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Tim Liddy

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Naturalism and golf course architecture
« on: March 24, 2012, 08:11:48 AM »
Pete Dye always told me when it comes to golf course architecture, mother nature can use a little help.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304724404577291793897049250.html?mod=WeekendHeader_Right

Ian Andrew

Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2012, 08:38:33 AM »
Tim,

That was a fabulous article.

I remember reading that one of the reasons that Royal Melbourne has such an amazing collection of plants and native areas was the efforts of Claude Crockford who identified and transplant species around the property. One of his key efforts was the early removal of tea tree and the extensive efforts to control its growth on the property.

Perhaps another view on this would be "natural" takes a great deal of effort to make it look like you do nothing ...

I'm lucky, I played multiple rounds with Ken Nice at Bandon last fall and listened to his conversations with Brian Slawnick and others about what bunkers to re-stabilize at Bandon and what ones would be allowed to evolve. There is more happening there than most can imagine.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2012, 08:48:55 AM »
Tim,

That was a fabulous article.

I remember reading that one of the reasons that Royal Melbourne has such an amazing collection of plants and native areas was the efforts of Claude Crockford who identified and transplant species around the property. One of his key efforts was the early removal of tea tree and the extensive efforts to control its growth on the property.

Perhaps another view on this would be "natural" takes a great deal of effort to make it look like you do nothing ...

I'm lucky, I played multiple rounds with Ken Nice at Bandon last fall and listened to his conversations with Brian Slawnick and others about what bunkers to re-stabilize at Bandon and what ones would be allowed to evolve. There is more happening there than most can imagine.


Ian,

I was going to mention the same thing about having to be willing to "roll with the punches" when building bunkers in the Sand Hills, or at Bandon.  Dick Youngscap told me that he used to tease Dave Axland when he was edging bunkers at Sand Hills, telling him that all those edges would be gone by the same time next year.

The story about Royal Melbourne is a little more complicated, though.  They are still fighting ti-tree and cutting it back in spots, but the veteran member who has been most helpful to us, John Green, insists that the ti tree was much more integral to the course in Crockford's day ... and he's got some pictures to back it up.  John's description was that the playing corridors were wide, but if you missed them, the ti tree was pretty dense.

Ian Andrew

Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2012, 09:37:57 AM »
Tom,

I had read that one of his first major efforts when he took over in the early 1930's was ti-tree removal to save some natural areas that were being lost to encroachment. Without the use of aerials at intervals there is no way to know whether that is fact.

Peter Pallotta

Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2012, 09:58:29 AM »
Tim - it is a fine article, thanks much for posting. Because of my wife's love for gardening and 'natural' landscapes,  I became aware a few years ago of that very paradox -- I thought having a natural landscape meant leaving the garden alone to evolve on its own over time; instead, it's meant an unbelievable amount of work and planning and planting and transplanting and the introduction of a whole range of native species that aren't all that native anymore. The only thing I would note, however, is that my wife fully intends it to be a garden that will, in the end, need little in the way of human intervention and even less inputs (e.g. of water, or certainly of chemicals) -- the thought being that in a sound and balanced and natural eco-system, the native plants will be able to thrive (and 'feed off eachother') in a healthy way and without any further intervention. So, to bring it back to gca, and to ask it very simply:  don't courses like TOC or Sand Hills need less ongoing intervention (and inputs) than Sawgrass and Muirfield Village? If naturalism means (or is to mean anything at all), doesn't it mean designing a course in cooperation with nature and in such a way that it lessens the time, money, water and chemicals needed to keep the course playable in the years and decades to come?

Since there are 7 billion of us around, nature may indeed need a little help; but Nature has its principles. I hate to do this, but to quote Behr again: "Hence, it is fundamental principle that we must search for; that basic principle of all which, in the degree it is apprehended, points the way to beauty and order, to the law of Nature....The medium of the artist is paint, and he becomes its master; but the medium of the golf architect is the surface of the earth over which the forces of Nature alone are master.  Yes, and since the forces of nature seem, in one sense, to move towards a state of increasing entropy, we need to work with it if it is to serve purposes that are man made (like the playing of golf); but I think we need to be careful to not go too much in the other way.  

Everyone has a comfort zone; everyone I think is going to need to get uncomfortable for a while.

Peter
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 10:23:34 AM by PPallotta »

Niall C

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2012, 10:09:53 AM »
Fine article perhaps but its stating the bleeding obvious as far as golf courses are concerned. They've been periodically hacking away gorse ever since Allan Robertsons days at TOC.

Niall

BCrosby

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2012, 10:44:27 AM »
Deleted. Posted to wrong thread.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 10:47:12 AM by BCrosby »

Tom_Doak

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2012, 10:58:13 AM »
I hate to do this, but to quote Behr again: "Hence, it is fundamental principle that we must search for; that basic principle of all which, in the degree it is apprehended, points the way to beauty and order, to the law of Nature....The medium of the artist is paint, and he becomes its master; but the medium of the golf architect is the surface of the earth over which the forces of Nature alone are master.

Peter:

A good quote; I don't remember seeing that one before.

What it points out for me is that what's changed over the years is the attitude toward golf course MAINTENANCE.  In Behr's day it was ludicrous to think as we do today, that we WILL master the surface of the earth.  But now, many do, so it's only natural to think we should do the same in architecture.  Natural, but pathetic at the same time.

Steve Howe

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2012, 12:30:42 PM »
It's been very thought provoking, and therefore rewarding, to read this thread and the somewhat related minimilism/naturalism thread.

