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Scott Warren

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I've been fortunate to play a handful of MacRaynor Biarritz holes as well as a few longer holes with Biarritz-style greens (inc. North Berwick West Links 16th and last week the 15th at Glen Mills outside Philly).

While my instinct is to love such holes and greens, I am starting to wonder:

a: Do they work in the modern game? Are the holes the right length for the shot required to utilise the unique point of interest such holes present?

b: If "no" to the above, when did they cease to do so?

c: What have designers of modern versions done to create them in a functional and playable manner?

Mark Pearce

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2012, 04:37:45 AM »
In the context of these greens, what do you consider to be "working"?  How should such greens play for a variety of ability levels of golfer if they do work and what would be indicators that they don't?  I have played Yale and North Berwick and love the 9th and 16th holes at those courses but for me, they play entirely differently.  For me, both greens work, because both provide a challenge that makes me think carefully about how I play them.  I really don't think, however, that my approaches to playing those two holes are remotely similar, not least because 16 at NBWL, being a par 4, allows me to (to some extent) select the angle of approch to the green.
In June I will be riding the first three stages of this year's Tour de France route for charity.  630km (394 miles) in three days, with 7800m (25,600 feet) of climbing for the William Wates Memorial Trust (https://rideleloop.org/the-charity/) which supports underprivileged young people.

Bill Brightly

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2012, 06:36:22 AM »
Scott,

To answer your second question first, I have no doubt that Biarritz holes "worked" in the early 1900's because golf balls did not fly 200 yards in the air.  Players simply had to land the ball on the approach between the hazards and roll it through the swale.

In today's game, Biarritz holes only work as designed IF the rear putting surface is so firm that a ball that carries to the back won't hold the green. (The holes also "work" for shorter hitters that  can't fly it to the back.)

My home course has a Biarritz that plays 240-260 from the back tees, but sadly, I just take out my driver, which carries 235-240 and the green holds my shot. However, this past Spring was one of the warmest and driest on record in the Northeast US. Our greens were so firm for a one-month period that amost all the players had to play a runup shot. It was AWESOME and so much fun to watch.

Our front section is maintained as putting surface, so you might ask why I don't play a low running shot throughout the year. The answer is that I have tried a variety of clubs and swings, but I can't keep the ball straight enough, and ending up in the front left or righthazards that guard the approach is death, so I'd rather risk driver and miss in the back bunkers.

So the answer is the holes really do not worked as intended, unless the green is extremely fast and firm.

Jeff_Brauer

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2012, 08:35:19 AM »
I agree with Bill and have always wondered if they EVER really worked.  I am pretty sure they don't work as intended in 90% of the cases today because of equipment and irrigation and the general decline in the running game.  At best, the valley is a different type green separator than a ridge or stair step, and if wide enough, you can get a funky pin (I likey, some don't, but most seem to recognize its fun one day week) and for that, this green type might still be worth doing every so often.

Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2012, 09:11:55 AM »
The thing I find hard to grasp is Bill's suggestion that a driver will hit and stop on the back plateau 'unless the green is extremely fast and firm'. I would have turned it round myself - the only way you'd expect to pitch and stop a driver on a green, unless it's an absolute monster, is if the green was completely sodden. It's amazing to think that greens would be kept routinely so soft that one could expect to fly it 240 and have it pull up on the green.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
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Jeff_Brauer

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2012, 09:16:50 AM »
Depends on which player you talk about.  The longest players have more spin on all shots and tend to get 5% or less roll, whereas shorter players would expect roll.  I once had a good player tell me my flat front slope on a Biarritz should have been a little down slope to help his roll on.  Oh, and be 8 yards shorter because it was between clubs........

So, its quite possible the hole can play the same as always for most of us.  Whether or not average players will accept the fact of hitting it short of the green to roll on is a different matter.
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Bill Brightly

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2012, 09:26:42 AM »
Adam,

I do have to be careful not to put a draw on my driver swing, but since my natural shot is a fade, I really don't have to worry about that. (I wish I did :) )

Our greens are not "sodden" by any stretch. The key is what happens when the ball first lands: do you get any  type of biting action, or does the ball bound forward? Our greens tend to bite, and a small "bite" is all I need to keep the ball on the green. However, if the first bounce is hard and forward-going, I can't hit driver.

