
The comments by Jones and Hagen regarding standards for pro-tour golfers provide insight to why attaining fair challenge/skill opportunities for lesser skill levels has become problematical. The problem lies between serving two masters, each with different interests and motivations: One is a powerful group of non-golfers and associated organizations involved in the business of golf and sponsoring challenging, exciting golf tournaments. The other is an unorganized group of recreational players.
By mid-20th century a new style of golf course architecture would emerge, expressed in bold new forms and looks with use of water, lumber, earth and grasses that were capable of achieving creative, ornamental and dramatic landscape effects. I consider the emerging style, to borrow a descriptive term from the arts and architecture; a sort of variation of a brutal type of baroque design, embodying the spirit of Hogan’s monster description, bold new looks and forms that decorate the landscape.
As the style evolved, running out of variations, many followers of this new style would express their unique, different, Kantian individualistic geniuses with more extreme versions of these new forms. There is nothing subtle about a cross bunker 60 feet long tapered to 16 feet in height, other bunker banks 20 feet high, acres of unplayable water, hundreds of pieces of lumber lining bunkers and use of lush, impenetrable wedge grass, aptly named for the club.
The new style of golf course architecture was led by Trent Jones and Dick Wilson (1904-1965) and two others who would stand out as leaders of a new generation of course designers in the U.S.A. The other two leaders, Pete Dye and Tom Fazio, followed soon after Jones and Wilson. These four successors of the early American designers were recognized in The Architects of Golf (1993) as golf’s new generation of expert designers.
Using modern technology and landscape effect, the new generation of designers with their bold ideas would not be denied new forms. The new decorative looks and style of golf course architecture with a new vocabulary of forms and features would mimic the architectural baroque styles of the past.
Designers of all stripes began to copy the new looks until a new generation of designers rejected the style, not abandoning it altogether but combining it with variations of a minimalist style. The same type of forces, driving new looks of golf course architectural styles saw precedent in the profession of architecture where tastes and technology were a significant force in attaining new looks.
Example 4: Sawgrass TPC, No. 17. Qualities by which a golf hole for players should be judged are structure, playability and delight. The Sawgrass TPC 17th hole, shown below, is short by this account. However it survives by account that it is not for players but for watching. No. 17 is best suited for TV viewing where exciting entertainment consisting of bad and good luck, skill, suspense and leader board swings is offered to spectators by the world’s best golfers.
Human nature being what it is, America’s Worst Avid Golfers (AWAG) Tournament, played at Sawgrass, staged a replaying of the 17th hole to entertain fans in a circus-like atmosphere while performing a mockery of the game. This hole illustrates how the tyranny of design can impact the beauties of the game. It has done nothing for the player’s side of the game, only amusement that has filled the amphitheater stands of the Coliseum with spectators thirsty for mayhem.
This discussion about No. 17 is intended for benefit of developers and green committees and players’ interests. It is a an example of what not to do in making decisions where nearby water may entice beauty aggrandizers to design something beautiful but disastrous. No. 17 eliminates the pleasurable excitement in recovery play of the game found in chipping; it also potentially eliminates the fun in the state of flow of the game plus aspects of action-awareness, competition, chance and simulation. These qualities constitute a large part of the game. There are more imaginative ways to add fun to the game than designing holes such as the 17th hole. The No.17 painting is an exception to the reason why other landscape scenes had attracted me. The scene was not painted for its beauty. It is an intriguing hole if one studies the horror in it.
The hole has become world famous for many reasons, mostly novelty, and is probably the best built example of its kind. The wall decision must have been the result of faulty arithmetic for it is an expensive solution; it just looks cheap. It has no harmony with the environment. I cannot imagine that Pete Dye designed this wall; it is most likely the work of a committee. Dye is more imaginative. This is a break with Dye’s style; he holds the inventive short, apron run-up, chipping game of Donald Ross’s, dear to his heart. Ross’s design characteristics have been praised by Dye and have influenced Dye’s work, but are absent at Sawgrass TPC No. 17. Dye proclaimed: “Little did I know that Mr. Ross’s creative genius would influence my future course design,” In his book, Bury Me in a Pot Bunker, 1995, Dye is quoted; “I was smitten forever when I discovered Mr. Ross’s North Carolina creation… Pinehurst No. 2 (aprons, greens) impressed me more than any other golf course I had ever seen … no water hazards… as Mr. Ross put it, they (aprons around the greens) invent short shots that no other form of hazard can call for.”(11)
Subsequently, today, the run-up game and the greenside recovery shot has been eliminated with holes that have been constructed similar to Sawgrass No. 17. This applies to all par 3, 4 and 5s with close, tight greenside water. Why is there so much water in play? It is the power of beauty, the motivation to surround golf with beautiful, creative scenery, justify it as strategy and package it for TV production, fatal to everyone except the interests of non-golfers associated with the game. They, the beauty aggrandizers, not the players, have by example of proliferous use of water, have put their approval upon greenside water obstacles and in the process have high jacked a major part of the game’s beauties.
