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Peter Pallotta

How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« on: March 03, 2007, 08:31:21 PM »
I've been meaning to ask this question since I got here, but it's a novice's question so I hesitated. But:

How does someone seeing a course for the first time (or 3rd or 4th time) know if the architect has done a good job of routing the course?

What do you look for? How do you try to get an overall impression of the overall site to try to determine if the architect has gotten "the most" out of a site?

I can sometimes see a feature that I think "I wish he'd used that, maybe to put a green behind;" and I can notice if the holes go in different directions in an interesting way; or sometimes, if there's a nice/pleasant/flowing mix of hard and easy holes and par 3s, 4s, and 5s.  

But I've never been able to get in my mind a "bird's eye view" of the whole property in order to get a sense of what the architect did or didn't "use"; and I've never been able to figure out what holes "the architect left out there", or if hole #6, say, would've been better as hole #9.

In short, I don't really know how to judge "routing". When I'm actually playing golf I pretty much take the course as it comes, so it's not about being a critic but about trying to get a fuller experience out there. And reading and thinking about some of the courses discussed here, "good routing" is mentioned so often, I'm wondering what I've  been missing, and how to discuss that question better.  

What do you look for and how do you detemine if the architect has routed a course well?

Thanks
Peter
« Last Edit: March 03, 2007, 08:53:01 PM by Peter Pallotta »

JESII

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2007, 08:44:27 PM »
Peter,

I think it's a great question because no matter how many times it is brought up on here, 99% of us non-professional don't know what we're looking at or talking about.

The other day I mentioned Pine Valley and might have used the term routing in talking about "privacy", but all I really meant was that the holes are very well spread out. Not many parallell fairways. I have no clue whether or not they got the most out of the property or not, but it must be pretty good, right?

wsmorrison

Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2007, 09:52:09 PM »
I agree, Jim.  All us amateurs on the site would be fooling ourselves if we pretend to understand routing implications.  I got some insight into judging the routing of CC York because it was built by Ross and we studied the Flynn plan that was proposed at the same time in a competition.  The plans were very different and it was a terrific exercise in learning about routing a golf course.  It also showed me very clearly how little the armchair architects among us know.

Routings before topographic maps and aerial photographs must have been pretty tough.  

The ability to route a golf course seems to fall into two types...those that determine a routing in a sort of holistic manner and those that do it in an analytical fashion.  Bill Coore seems to take an analytical approach while Flynn seemed to be much quicker and holistic in his method.  Maybe a right versus left brain approach?  Spatial relations skills certainly are important.  

I hope we can have some good discussions on this subject, it is one of the most fascinating aspects of golf course architecture.

Lloyd_Cole

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2007, 11:51:05 PM »
Peter,
On the one hand I feel like you do - somewhat intimidated in attempting to evaluate a routing. On the other hand - if you have enjoyed the course, you were never bored, and there were no long hikes from green to tee, it can't be too bad...

Eric_Terhorst

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2007, 12:14:55 AM »

I can sometimes see a feature that I think "I wish he'd used that, maybe to put a green behind;" and I can notice if the holes go in different directions in an interesting way; or sometimes, if there's a nice/pleasant/flowing mix of hard and easy holes and par 3s, 4s, and 5s.  

Peter,

When I HAVEN'T thought about the things you mention in this quote, and  I HAVEN'T had to ride in a motorized cart with a GPS system...

When I HAVE had a pleasant walk or, more strenuously, a hike, while seeing a good variety of the property's topography and enjoyed some natural, strategically interesting golf holes...

When all of the above are true, I feel like I've experienced a good routing.  

Adam Sherer

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2007, 12:24:42 AM »
Look at three courses (NGLA, Shinnecock, Sebonack), that are all within a half mile of each other, and their respective routings:

How did MacDonald route NGLA, was he looking for specific holes within the contours of the land? Was he more concerned with the overall aesthetic experience, or the golfing / strategic experience?

How did Flynn do Shinnecock (that we know and love today) was he trying to get the most out of the land? It has the cohesiveness and fluidity that it lacked in the first two renditions (if NGLA is the proverbial "Beast" then surely Shinny is the "Beauty")

How did Nicklaus / Doak do Sebonack? Did they route the course to optimize the oceanfront property views? What would it look like if Nicklaus had done the job alone, as was the initial intention? What would it look like if MacDonald had had the chance to build NGLA on that property?

