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Peter Pallotta

If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« on: September 30, 2011, 10:31:13 PM »
If the experts and lovers of golf course architecture and magazine writers and top flight players of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s were right that the then-new courses like Myopia and Garden City and Oakmont and Pine Valley and Merion were great courses , and if every one of those courses (and a dozen more) was so deemed precisely because they were long and hard and true tests of golf for the very best golfers of the day, then why would we ever suggest/believe that modern-day experts and lovers of gca and writers and pro golfers are wrong when they praise as great the now-new golf courses precisely because they are long and hard and true tests of golf for the very best players of the 21st century?

Peter    
« Last Edit: September 30, 2011, 10:34:32 PM by PPallotta »

Mac Plumart

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2011, 10:47:17 PM »
Fascinating topic Peter.  I think you've nailed an important topic.  I was just thinking about this today as I played a quick nine.

I think it all comes down to what you value.  With my game, I don't value a "test of golf" as much as I value "fun."  But I hear the people who value the "test of golf", I just don't prefer it.

Maybe it comes down to Nuzzo's three categories of golf types. 

Anyway, pardon my rambling...I think you've touched on a fascintating topic of endless debate.
Sportsman/Adventure loving golfer.

Dan Kelly

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2011, 10:58:24 PM »
If the experts and lovers of golf course architecture and magazine writers and top flight players of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s were right that the then-new courses like Myopia and Garden City and Oakmont and Pine Valley and Merion were great courses , and if every one of those courses (and a dozen more) was so deemed precisely because they were long and hard and true tests of golf for the very best golfers of the day, then why would we ever suggest/believe that modern-day experts and lovers of gca and writers and pro golfers are wrong when they praise as great the now-new golf courses precisely because they are long and hard and true tests of golf for the very best players of the 21st century?

Peter    


Terrific question, Peter.

I'll respond with one of my own: Which golf courses are you referring to as the "great" new golf courses being praised as "great" because they are long and hard and true tests of golf for the very best players of the 21st century?
"There's no money in doing less." -- Joe Hancock, 11/25/2010
"Rankings are silly and subjective..." -- Tom Doak, 3/12/2016

Tom_Doak

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2011, 11:20:49 PM »
Peter:

I've thought about your question a bit myself, over the years.  It's a very good question.

Our forefathers' construction of such long and difficult courses between 1910-1925 was prescient, because it allowed those courses to stay relevant through many changes in equipment technology.  Certainly, some of the ancient links have managed to do the same, but generally they had the advantage of extra real estate to expand onto ... Muirfield, for example, kept up by building holes a bit further out into the dunes.

It has not been lost on me that all of us here on this board love "Golden Age" courses because many of us 10-handicappers, with the advantage of modern equipment, hit the ball as far as the great players of the 1920's whose games those courses were designed around.

But, will the same thing happen over the next 80 years?  Will golf equipment technology be allowed to grow even further, so that our grandsons and great-grandsons hit the ball the way Dustin Johnson does today?  If the answer is yes, then we ought to be building 8,000-yard courses.  But if the answer is yes, one wonders if anyone will be able to afford to play the game in that far-off day.  Personally, I'm content to build my courses for the present and near future, and hope upon hope that those who marshal the game in the years going forward will feel some responsibility to preserve its challenge, instead of bowing to the whims of companies who sell golf balls and drivers.

Sean_A

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2011, 04:30:58 AM »
Pietro

I have long thought that these old masterpieces would have been very difficult back in the day - especially Flynn and Tilly courses, but I never really made the connection to the difficult courses of the past 40 years or so.  Although, I do think we have slightly changed what difficult is by using water and narrower fairways more often, but I am not sure if that changes the overall picture much.  It is interesting that Darwin mentioned Sunny Old as a better course with the Haskell than the gutta (I don't recall why, but presumablly because of the length difference of each ball).  I too think he specifically mentioned a few early American courses as great, but too difficult for the likes of him - a decent high level amateur.  We even get that sort stuf said today by many mid level single figure cappers - preferring NGLA over Shinny because Shinny can get too difficult.  This is always a risk when building a course in a windy area and striking a balance between playable in wind and challenging in benign conditions must involve many difficult decisions for archies.  I know, a lot of rambling and no answers - heavy sigh.

