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Don_Mahaffey

A genius routing
« on: March 21, 2011, 10:51:54 PM »
'...I do think there is genius in golf course design but it is in the "finding the course" or routing as we describe it.  And it is in finding the natural routing with tee sites flowing from green sites and then in placing a simple strategy upon such.  It is not in finding 16 or 17 holes and tying them together with earthmoving....that doesn't take genius..."

Above is a quote from Mike Young from ealier on the "genius" thread.

It seems like Mike is saying that for an architect to do something really special, something worthy of "genius" he should be able to connect the dots without doing serious earthmoving. I find it ironic that while Mike has cautioned us about taking the ODG too serious, it seems to be, to me at least, this ability to route without blowing through ridges, making huge cuts and fills, or connecting through the use of long cart paths which draws us to so many of the great old courses.

Many modern architects will defend their need to blow through a land form and put it back pretty as being a case of, "all the good sites are gone". I don't believe this and in this case I agree with Mike and think it is genius when one can route a course, a good course mind you, without the need to move dirt so the connections work. I know its not that easy and some sites do have good natural holes that require extensive earthwork to make the connections work, but I wonder if we really know how many of the modern gems worshiped here were really more a matter of clever construction as opposed to "genius" minimalist routing.  
And before anyone says what difference does it make, I say it makes a difference because a well routed course will cost less to build, probably less to maintain, and has a better chance of survival in these tough times due to less debt and overhead.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2011, 11:19:47 PM by Don_Mahaffey »

Mac Plumart

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2011, 07:40:41 AM »
it makes a difference because a well routed course will cost less to build, probably less to maintain, and has a better chance of survival in these tough times due to less debt and overhead.

Excellent point.  Sustainable golf. 
Sportsman/Adventure loving golfer.

Melvyn Morrow

Re: A genius routing
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2011, 10:02:13 AM »

The Big R is the winner every time in my book. A good course is subject to

Location, Location, Location
&
ROUTING, ROUTING, ROUTING
&

I will leave that to others to fill in, well those who may agree with me so far

Melvyn

MikeJones

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2011, 12:53:34 PM »
It seems to be, to me at least, this ability to route without blowing through ridges, making huge cuts and fills, or connecting through the use of long cart paths which draws us to so many of the great old courses.


One of the reasons that some of the old courses are so revered is that they've had time to evolve over the years often with many changes to make the course better than it was when first opened. Also I think in this group as a whole we have a tendency to value old things more simply because...... they're old.

Whether an old course was 'found' by a great routing or whether the routing was aided by significant skilful earthmoving, shouldn't really matter as long as the end result makes for great golf.

I completely agree with you on the cost factor for new courses although even then would you settle for routing a course over the existing terrain knowing that with some earth moving it could be a whole lot better?


Melvyn Morrow

Re: A genius routing
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2011, 02:07:28 PM »
Mike

When we consider or think about the old courses, certainly in Scotland, we must remember that choice was not high on the agenda.

The Farmer or Landed Gentry had this or that section which they were not using, usually the poorest part of their farm/property only frequented by sheep and rabbits, however over the years the dropping from the sheep feed the turf to a standard that was acceptable for golf. The only choices that were available back in those early days was how many Hole could be squeezed into the land by having crisscross over fairways. Many clubs shared a course and it was normal to see some courses with two three and even four club. Other courses lasted just a few years to establish a club and allow it to generate numbers which equalled revenue, thus allowing them to lease more land from the farmer or if not available moving to a new site which allows expansion to certainly 9 holes sometimes but not always 18 holes.

Those courses that have not moved from their original site, did not necessary undergo modification for many years. If we look again at the Scottish record many a course survived unchanged for some 30- 40 years. Certainly more numbers forced the issue but not as much as the ball. The Gutty ball gave nearly 60 years of stability to the game allowing it to grow, become popular and most importantly not forgetting more affordable to play. That stability was changed with the introduction of the Haskell which gave again more reliability than the Gutty. Itís this definition of reliability that I believe is at the heart of controlling technology, with a rolling back of the ball as distances in golf are in real term ambiguous when set against the need for  more money to purchase land and its on-going maintenance. Not to mention the destruction of the great old courses by adding length, due to the modifications.