No. 17 is a successful hole for viewing but that is secondary to players’ interests, that group of 95% of all golfers that can’t break 80. An admirable criterion for playability of a golf hole has been attributed to Alister MacKenzie. Its spirit is similar to that which is championed by most designers, it is: “A successful golf hole is one that may be played and enjoyed by players of all skill levels and from ages five or six to ninety… and no hole can be considered perfect unless it can be played with a putter.” (12)
If one considers only the part about MacKenzie’s putter criterion, then perhaps Sawgrass No.17 meets MacKenzie’s criterion for excellence. The crowned America’s Worst Avid Golfer champion said he played No. 17 with a putter when he won his AWAG Championship some years ago.
Angelo Spagnola (1948), winner of the AWAG Tournament held at Sawgrass TPC, played the 17th hole in 65 strokes; an achievement not to be mocked, but pitied. He first emptied two boxes of balls into the water. Then, using his putter from the tee, he went alongside the water pond, putting his ball, and then turned 180 degrees back to the green on the narrow access path. Angelo got down in 2 putts and announced that he had played the hole as well as any pro once he was on the green, after he had lost 25 balls.
Peter W. Thompson (1929), the great Australian professional, 5 times winner of The Open, had this insightful thought about rating of a golf course: “I have begun to rate golf courses by the number of balls you need. For instance, if a course is a one-ball course…I think it’s a great course. But a 12-ball course I think is rubbish.” (13) A 25-ball hole, toxic.
Thank you for those four examples. Let’s resume with a looking at the remaining dominant landscape components.
2. FAIRWAY as a Dominant Landscape Component. In an American Society of Golf Course Architects interview Thomas Fazio, American course designer, was asked: “What contribution has America given to golf course design”? Fazio’s answer was not about grand course designs in America, but more about obsession with the color green: “If we could accept golf in the color brown and program in our minds that brown is good we could do things differently in design and maintenance … less water and fertilizer. Unfortunately, Americans go to Scotland and other arid climates … and see rough-hewn courses, brown and sparse and they talk about how great it is. Then they go back to their home courses and if they see brown spots they think the superintendent is not doing his job.” Fazio’s answer was not as expected. It was an indictment of present day expensive, wasteful course maintenance practices and indulgent tastes that have succumbed to the power of a fatal beauty that drives such practices.
Of all components and artistic features of a golf course landscape, the determinant of a pleasurable visual experience is not form, pattern or composition but color. Green is only one color; there are other shades of green grasses and other colors upon which the ball sits up nicely and is environmentally well adapted. Color is a feature of landscape components but when a color is devised to achieve a certain look at the expense of other attributes, the component’s qualities are compromised as well as the original designer’s work.
Attractive, mixed color fairways are depicted in Wild Dunes, No.18, Marshside Sea Island, No.4, Arizona No.3 and Bandon Dunes No. 3 paintings shown in my book. Many fairways with original delightful contours that ebbed and flowed over mixed colored grasses have succumbed to committees indulgent taste for landscape effect and obsessive taste in the color green. “Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing. Taste is the enemy of creativeness.” (14)
Many scenes of Pinehurst are beautiful because of their simplicity and for the variety in the simplicities. The play is also a beautiful experience. There are no exaggerated earth forms but rather the lovely fairway undulations as seen in the painting of No. 10 above. Many experts claim they can identify a Ross course. That is a myth, because there were many designers, all the way back to Old Tom Morris’s era who pursued simplicity, cost effectiveness and purpose of the game without landscape effect.