Ciao

New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Hankley Common, Ashridge, Gog Magog Old & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Adam Lawrence

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2011, 04:39:50 AM »
Darwin said that Sunningdale was a better course with the Haskell because with the gutty it had been a constant parade of driver/brassie holes. I'll dig the quote out later
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
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Ronald Montesano

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2011, 06:24:11 AM »
Yes, we are wrong to praise new builds that fail to adhere to the principles of advantage gained through proper play.

(Caution: Broad-Sweeping Generalization around next turn...)
Golden-Age courses offered an opportunity, in many cases, to gain advantage through proper line of play. This was most often seen in a bound forward, but may have been as minor as a better angle into the green (minor in the eyes of the daily golfer.)

If a new build's fairways force the daily golfer to simply taxi down the runway for a long while, with no advantage gained, then the course merits bountiful criticism.

Caveat: Swap land plots and see what we say. Take a Golden-Age, heaving and tumbling land plot and put it in the hands of the modern-day (pick one: maligned, refuted, degraded, belittled, disparaged, slandered, calumnied, vilified) designer and maybe, just maybe, he doesn't bulldoze the rolls and tumbles and waves, but instead, creates a worthy masterpiece. To me, it's a contrast of a flat,  blank canvas with a chip-away statuette...with the right land, the potential of the course speaks to you.

The greatest designs, then, might be the ones over land from which little was expected, regardless of the era in which they were built.
Coming in August 2023
~Manakiki
~OSU Scarlet
~OSU Grey
~NCR South
~Springfield
~Columbus
~Lake Forest (OH)
~Sleepy Hollow (OH)

Niall C

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2011, 06:29:36 AM »
Peter

Not played any of the courses you've listed but I would think that when built they were great in comparison to existing courses for other reasons than just distance. That they have stayed "great", is probably down to accumalated history/reputation and constant buffing up and refinement over the years. I've absolutely no evidence to offer but I think we would all be surprised by the difference in these courses from when built and as they are now.

It would be interesting to see whether the modern greats get the same treatment over the years.

Sean,

I think Darwin was a bit better than a decent high level amateur. Certainly there would have been a few at a higher level than Darwin but very few at that. Having said that, one player who was at a higher level, Harold Hilton, also made similar comments re difficulty of NGLA.

Tom

I've only played Renaissance of your courses but from comments on here I get the impression you don't really do "championship" courses in the sense of a stern test for the pro's to the exclusion of being playable for the average amateur. You've got to hope therefore that your clients stay true to the original brief and don't try to turn your course into something its not eg. Carnoustie II.

Niall

Melvyn Morrow

Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2011, 07:18:34 AM »

If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?

The answer is a great big yes. I base my comment upon the simple fact that we are and have been driven for nearly half a century by technology with the ever increasing desire to let the equipment development substitute for the underlines skills of the modern players.

We forget that in the early days of the modern game equipment was still being designed and perfected to allow the game to play i.e. to have a ball that was affordable, kept its shape, and simply roll. The Clubs too went through their own development phase to perform on the new courses then designed rather than a simple adaption of Nature. Just look at the old clubs and compare them with the tremendous range we have today from the Drivers through to Irons, not forgetting putters.

By the introduction of the Haskell the range of basic clubs where more or less set, the Haskell completed the full set. Yes they did offer in their own right a performance benefit, but unlike today the intention was to equip the player with the tools to play the game. The days were passing for the misshapen ball, the ability of the ball to shatter, of a limited set of clubs to undertake a large function of shots. The equipment was then able to offer the Golfer the peace of mind to play the game time after time without some technical mishap or breakage (out of no fault of the players) to ruin a round or a game.

Instead of maintaining the status quo, the equipment has been allowed to out strip all aspects of the game, course design and quite frankly the skill levels of the average golfer. The technology now employed in the production of the equipment is now far outstripped the technology ability of the player, the game and the course, making the gifted play more gifted that perhaps they really are. Equipment is no longer being developed for its reliability but for advancement of the player that can use the said clubs/ball. Its big money, its selling the player the dream of lower scores not achievable by his/her skill level alone but assisted by technology.