So, courses were designed in those early days not just gifted by God, their only advantage being Scotland (GB) only had 30 courses around the middle of the 1800ís compared to 2500 (total in the UK) by the turn of the new Century. With popularity came Members, with Members came Money with money came the ability to start to be more selective. Hence why I believe the early designers created and lived through the really only Golden Age we have had so far in Golf.  

Melvyn
« Last Edit: March 22, 2011, 02:48:05 PM by Melvyn Hunter Morrow »

George Pazin

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2011, 02:30:34 PM »
... although even then would you settle for routing a course over the existing terrain knowing that with some earth moving it could be a whole lot better?



In looking at the top 25 or so courses in the world, what earth moving resulted in courses that are a whole lot better?
Big drivers and hot balls are the product of golf course design that rewards the hit one far then hit one high strategy.  Shinny showed everyone how to take care of this whole technology dilemma. - Pat Brockwell, 6/24/04

Peter Pallotta

Re: A genius routing
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2011, 02:48:13 PM »
Don - In this case, I think bravery (or clout) is the greater part of genius. Yes, routing a course wholly in tune and in line with the natural site does take vision and imagination (two other elements that all genuises have in common). But given that, the kind of golf course you're describing and the kind of choices it would require have more to do with an architect being brave enough (or important enough, in his client's eyes) to build exactly the course he wants to build.  I think in their heart of hearts, gifted architects would know very well if a potentially great golf course was lying there right front of them; but very few of those would likely have the clout/bravery to resist that voice in their head that whispered "Yes, sure it's great, but the average golfer and the average rater will not see what you're seeing, and will not love what you love, and so you had better add some bells and whistles and give them a 'form' that they already know and appreciate". Nothing wrong with that -- it's the way of all flesh, and besides, I'm told that at least a dozen or so truly wonderful/great golf courses have been built just like that; and as well, it is appropriate that the creator keep his audience in mind, so as to serve it better.  But let's not forget that the road less travelled -- the narrow gate -- is always there, waiting for the right person and the right time and the right client to see it come to life.  Your posts in recent weeks are very good reminders that this road exists, and that we shouldn't forget it (even if no one ever walks it).  

Peter
« Last Edit: March 22, 2011, 03:00:08 PM by PPallotta »

MikeJones

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Re: A genius routing
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2011, 03:23:14 PM »
... although even then would you settle for routing a course over the existing terrain knowing that with some earth moving it could be a whole lot better?



In looking at the top 25 or so courses in the world, what earth moving resulted in courses that are a whole lot better?

George I'm not a fan of ranking courses as I think it's extremely subjective as to what the top 25 course might be. Leaving that to one side for a moment, you would probably need documented plans of the construction to see exactly what earth was moved and why. It would also depend very much on how good the land was to start with because as we all know, not all plots are created equal when it comes to laying a golf course out on them. It stands to reason that some of the very best courses would have been laid out on some of the very best land.

Is the creation of a good golf course an art form or an engineering exercise or both? While I have no doubt that creating a great routing over suitable terrain is a fantastic skill, is it any more skilful than an architect that starts off with very little to work with and still manages to create a wonderful golf course? They say that creating something from nothing is the hardest thing to do.

Melvyn thanks for your insight. I'm sure that many of the early courses fell by the wayside when as you point out, golfers became more selective on where they chose to play. Darwen's theory would suggest that the best courses survived and that's why in places like Scotland there is an abundance of riches when it comes to golf courses.


George Pazin

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2011, 03:34:18 PM »
George I'm not a fan of ranking courses as I think it's extremely subjective as to what the top 25 course might be. Leaving that to one side for a moment, you would probably need documented plans of the construction to see exactly what earth was moved and why. It would also depend very much on how good the land was to start with because as we all know, not all plots are created equal when it comes to laying a golf course out on them. It stands to reason that some of the very best courses would have been laid out on some of the very best land.