The National, Shinnecock, and Seboanck are what they are because of the architects that did them. Furthermore Wayne, it has been reported that Coore and Crenshaw were out on the Friars Head site for many a month trying to settle the logistical concerns of that routing. And Crump was certainly aided in the "Design By Committee" method to establish the appropriate flow of spatial and strategic routing of Pine Valley.

If you (you meaning anyone) had a piece of property to design a golf course, would you look for specific hole strategies,  views/backdrops/aesthetics, or just whatever fits the property?



« Last Edit: March 04, 2007, 12:27:08 AM by Adam_Sherer »
"Spem successus alit"
 (success nourishes hope)
 
         - Ross clan motto

Matt_Cohn

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2007, 12:32:38 AM »
If you finish a hole and feel disappointment that you have to play the next hole in the direction that it's laid out, the routing could have been better.

If you never experience this feeling, and after each hole you're quite enthused to explore wherever the next hole happens to go, then the routing IMO is likely a good one.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2007, 02:02:10 AM by Matt_Cohn »

Adam Sherer

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2007, 12:37:59 AM »
If you finish a hole and feel disappointment that you have to play the next hole in the direction that it's laid out, the routing could have been better.

If you never experience this feeling, and after each hole you're quite enthused to explore wherever the next hole happens to go, then the routing IMO is good.


You're easily satisfied, dude.
"Spem successus alit"
 (success nourishes hope)
 
         - Ross clan motto

Matt_Cohn

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2007, 12:52:08 AM »
Care to elaborate?

The question referred specifically to evaluating the routing of a course after a limited number of rounds. I think my suggestion is a fantastic way to start the evaluation.

Besides, if you think this criteria is one by which I'd be "easily satisfied", I'm not sure why you think that would be the case. How often do you play courses that pass this test?

Adam Sherer

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2007, 01:20:57 AM »
You're right, Matt. Sometimes after playing a hole, Ireally just have the desire to go left, but the next hole goes right. After that, I just think that the routing has gone to hell.

"The question referred specifically to evaluating the routing of a course after a limited number of rounds."

Yeah, I guess I missed reading that, but regardless, the routing is based on so many principles that it is ridiculous. How do you play the par three at Pebble (the short one #6 I think) without playing the next hole (par 4 #7 I think) uphill with a totally blind drive? Moreover, how do you decide to play two par threes back to back like Cypress point (reference to recent thread rating PB vs. CP)? This is just one aspect of routing (ie deciding whether or not to route consecutive holes in an unorthodox manner) among the twnety or so critical factors that make routing more like a rubix cube than a 2-D drawing.
"Spem successus alit"
 (success nourishes hope)
 
         - Ross clan motto

Jeff Doerr

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2007, 01:31:04 AM »
Peter,

Hopefully we can get Forrest to give us an insight into his book on the subject which I have not read yet, but is on the list...

Ian has a nice bit on his blog:
http://thecaddyshack.blogspot.com/2006/05/routing-course.html


Mike Nuzzo has a very nice section on his site:
http://www.mnuzzo.com/routing.html
"And so," (concluded the Oldest Member), "you see that golf can be of
the greatest practical assistance to a man in Life's struggle.

Michael Dugger

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2007, 02:13:50 AM »
Having just finished Forrest's book, this is a topic I am familiar with.....

Firstly, I think a few parameters, as established by the developer, are going to impact the overall final product.

Has a location for the clubhouse, maintenance  building and/or entrance to the facility been established yet?  Is it flexible or not?

Do you have an unlimited parcel of land to work with or are you constrained by the property boundries and/or topography of the site?

In other words, many aspects of the routing might be dictated by the property itself before the architect even gets to it. :-\
« Last Edit: March 04, 2007, 02:18:43 AM by Michael Dugger »
What does it matter if the poor player can putt all the way from tee to green, provided that he has to zigzag so frequently that he takes six or seven putts to reach it?     --Alistair Mackenzie--

Matt_Cohn

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2007, 02:29:13 AM »
Adam,

I've written to you privately regarding the first part of your post.

Regarding the second part, it seems that you're asking a wholly separate question about how one goes about routing a golf course, correct?

Peter,

Good point. I don't know that we're really capable of judging the big picture of the routing as much as we'd like. I think there are just too many variables. That's why, as I posted above, I think it's only fair to judge the experience of the routing as you play it.

Quick story - at a course I used to play frequently, the routing was finalized...and *then*, all of this stuff occured: a repositioned road, altering 2 holes; a small floodplain declared off-limits, which altered 4 holes; a repositioned parking lot, which altered 2 holes; one logistical decision, altering 1 hole; and one corridor declared too narrow, altering 2 holes.