According to Pete Dye, who credits much of his course design approach to Ross stated: “there’s no such thing as “a” Ross course.” (15) Long shadows cast over the ground bring out the contours of Ross’s elegant work. With light at low angles we are able to see, not possible without long shadows, the most subtle of shapes flowing through his fairways. The lush, green color fairway grass is suspect and begs the question: Is this the best grass for this environment, its maintainability, cost and its purpose or is it the best in regard to its appearance?
3. BUNKER as a Dominant Landscape Component. Early designers cited the enormity of arguments relative to the subject of bunkers. C. B. Macdonald exclaimed: “When one comes to qualities of bunkers … we pass into the realm of dispute and argument. Whether this or that bunker is well placed has caused more intensely heated arguments than outside of the realms of religion.”(16)
By the latter part of the 1800’s, bunkers, the most unaesthetic looking things on early inland courses, figured prominently in discussions of the scenic movement to improve looks of the so called dismal looking golf courses. By the mid 1900’s bunkers with benefit of new earth moving technology to move vast quantities of earth economically became a dominant landscape effect. Bunkers logically availed themselves of more and more extreme creative expression in a variety of forms, sizes, shapes and repetitive patterns complimented with various ornamental structures around their perimeters.
Frank Lloyd Wright, (1867-1959) famous architect, faulted architects for confused choices of contrived, applied decorative materials with which they covered their architectural works. Wright’s tort became: “When in doubt plant,” a phrase that aptly applies to course designers who feel compelled to apply some form of decoration to their work but are indecisive by the many choices available to achieve a decorative landscape effect. The easy, versatile choice for course designers in pursuit of that quality of illusive beauty, justified by defensible ignorance, is: “When in doubt bunker.”
There are millions of possible combinations of aesthetic landscape effects reviewed in Chapter 1. Bunkers are the most capable of extreme looks, adaptable to all land conditions and rationales. We have already discussed the example of the dull looking bunkers at The Golf Club, Ohio. Another similar circumstance happened at Bandon Dunes, Oregon.
A debate took place at Bandon Dunes concerning choice of a landscape effect for the Old Macdonald 17th hole amongst Mike Keiser (1958), owner, Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, co-designers, a hand-picked group of golf writers and advisors. The discussion came down to whether or not it would be nice to create a Scottish burn in the fairway? Doak said he would sleep on it. Next day, his choice having been made, he said: “I got rid of the big hill on the left side of the 17th fairway and replaced the burn with a nest of bunkers.” (17) “When in doubt, bunker.”
Bethpage Black Cse., No. 4. Many of the bunkers on the Bethpage Black Course, hole after hole, are exceptional for their harmonious rhythmic patterns. Although many sets on the course are over designed, the 4th hole, shown below, is as fine a set of bunkers, without equal anywhere. Upon arriving at the 4th tee one is captivated by the scene, before a thought of any kind is given of the shot. The bunkers appear brutal with high walls. It is an illusion. Their side hill construction gives an illusion of exaggerated depth because more sand area is exposed to the eye. The pleasurable excitement of expectations, ample landing areas suitable for a wide range of skills and the visual pleasure make No. 4 an exceptional hole.
There are only three sets of bunkers at Bethpage Black, shown in the book, that I would consider a landscape effect; bunker sets at Nos.10/11, No.17 and 18. Once in them, a fair recovery attempt if hit into another bunker should not be penalized. Their extravagance in pursuit of beauty does not justify license for such severity.
4. GREEN as a Dominant Landscape Component. Greens consist of putting surfaces, aprons and collection areas that may vary in size from narrow grass collars to broad undulating areas that may reach to the edges of fairways and roughs. Putting surfaces and aprons are the distinctive identities of every hole and the discriminators of every golf course.
Greens, more than any other landscape component, hold the fate of skill and chance and subsequently the fun in pleasurable excitement that players seek. Greens are a large factor in the challenge/skill balance for players of all skills. The putting surfaces, aprons and collection areas constitute half of the game. But, where aprons are preempted by green side landscape effects such as bunkers, water, steep and high earthen banks built tight to the edges of putting surfaces they deny green side apron play, chipping and inventive run-up shots. The high handicap players have more fun in play of green complexes with aprons and collection areas and have more opportunity to experience the element of luck, simply because they miss more putting surfaces than do low handicap players.