A clever response! It does stand to reason that the best courses would be on the best land, so I'll widen my question: what man made features result in courses that make the top 100?

Fwiw, I'm not a fan of the ranking process either, with its many inherent flaws, so feel free to use any man made features on any courses that are better than what would exist if the existing landforms were simply utilized.
Big drivers and hot balls are the product of golf course design that rewards the hit one far then hit one high strategy.  Shinny showed everyone how to take care of this whole technology dilemma. - Pat Brockwell, 6/24/04

Don_Mahaffey

Re: A genius routing
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2011, 04:25:55 PM »
Peter,
I understand what youíre saying.
I see it a little differently.
I see too many attempts at "greatness" that require more work, and expense, when what was right there was just fine. I see too many attempts, to use Mike's words, to make something out of nothing when what was there was useable if the architect had enough vision to see what is possible. I believe we are too quick to go the easy way out which is to build something in an attempt at greatness. How often does that work? Swinging for the fences results in a ton of KOs. As Iíve often said and written, restraint is what is missing in most modern golf architecture.


We need fewer attempts at greatness and more good golf courses that are sustainable. However, good doesn't make one famous so Iím not expecting to see anyone pushing for good. But I guarantee you I can pay the bills and make a nice living operating a good golf course.

 

Carl Rogers

Re: A genius routing
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2011, 04:33:38 PM »
We need fewer attempts at greatness and more good golf courses that are sustainable. However, good doesn't make one famous so Iím not expecting to see anyone pushing for good. ...
Does Muirfiled Village fall into this category?

Lester George

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2011, 04:48:02 PM »
Don,

In order to achieve great reward you must take some risk.  

Just finding the best holes with the least amount of disturbance is only a small portion of the overal task which is to create YOUR product as an architect WHILE achieving the clients goals.  What an architect should strive to do is inspire the owners imagination with the possibilities of the site, then approach the routing that best reaches his goals.  

I interviewed for a job one time where the client wanted "the best use of minimilism" I could produce.  Minimilism, minimilism, minimilism.....thats all he could come up with (probably because he read it in Golf Digest).  I routed what many who saw it considered one of the best courses they had ever seen, I thought it was pretty strong as well.  Long story short.....he hired Tom Fazio.  

If you are going to be in this business long as an architect, you better learn quickly that what works for one client may not work for another.  As long as you INSPIRE thought and IMAGINATION, while demonstrating genius in routing, you should be able to navigate from job to job.  Otherwise you may be one and done.

Lester  


Mike Nuzzo

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2011, 05:37:22 PM »
Carl
No Murfield Village does not - it is overly maintained and over shaped.
The current bunkers are numerous and high maintenance.

A golf course built in the manner Don is describing is easier to maintain.

Building/Routing a great golf course with little earth moving is far more compelling to me than making something out of nothing.
The best holes on our golf course are the ones we did the least - 5, 6, 15 & 16 - it was the routing that enabled them.

Lester
Do think you did too much at Ballyhack?

A definition of minimalism - the best golf course possible for the minimalist budget.

Cheers
Thinking of Bob, Rihc, Bill, George, Neil & Tiger.

Lester George

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2011, 06:40:30 PM »

Mike,

I only move 200,000 yards at Ballyhack.  Given the severity of the site, I think the routing is the reason we moved so little.

Lester

Carl Rogers

Re: A genius routing
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2011, 08:41:56 PM »
Lester, wasn't a sizable portion of earth moving at Ballyhack on the 11th hole?

Also, Scott Weersing & I appreciated that on the front nine, you routed the majority of the holes more on the side of the hills rather than up and down the hills.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2011, 08:47:59 PM by Carl Rogers »

Don_Mahaffey

Re: A genius routing
« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2011, 10:34:09 PM »
Don,

In order to achieve great reward you must take some risk.  