If they were right, does that mean we are wrong, again IMHO yes because we KNOW that today itís all TECHNOLOGY driven, we know that player and owners want easy courses. Gone are many of the great traps that were found on the earlier courses because we look at golf today as not being a penal game believing that strategic is the real way forward. Deep pot bunkers, blind Holes, fairway bunkers have all been reduced in numbers and difficulty. The desire to pamper to the modern owner who wants to make money out of his course, yet no slowdown in equipment technology to combat the easier courses is the way the modern game regrettably has gone.

IMHO we need to review the game, its reliance on technology and perhaps seriously look at a rollback not on just the ball but clubs as well. In fact I believe it would be good for the game to roll back to the time of the introduction of the Haskell ball, after all it that not the basis of Hickory Golf, which by the way is attracting so many new faces to that more skilled game of golf, taking many from the current game due to its reliance on the technology.

My fear is just where will it take the game if allowed to continue as it is? We already have the R&A admitting that they see no problem and that rolling back the ball is not required, yet our great courses including those of the early 20th Century and late 19th Century are have to be modified, missing the real quality of their original design and how they once were intended to play facing the skill of those past great designers.

We are wrong thanks to a host of things, the main one being that golf needs to be made easy, how can a game based on the premise of offering a challenging be seen to be anything but penal.  To challenge or to raise a challenge does there not have to be something to first test and raise the player to want to compete, knowing that failure will result in some form of penalty i.e., lost ball, lower score or the knowledge that oneís skill levels are just not yet up to the task. IF not what is the purpose of the game of Golf, why would anyone bother to go to the expense of buying the equipment paying the Green Fees and playing the game?

Are we wrong, boy are we wrong!

Melvyn

Jud_T

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2011, 07:37:00 AM »
Good question.  Small caveat.  Has the decline of match play due to TV and the rise of the usga handicap system changed how many view championship course design over the past 85 years?
Golf is a game. We play it. Somewhere along the way we took the fun out of it and charged a premium to be punished.- - Ron Sirak

Ronald Montesano

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2011, 07:59:59 AM »
Jud,

Which format demands that you play the course, match or medal? I propose medal, as with match play, you stare your human opponent in the eyes.

Of course, if you adhere to the advice that I often fail to communicate to my varsity kids (and play the course alone), the format doesn't matter.
Coming in August 2023
~Manakiki
~OSU Scarlet
~OSU Grey
~NCR South
~Springfield
~Columbus
~Lake Forest (OH)
~Sleepy Hollow (OH)

Tim Bert

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2011, 09:03:49 AM »
As always I feel sorry for you guys that are so good and hit the ball so long with this modern equipment that the great courses of the world have become a bore. As Tom mentioned (not exactly) it is a great time to be a mid-handicapper.

I've never played a great course that was too short or too easy. I am pretty sure that I hit my jumbo driver about the exact same distance (actually probably a bit shorter) than I used to hit my Ping Zing driver with a wood head.

The percentage of people on this web site that make a living from prize money is remarkably small. If you want to control distance control it by purchasing some old equipment on eBay.  I think most people want to complain rather than actually see a change.

The sky continues not to fall here in my golfing world.

Sean_A

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2011, 09:57:37 AM »

The percentage of people on this web site that make a living from prize money is remarkably small. If you want to control distance control it by purchasing some old equipment on eBay.  I think most people want to complain rather than actually see a change.

The sky continues not to fall here in my golfing world.

Tim

Its difficult for people to look in the mirror and blame themselves for the distance issue when its so much easier to blame a faceless USGA.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Hankley Common, Ashridge, Gog Magog Old & Cruden Bay St Olaf

JESII

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2011, 10:24:24 AM »
Peter,

I think the answer is no because our views on, and expectations of, the game have changed dramatically. The game has not changed so much as the people who play it. The opportunities for more and better golf are greater today than 100 years ago and rightly, our opinions of what is great have evolved but are still rooted in the challenge it always presents...how to get the ball in the hole quicker???

George Pazin

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2011, 11:35:37 AM »
I like Jim's answer.