Camargo C, No.11 and Cherry Hill C, No.11. Examples are shown of two ends of the spectrum of different types of greens, No. 11 Camargo by Seth Raynor, shown below with no chipping area and No.11 Cherry Hill by Walter J.Travis with fascinating chipping, collection areas and putting surfaces. A landscape effect is no fun for that majority of players who are wont to slightly miss-hit an approach shot that bounces into deep, steep bunkers or a water hazard.
5. TREE as a Dominant Landscape Component. British designers of inland courses exploited artistic use of trees. C. B. Macdonald and W.J. Travis were opposed to trees, being partial to early experiences with links type courses where there were no trees. MacDonald said no course could be ideal which is laid out with trees. He stated that his National Golf Links was the ideal, of the highest rank, while his tree populated course at Yale could only achieve a classic rank. (18) Macdonald insisted that trees denied the full effect of wind upon play. Travis stated that a golf course was no place for a tree. Tillinghast, a proponent of trees, claimed that he influenced Travis on the importance of trees and ultimately prevailed.
Beautiful literary expressions of trees are found in poetry, but no matter how poetry may describe a lovely tree, words fail. Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), poet, expressed a similar thought in his poetry: “I hope that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” A painting may come close, creating an illusion just as lovely, but never lovelier than the tree. Specimen trees should be accommodated on a course. One or two, adjacent to play are not an indulgence, often an element of luck.
Hole No.16, Cypress Point Club, shown below, is one of the most photographed holes in the world. My interest was mostly drawn to the lone cypress tree leaning on a crutch. Its saga stirs one’s emotions. The tree had given years of pleasure. Without a replacement the scene would be lacking. To test my proposition, place one hand over the lone cypress as you view the painting. Remove your hand and a pleasant feeling is regained. The colorful ice plant is another delightful experience. The powerful ocean does not escape one’s attention either, the ocean’s moods are separated by the peninsula lacking the force of the dominant, majestic tree.
Alister MacKenzie considered Cypress Point his masterpiece. He claimed that it was the most difficult and most beautiful of all his courses: “…It is the only course I know where one literally gasps with astonishment at its beauty.” (19) Until MacKenzie’s time, few writers or designers other than Horace Hutchinson wrote about scenic beauty. Hunter and MacKenzie wrote not only about aesthetic beauty but about the fitness of purpose of the courses they designed.
The lone cypress was past its glory the last time I saw it, viewed from the left side of the fairway. A slatted wood crate covers a new cypress shoot at its base. It is an expression of caring; what was and is to be.
Webhannet GC, No 9 The two scenes of the ninth, one from the tee, the other from rear of the green, below, are attractive because of two majestic oak trees bordering the green. The sun is low and the late afternoon light is enchanting. The two trees contend with all manner of assorted chip shots allowing for good luck, bad luck and imaginative play. If by chance behind one, the trees offer players long odds, their trunks occupy less that 2% of the green perimeter.
6. ROUGH/MARGINS as a Dominant Landscape Component. The painting of Sunningdale New Course, hole No.5, below, is an interesting scene with ornamental landscape effect of heather in line of play as rough/margins. H. S. Colt’s original design of No.5, Sunningdale New Course, circa 1923 shown below, had no heather around the green. Colt’s firm was now the world’s leading design firm. His progressive work was influenced by the art of landscape gardening. Historian F. W. Hawtree remarked that Colt grew up in a part of England where stretches of the country side were rich in exceptional landscapes which were not ignored by young Colt. When Colt took on new partners, he arranged for his new business stationary to clearly state on the letterhead, that they were “Experts in landscape work.”
This was a tip off of where the direction of course design had been and where it was heading; more beautiful landscape effects for better looks, a pleasure to behold but not as much for play.
After construction in 1923 of Sunningdale’s New Course, committees evidently in possession of extra heather sprigs, sought holes on both the new and old courses to beautify. Horace Hutchinson’s quest to enhance experiences of the golf by improving scenery had gained considerable momentum. Unfortunately the visual experience would be far less delightful than predicaments one experienced as a result of a foozled shot. Heather, here, yon and in line of play is but another obstacle of play, even with the blooms cut back. The book shows other indulgences of heather on bunker cops of the old course. It is 2017 and Sunningdale now has a heather farm.