Lester,
I'm not sure your point here. If great reward a highly ranked course...no matter the financial situation after extensive construction? Is great reward a satisfying career where you worked hard to make every client happy, but never really made golf better or more sustainable? Is taking risk building something that does not need to be built, but built anyhow so the course has the right look? Or is great reward more of an internal thing where you know you've always done your best?

Risk is not only about how much dirt to move, its also about how little. I firmly believe that we can build very good golf courses without all the over the top golfy features most have come to associate with "quality architecture". Building something different is taking a risk. Building something where you are not swayed by all the "experts" to make it look golfy and play like some famous hole from another course. That's taking risk. Laying a course along the ground with just a few stakes to mark tees and greens and then doing all you possibly can to do as little as possible, that's taking a risk. Anyone can build a copy, build me a nice course for less then 2 million that a working guy can play for 30 bucks and an owner can operate for a modest profit and you've got my attention. 

Peter Pallotta

Re: A genius routing
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2011, 12:13:49 AM »
Don - this last post and your post #9 help me understand a lot better what you're suggesting...and it is even more radical (for lack of a better word) than I first thought -- in part because it comes from a working professional -- you -- who knows both the business/career realities and the aspirations of craft equally well. As I said, I think it very good that you keep pointing out the road less travelled....even if just to remind folks that it's there.

Peter
« Last Edit: March 23, 2011, 12:19:01 AM by PPallotta »

Lester George

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2011, 08:46:34 AM »

Don,

You sound like you are trying to justify something or defend something.  One thing is certain, you did miss my point.  Feel free to call me to discuss if you like, but you really should listen to the tenor of your last remark.

Lester

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2011, 09:08:11 AM »

In order to achieve great reward you must take some risk.



Lester,

I don't want to get in the middle between you and Don, but, I did want to say that your above comment is not always true.  Sometimes great reward is just laying there in the open, for the person who is smart enough to recognize it.




Lester George

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2011, 09:21:27 AM »

Tom,

Smart enough to recognize it....and act on it.  I would agree.

Lester

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #20 on: March 23, 2011, 09:37:47 AM »

Risk is not only about how much dirt to move, its also about how little. I firmly believe that we can build very good golf courses without all the over the top golfy features most have come to associate with "quality architecture". Building something different is taking a risk. Building something where you are not swayed by all the "experts" to make it look golfy and play like some famous hole from another course. That's taking risk. Laying a course along the ground with just a few stakes to mark tees and greens and then doing all you possibly can to do as little as possible, that's taking a risk. Anyone can build a copy, build me a nice course for less then 2 million that a working guy can play for 30 bucks and an owner can operate for a modest profit and you've got my attention. 


Don:

Thanks for this post.  It reminds me of what I was thinking 25 years ago, when we were starting on High Pointe.  I did not know exactly what my "style" was going to be, but I thought it was a beautiful piece of land, and my mantra was that I would prefer to err on the side of doing too little, instead of doing too much.

It is very hard to keep to that ethos in this business.  99% of people who come out to see what we're building [and 99% of my clients, too, even though I've been pretty selective about them] will suggest something MORE -- a bunker here or a green contour there or another tee.  Hardly anybody ever suggests doing something less; off the top of my head, Mike Keiser and Ben Crenshaw are the only guys I can think of who suggested taking a bunker out.

It's the American way:  the more the client is paying you, the more he thinks you ought to be doing something!  And that's compounded by the fact that the bigger you get and the more talent you have around you, the more guys there are to suggest things, and the more confidence you have that you can pull them off.  I was just getting updated by Eric last night on the progress in Florida, and he told me that he thinks the best hole on the course now is #13 ... the short 4 where we had to whittle away a block of about 20 feet of sand in the fairway [20 feet times 50 yards wide times 100 yards long!] in order to turn a "nothingburger" [Jim Urbina term] transition hole into something special.  The hole was only half done the last time I saw it, so it's hard for me to believe Eric yet, but I do know that there was no simple, minimalist way that hole was going to stand proudly with all the holes that surrounded it, and I knew that putting Eric and Brian on it for two weeks with a reasonable idea was probably going to result in something pretty good.  [Besides, Bill Coore needed all that dirt for his 14th tee, and it was better than building another pond to get it.]