In the cases of those great courses blessed with natural golfing land and an abundance of native flora there is certainly a responsibility on behalf of the maintenance providers to work in harmony with native surroundings. In the case of Royal Melbourne and other courses of the sandbelt and Mornington Peninsula, I believe a big part of their ongoing attractivness and natural feel is due to the philosophy of Claude Crockford of maintaining 'everything inside the fence'. There is a shared bank of knowledge that has been passed through generations of supers in the Melbourne area that continues to this day.

Having worked for Bruce Grant maintaining native areas at the National (a huge property - 54 holes) this philisophy can present a challenge, but it's worth it. And Mr Pallota's wife has it right - hard work and an attention to detail early on bears fruit for a long time to come.
 
And this point is where I see the link, and the benefit, of the minimilist approach. My experience is that those areas of the property that have undergone significant soil disturbance during construction are by far the most difficult to return to a natural, native state.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2012, 05:48:15 PM »

Having worked for Bruce Grant maintaining native areas at the National (a huge property - 54 holes) this philisophy can present a challenge, but it's worth it. And Mr Pallota's wife has it right - hard work and an attention to detail early on bears fruit for a long time to come.
 
And this point is where I see the link, and the benefit, of the minimilist approach. My experience is that those areas of the property that have undergone significant soil disturbance during construction are by far the most difficult to return to a natural, native state.


Steve:

I agree with this.  For years, I was amazed at how quickly some of our courses matured through grow-in.  Of course, we've worked with some great superintendents on that score, but eventually I realized that grow-in was far easier in the places we hadn't disturbed much to begin with.

Chris Shaida

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2012, 06:56:32 PM »
... I believe a big part of their ongoing attractivness and natural feel is due to the philosophy of Claude Crockford of maintaining 'everything inside the fence'. There is a shared bank of knowledge that has been passed through generations of supers in the Melbourne area that continues to this day....

And this point is where I see the link, and the benefit, of the minimilist approach. My experience is that those areas of the property that have undergone significant soil disturbance during construction are by far the most difficult to return to a natural, native state.


the 'maintaining everything inside the fence...' is a really fascinating thing.  I find that for myself I get the greatest pleasure when I can see (or maybe sometimes it's even feel?) the connection between the 'golf hole' (the part that is mown I guess or the part that is intended to actually be played on) and...whatever is around it.  And holes where it is clear that 'here is the part you're supposed to play on' and over there is ... other stuff (that doesn't matter that much because it's not part of this hole) are dispiriting.  And I find (again just for myself) that it doesn't even have to be extraordinary surrounds to give me that 'oh, yeh..." feeling.  It's possible that there are just two different physiologies: one that seeks out the courses where each hole is it's own 'room' with clearly delineated purposes for each thing in that room; and one that wants to see the landscape onto in which the hole has been placed/found.  Of course it's also possible that since I don't actually know that much about the subtleties of an actual golf hole (that is, the part that is supposed to be played on/thru) I overvalue the parts I know more about -- hills, tree lines, rock formations, etc.?

Tom_Doak

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2012, 08:13:50 PM »
"Maintaining everything inside the fence" is something I've got to get my brain around, because it seems just the opposite of sustainability, where presumably you are trying to set aside large areas that don't require much maintenance.  But, I agree that frequently "native areas" fall far short of what we would hope them to be ... they're often unplayable and annoying.

DMoriarty

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2012, 11:10:36 PM »
"Maintaining everything inside the fence" is something I've got to get my brain around, because it seems just the opposite of sustainability, where presumably you are trying to set aside large areas that don't require much maintenance.  But, I agree that frequently "native areas" fall far short of what we would hope them to be ... they're often unplayable and annoying.

Perhaps it depends on what is meant by "maintaining."  For example I'd consider controlling externalities like inadvertent irrigation of native vegetation to be an attempt at maintaining everything inside the fence.  Same goes for the related problem of weed control in the native and unplayable areas.  As I kid I spent lots of time spraying and eradicating weeds on a cattle ranch, and we used to also take care of the weeds on a couple of upstream ranches, gratis.  The rancher (my boss) realized that going even beyond the fence was better business in the long run, as upstream problems would soon be his.
Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

Tony Ristola

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2012, 08:08:41 AM »
There was a book on this subject of managed Nature some 15-20 years ago and the title of it slips me. Anyone recall the book and what it was titled?

Jeff_Brauer

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Re: Naturalism and golf course architecture
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2012, 11:00:10 AM »
David sort of echoes a bit of what that article says.

I have had permit requirements that made us drain an entire golf course away from wetlands on the presumption that chemicals could not enter.  Then, to make sure they stay wet, we had to extend irrigation into the wetlands (and this was a fairly rainy climate) and then try to mimic the water patterns (watering during a rain event, etc.) 

The funny thing was that the drainage was all routed back to the irrigation lake, so diluted amounts of golf course inputs were still going in the wetlands.  I am not sure how much different it would have been if we had simply left a long grass buffer on the edge of the wetlands.  So, the environmental opposition to the course demanded and got a pretty expensive solution to protecting wetlands. 

The other funny thing is how close that wetland protection thought process is to a golfers thought process of maintaining perfect bunkers!  Some want to just keep throwing ever more tech solutions at the problem of keeping things pristine, which seems odd on the surface, and that is what this article touches on to a large degree.

Sounds like at least some are rethinking the whole approach.
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

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