I didn't know about these concessions until after I'd played the course about 20 times; my respect for the work of the architect, and my estimation of the quality of the routing, increased significantly in light of these facts.


Brian Phillips

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2007, 03:25:35 AM »
To give a quick answer to a difficult question...

If the routing 'feels' good when you walk and play the course then you know it is a good routing.  A good modern example is Kyle Phillips' routing at The Grove in England.

He has routed the course on a hill and brings you back to a certain place on the property numerous times without you feeling that you are back in the area.
Bunkers, if they be good bunkers, and bunkers of strong character, refuse to be disregarded, and insist on asserting themselves; they do not mind being avoided, but they decline to be ignored - John Low Concerning Golf

Mark_F

Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2007, 05:52:48 AM »
Sean,

1, 4 and 7 are fantastic points - what courses best encapsulate these for you?

Porthcawl goes a long way to fulfilling those criteria for me, as does, to a lesser extent, Beau Desert.  West Sussex is also an excellent example, with a terrific mix of holes and greens.

Don_Mahaffey

Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2007, 08:28:16 AM »
When I play a golf course and I get lost within my game, or match; losing track of score or hole number, and after finishing, what I really want to do is go right back to the first tee, then I've found the routing to be good.

Bad routing is not hard to see; long treks from greens to tees or routings done with golf as a secondary consideration, those are easy to see or analyze. But for me, good, or great routing is less analytical and more emotional. I'm sure the experts can analyze and rank routings, but I just feel them and haven't been off the mark very often.

wsmorrison

Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2007, 10:14:55 AM »
Don,

I certainly agree that it is easy to determine bad routings, but to understand the fullest potential and whether or not it is realized is another matter all together.  That is the art in the most important component of golf design.  The art is at its highest expression when naturalism is manifested; that is when natural features are highlighted or man-made features blended in naturally.  It is far less sophisticated when the routing is subordinated due to substantial and overt man-made features which dictate the golf experience.  Of course the inherent attributes of the grounds for golf is a primary consideration.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2007, 10:16:02 AM by Wayne Morrison »

Tom_Doak

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2007, 11:00:48 AM »
This is a fascinating discussion which I hate to interrupt.  So far, the answer seems to be that everyone has a different take on the subject, which is not surprising.

And no one yet has mentioned the professional architect's goal, which is to achieve the BEST routing possible given the constraints.  In the end, it is really a matter of comparing different options and determining which is preferred.

I have showed Adam (as one of our interns) and a few others how I came up with the routing for Sebonack ... we started by planning the best possible holes in the most dramatic section of the property (the coastline); then worked out how many good holes we could fit on the seaward side of the ridge which ran through the property; and worked our way inland from there.

cary lichtenstein

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #18 on: March 04, 2007, 11:10:37 AM »
Routing in my eyes is the essence of what distinguishes talented architects from the average.

The complex ability to visualize a jig saw puzzle before the pieces.

I sometimes wonder about some routing when I see features that are dramatic that are not used, but not knowing the contraints, I could never know.

One routing which sticks out in my mind as less than exciting was The Preserve, I thought they routed the course almost backwards, using all the exciting parts as part of the teeing complexes rather than vis versa.

Live Jupiter, Fl, was  4 handicap, played top 100 US, top 75 World. Great memories, no longer play, 4 back surgeries. I don't miss a lot of things about golf, life is simpler with out it. I miss my 60 degree wedge shots, don't miss nasty weather, icing, back spasms. Last course I played was Augusta

wsmorrison

Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2007, 11:21:48 AM »
Tom Doak,

I recall you mentioning that you did an early routing iteration for Sebonack on a topo map and this turned out to be much the way the course was routed in the end.  What is a typical range of time it takes to come up with a routing.  What is the fastest you've come up with a final routing?  What is the longest it took and some of the reasons, other than permitting?  Are there some glaring routing mistakes on some classic courses that you would care to mention?  Sorry for so many questions but routing is the underpinning to golf architecture and is so poorly understood by those of us that aren't architects.

It must be so difficult to route on heavily treed or impenetrable  ground.  I cannot imagine what it was like to conceive a routing at Pine Valley with the dense pine forest that existed.  That's probably one reason Crump had so much trouble and needed Colt's valuable assistance.  Flynn routed the Cascades in one day walking through brush and dense woods over some pretty severe terrain.  That is an amazing feat to me, especially given that Tillinghast didn't see building a course there at all.  Nor did Raynor, though he didn't look at additional land that could be acquired to make a suitable course.  