It was easier to stick to my old ethos at High Pointe, where nearly all of the shaping was done with a D-3, and if I wanted to do something more I had to get on that little dozer and do it myself.  Those two nasty crowned greens (#3 and #14) were like nothing I've built since, and I've never wanted to copy that 13th green, which was truly one of a kind.  That's why it's such a bummer for me the place is going back to nature ... I can't imagine a current client being happy with some of it, but I sure was.

Peter Pallotta

Re: A genius routing
« Reply #21 on: March 23, 2011, 10:21:05 AM »
Tom - I think that's not just the American way, it really is the way of all flesh. Maybe 'ego' is a negative -- or at least confusing way -- to put it; but basically I think most of us, most of the time, equate being in charge with "controlling" something and "doing" something and "changing" something -- and the more money we have or the more talent we think we possess or the more dues we think we've paid, the harder it is for us to even conceive of "stepping back" and letting nature or the process or intuition (or, god forbid, someone else) take over.
And then there is someone like Itzak Perlman, who when asked by a young violinist how she could get to where he was, answered; "I have the talent that God gave me. I have this wonderful instrument, a Stradaverius, and I have the magnificent music of Beethoven or Mozart in front of me -- and I see my task as simply bringing those three things together, and then getting myself out of the way".
Peter

Lester George

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #22 on: March 23, 2011, 10:55:39 AM »
Tom,

I simply don't type fast enough to relate many of my experiences as you just did.  I will say that I agree with very much of it and have had ridiculously similar thoughts and circumstances.

I have renctly gone back to my first course and it is less than good condition and I hope one day it changes hands.  I was so compelled to build a course that had all of the tennants of minimilism.  The routing (which is what I thought we were taliking about in the first place) was predicated on exactly that, how much (little) dirt could I move and leave an efficient, "sustaining" product that would serve the owner for years to come.  Same owner to this day (in spite of himself) and the only reason the place is still in business is BECAUSE of its architectural efficientcy, ease of maintenance, popularity with those who play it, and, i am happy to say, its ROUTING. 

So in essence, I am agreeing with Don that it is important for a course to have those things, but it is not a new theory.  Nor is it crime against golf for a client to want something different or an experienced architect to provide it.  His comments sounded a bit like a lecture to me. 

Lester

Garland Bayley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #23 on: March 23, 2011, 11:12:10 AM »
Don,

In order to achieve great reward you must take some risk.  


Lester,
I'm not sure your point here. If great reward a highly ranked course...no matter the financial situation after extensive construction? Is great reward a satisfying career where you worked hard to make every client happy, but never really made golf better or more sustainable? Is taking risk building something that does not need to be built, but built anyhow so the course has the right look? Or is great reward more of an internal thing where you know you've always done your best?

Risk is not only about how much dirt to move, its also about how little. I firmly believe that we can build very good golf courses without all the over the top golfy features most have come to associate with "quality architecture". Building something different is taking a risk. Building something where you are not swayed by all the "experts" to make it look golfy and play like some famous hole from another course. That's taking risk. Laying a course along the ground with just a few stakes to mark tees and greens and then doing all you possibly can to do as little as possible, that's taking a risk. Anyone can build a copy, build me a nice course for less then 2 million that a working guy can play for 30 bucks and an owner can operate for a modest profit and you've got my attention. 

Great statement Don.
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

George Pazin

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: A genius routing
« Reply #24 on: March 23, 2011, 11:50:55 AM »
Heckuva post, Kelly.
Big drivers and hot balls are the product of golf course design that rewards the hit one far then hit one high strategy.  Shinny showed everyone how to take care of this whole technology dilemma. - Pat Brockwell, 6/24/04

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