The only other thing I'd add is I think you need to examine how a course is hard as well. To me, that's everything.
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: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2011, 11:59:21 AM »
Jim -- that's interesting. It's true that our expectations have changed, but I'd say that those expectations have changed in large part because good and very good golfers (and experts and gca lovers and writers) over the past 50 years have played those great old courses with increasingly modern and game improving technology -- such that people like you and Steve Scott and Pat Mucci/Tom Paul and Tom Doak and Brad Klein (i.e. a range of players) can all come off Garden City and Pine Valley and Merion and say "wow, now THAT'S a great golf course"..and assume (too quickly/easily I think) that their EXPERIENCE of great golf/golf architecture is similar to what the earliest writers/ experts experienced when the courses first opened, and that this in turn is the reason WHY those courses were deemed great in the first place. I'm just suggesting that, since those experiences are patently NOT the same, the old-timers must've thought of 'great' in a different way than we do. 
Peter                                                                                                                                                                                         

Melvyn Morrow

Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2011, 12:00:52 PM »

Jim

Looking back to the future the guys back 100 years ago would be wondering why we play the game we go as it has lost its challenge.

What many today do is the usual thing, view history with the tolerance of those living today. This is the easy life, the throwaway society. 100 years ago life was hard, life was short and poverty was well known in the lands of GB and the USA. Look back but please do so but not with rose tinted glasses. We today have it so much easier and I do believe they would not be that impressed at our game or level of skill due to much coming from the equipment we use today. And donít get me started on carts.

Apart from that you are wrong ;)

Melvyn

JESII

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2011, 12:26:53 PM »

I'm just suggesting that, since those experiences are patently NOT the same, the old-timers must've thought of 'great' in a different way than we do. 
Peter                                                                                                                                                                                         


Agree completely...with you too Melvyn!!!

From recent reading on the Pine Valley thread, Simon Carr listed the target approach clubs "after a good drive" for the course and matching it would be overwhelmingly difficult in this day and age. It's all a matter of perspective. The game is easier today than it was then and nobody seems interested in finding out if we would play if it were as difficult.

Peter Pallotta

Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2011, 01:38:33 PM »
Jim - yup. But you know me: never let practicalities get in the way of ideals or concrete facts in the way of an over-arching theory.  GCAs today are wise to design courses that golfers want to play - wise in other words to recognize and honour modern-day expectations; and that's what the majority of GCAs actually do (though if in differing ways, e.g. by having six sets of tees).   But we have Rankings and Top 100 lists and Debates, all based on a theory/criteria (conscious or not, informed or not) of greatness. And that theory/criteria is a moveable feast, apparently, but also that is influenced by the (apparently incorrect) assumption that greatness has been recognized consistently for what it is for 100 years.

Peter

JESII

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2011, 01:46:22 PM »
I agree that if we were able to suck everybody's brain dry and start from scratch the Ranking lists would barely resemble the ones this year.

But to what I think is your larger point, indoor plumbing was only a luxury 100 years ago so how bad could it be to have to struggle for par on each and every hole if you were the best player at your club? Today' club champ expects to shoot 67...

Peter Pallotta

Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #20 on: October 01, 2011, 01:51:51 PM »
I bet you used to tell the other kids there was no such thing as Santa Claus...

JESII

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #21 on: October 01, 2011, 02:32:09 PM »
I bet you used to tell the other kids there was no such thing as Santa Claus...

what??? there's no Santa?

JMEvensky

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #22 on: October 01, 2011, 03:33:22 PM »
                                                                                                                 
The game is easier today than it was then and nobody seems interested in finding out if we would play if it were as difficult.


This is really great--a perfect distillation of a lot of the discussion here about catering to the lowest common denominator.



Mac Plumart

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Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #23 on: October 01, 2011, 08:11:39 PM »
I like Jim's answer.

The only other thing I'd add is I think you need to examine how a course is hard as well. To me, that's everything.

I love your point here George.  I agree 100%.
Sportsman/Adventure loving golfer.

Kyle Harris

Re: If they were right, does that mean we are wrong?
« Reply #24 on: October 01, 2011, 08:28:42 PM »
Peter:

Very interesting question. I'll pose one of my own that I hope brings some context to the discussion.

Let's take any of the "great classics" to which you are referring.

How do you think the scores of the same player changed throughout the golf season?

With the equipment of the time, what were the necessary skills and shots required to score well.

FURTHERMORE:

What is the contrapositive to that question: In other words, what skills and shots were NOT needed because of the equipment of the time that are needed now?

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