The significant Ross-Flynn routing differences for their competing plans at CC York are a fascinating contrast in routing preferences.  There the start and finish were fixed by the road into the farmhouse that was going to be used for a clubhouse yet the results are very different.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2007, 11:25:40 AM by Wayne Morrison »

BCrosby

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2007, 11:35:43 AM »
Great question.

As Wayne Morrison and others know, Donald Ross and William Flynn each submitted a routing for the York CC in 1925. Same property, same clubhouse location, same time.  

In short, all the usual variables were held constant.

Their routings could not have been more different. Except for the fact that both had to start and end each nine at the clubhouse, the two routings have almost nothing in common. Many of their proposed holes runs perpendicular to holes laid out by the other architect. Radically different ways of dealing with the creeks and contours the property offered. It's fascinating.

You sometimes hear the old axiom that "topography is destiny". Not true. Routing is highly individual and, imho, the biggest test for an architect.

Curiously, it's also the hardest for a laymen to assess. Once a course is built, it's very hard to see the alternative routings that were rejected or weren't considered. Other possible routings are very, very hard to visualize.

Bottom line: I don't know how you figure out whether a routing is good because it is hard to figure out what to compare a given routing to. For example, Peachtree is a good (or bad) routing compared to what?  

The York CC is a wonderful window on all that.

Bob  
« Last Edit: March 04, 2007, 11:37:25 AM by BCrosby »

Don_Mahaffey

Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #21 on: March 04, 2007, 11:52:11 AM »
Wayne,
I think I understand your point, but the question was "how do you tell if the routing is good" not "did the architect produce the best possible routing".

I doubt you'll ever get any architects to agree on the 2nd question or even if all the possible routings were even considered. Some architects seem to get it right consistently while others seem more intent on creating features or producing a strong test of golf...that also looks nice.

For me it's a simple question of whether I get "lost" within the course. If I do, the routing is usually good and the courses where that has happened to me are highly ranked by the critics.  
If an architect presents me with some possible routings for a given course (it's happened a few times) then I share my thoughts on what I like and leave it at that. But I doubt there are many here qualified to judge an existing routing against what might have been. If only because they weren't involved during course creation and can't possible know what constraints were present.

Jeff Doerr

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Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #22 on: March 04, 2007, 12:06:30 PM »
Wayne,

Are you able to share what is different in the Ross vs. Flynn routing for CC York?
"And so," (concluded the Oldest Member), "you see that golf can be of
the greatest practical assistance to a man in Life's struggle.

Jeff Doerr

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #23 on: March 04, 2007, 12:23:00 PM »
Second question for all -

Sometimes the phrase is used around here that the course has "good bones" meaning a good routing, How do you see "good bones" when all the other features are poorly designed or in poor condition?

I grew up in the Central Valley of CA playing a lot of Bob Baldock courses as a kid. I think in one of the posts on here a mention was made that his courses still had "good bones". Could I not see it because I was a kid? Looking back, I just remember those as kind of boring courses. I think his linaege traces to Thomas and Bell, could he have retained some of their ability to route a course and not other key items?

Just curious as I've always been a bit of a Baldock basher since I've understood a little about GCA. The comment about most of his course having "good bones" is causing me to rethink my position - but not too much, I think the kids view was pretty spot on.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2007, 01:25:28 PM by Jeff Doerr »
"And so," (concluded the Oldest Member), "you see that golf can be of
the greatest practical assistance to a man in Life's struggle.

Peter Pallotta

Re:How do you tell if the Routing is Good?
« Reply #24 on: March 04, 2007, 12:24:51 PM »
Gents - thanks to all for your feedback so far. There's many helpful and interesting takes, and areas to follow-up on.

One of the troubles with asking a question about an area I don't know much about is that it's hard to figure out even how to ask the question. I was trying to understand two things: how to better see and understand good routing generally, and how others are able to determine if the architect has gotten the most/the best out of the land.

Btw, I think I'm missing some kind of special "visual acuity" that architects must have in spades (re: Wayne's right brain-left brain example). Reading and writing are easy, but I couldn't draw a picture if my life depended on it; and I've been staring at the example topographical maps in "Grounds for Golf" for a week -- they're still just squiggles on a page to me. I may never be any good at this!

Peter      


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