7. FOLAIGE as a Dominant Landscape Component. Noted art historian Brent Brolin, observed: “…From the beginning, beauty through ornament has been an integral part of most all cultures. With rare exception, when ornament could be used, it was, and in most cases in proportion to wealth.” However for golf clubs involved with profitable TV contracts, their wealth has little to do with affording ornamental landscape effects. It is more likely the fans, advertisers and TV interests that pay for beauty aggrandizing landscape effects. Fox Sports is reported to have entered into a contract for TV rights of tournaments from the USGA for $95 million a year for 12 years according to Links Magazine Winter 2015. However it is gratifying to see that of the past several major tournaments that the USGA has staged that they appear to moving away from over indulged lush green colored fairways, margins/rough and ornamental foliage.
Of all the scenes at Augusta I am especially attracted to is hole No.13, below. Most scenes of the 13th show the azalea foliage in the background. The scene is most stunning with the azaleas in the foreground. Augusta National is famous for its “strategic problems,” as the designer Alister MacKenzie preferred to characterize his design ideas. Augusta National is now more famous for its visual beauty.
Blooms at Augusta aspire to peak every year at Masters Tournament time. It has been a recent practice that if blossoms appear too early ice is packed around their roots. But, if blossoms lag, electrical generators are used to power banks of incandescent lamps that shine all night to speed up nature’s blossoming process. Augusta National is not the cause of mankind’s instinctive pursuit of beauty; it is only the most publicized and indulged.
Those who care about the future of the game would be pleased to see high visibility courses set an example of progressive maintenance that achieves beauty in their fairways with combinations of multi-colored yellow, tan, and green grasses.
8. STRUCTURE as a Dominant Landscape Component. The view of Harbour Town’s No.17 bunker at left green side, shown below, includes a structure. Whatever it is, it produces unplayable lies near the wall. The structure, constructed of colorful pieces of lumber, is a playful Pete Dye whimsy. It is a retaining wall retaining air on both sides. I entered the bunker; I touched it and found it so wobbly only air was supporting it. So what of it, if it strikes one’s fancy? I liked its entasis along the top. By any other name it is a landscape effect, and another obstacle. However, every straight course should be entitled to one landscape effect, if only for bringing more luck and chance back into the game. But if viewers look close they will see other landscape effects. The attractive water is an encroachment to play. Being in the bunker is no challenge for scratch players. But lo, the absence of an apron and collection area on the left deny the opportunity for inventive run up shots of all levels of skills; particularly difficult to scratch players if short sided. Nevertheless it is beautiful, successfully devised for looking rather than playing.
One of the more important questions that I am asked in Part Three of this interview is about the convictions of my conclusions. Ran has peeled the veneer off of plausible statements. The key to my convictions is that “landscape effect” is a fact. To that end Interview Part Three goes into a great bit of historical background about the cultural forces that have driven the mindset of golf’s design ideology in pursuit of beautiful, unique and individualistic creations of landscape effect. Also coming up, Interview Three suggests an approach that could turn the decline of the game around. The approach involves a proven, cost effective, implementation process for outcome-orientated evaluation projects. The goal is to quickly turn the decline around and develop a continuous improvement process for sustained future growth of the game. The projected outcomes include course design measures that would improve costs, delays in play, challenge/skill (C/S) balances for low and high levels of handicap players and more fun. This approach is defined in the Golf Logic Model.
End of Part II
14. Picasso, Pablo, Artist, Quotation
15. Klein, Bradley S., Discovering Donald Ross, Sleeping Bear Press, Chelsea, MI, 2001, page, Introduction
16. Macdonald, Charles Blair. Scotland’s Gift – Golf, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928, reprint Ailsa Inc.,
1985, page 181
17. Goodwin, Stephen, Dream Golf, The Making of Bandon Dunes, Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC, 2010, pg. 287
18. Ibid, 16, page 299
19. Ibid 12, Chapter 2, page 53
8. Furlong, William B. The Fun in Fun, Psychology Today magazine., 1976, pgs. 35-38
9. Hanse, Gil, Golf Digest, Aug ’16, p 90.
10. Wind, Herbert Warren. The Complete Golfer, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1954, pg. 309
11. Dye, Pete with Shaw, Mark. Bury Me in a Pot Bunker, Addison Wesley Publishing Co., Reading, MA,1995,
pgs.5 & 13
12. MacKenzie, Alister. The Spirit of St. Andrews (From notes of 1934), Broadway Books, NY, Sleeping Bear Press,
1995 pg. 9
13.Thompson, Peter. Quotation, Links Magazine, Winter 2016, Vol. 25, No. 1.pg.38