If you play on US parkland courses, I am surprised that you question this. If you play links courses in the UK, Ireland or Australia, I can understand why you might be surprised.

Mark Pearce

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2012, 09:27:15 AM »
Jeff,

Surely anyone long enough to be getting that 5% roll isn't hitting a driver to a 240 yard hole.  I'm with Adam, any green soft enough to drop and stop a wood or long iron that quickly is too soft.  "Receptive" greens do more to dumb down golf course architecture than any other single GCA aberration, I sometimes think.
In June I will be riding the first three stages of this year's Tour de France route for charity.  630km (394 miles) in three days, with 7800m (25,600 feet) of climbing for the William Wates Memorial Trust (https://rideleloop.org/the-charity/) which supports underprivileged young people.

Bill Brightly

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2012, 09:53:18 AM »
I agree with Bill and have always wondered if they EVER really worked.  I am pretty sure they don't work as intended in 90% of the cases today because of equipment and irrigation and the general decline in the running game.  At best, the valley is a different type green separator than a ridge or stair step, and if wide enough, you can get a funky pin (I likey, some don't, but most seem to recognize its fun one day week) and for that, this green type might still be worth doing every so often.

Jeff,

This one surely worked for the simple reason that the ball and the clubs would not allow the ball to carry to the putting surface.






Bill Brightly

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2012, 09:54:04 AM »
Mark,

I agree with your sentiment 100%. Receptive greens dumb down arhcitecture, and dumb down how players play the game. However, keeping greens alive in most of the US does require irrigation and other practices such as aeration and sanding, which soften greens. I don't think the GOAL is to make the greens more receptive, but that is the RESULT. The freak weather conditions I described above rarely happen in the US: little rainfall and cool nights where superintendents do not have to worry about losing their greens. 

Brett_Morrissy

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2012, 10:04:40 AM »
Bill is a beautiful striker of the golf ball, a joy to watch, :)  I think Scott has an interesting point, I have only seen NB 16 and Old Mac 8, faded memory of NB, & will have been right for sure, and on front section. OM in a strong tail wind seemed pot luck really over the 180 yds, tried both attempts a running shot, not only for the great fun but it seemed the only chance of stopping the ball...I am assuming the design team made everything bigger, plateaus, swale, front hollows to allow for more room for perhaps more options to recover. I don't really know.
@theflatsticker

Mark McKeever

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2012, 11:49:24 AM »
I have to agree that the truly intended approach is based on how firm the greens are kept.  Of the ones I have played, none have been firm enough to mandate a run up shot.  It has typically been anywhere from a 5 iron-hybrid that I can fly to the back of the green and keep on the putting surface.

Mark
Best MGA showers - Bayonne

"Dude, he's a total d***"

Sean_A

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2012, 12:41:51 PM »
I too am amazed that one could count on hitting a full out driver and have it hold on the back tier of a B. 

I have only seen YHC's (NB's is not a B - though I have long felt the concept of a B is better suited for a drivable par 4).  I didn't get the impression that the hole called for anything but a very straight wood/long iron - its a basher hole.  I am not nearly good enough to play a long running shot unless the ground is very firm.  Consequently - I would just bash one up there then go find it. 

Of course this begs the question of why the hole was designed in the first place unless the conditions suited it.  The corollary question is if conditions could suit the design originally, why do we fail to replicate those conditions?  How did the ODGs keep grass alive if it was that firm?  I think we all suspect that the argument for keeping grass alive is taken to the Nth degree with plenty of spare water being dumped on courses as a precaution.  Either that or I have to question if the type of grass used is suitable for the climate/f&f golf.

Ciao
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Tiger_Bernhardt

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2012, 01:15:51 PM »
They are for me. I love them and most I have played are long irons to a 3 wood. It is penty long enough to really think out how to get the ball to and on the deck you want. Plus I aced the 5th at Mountain Lake with a 5 wood to a back corner location.

Bill Brightly

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2012, 01:25:57 PM »
Tee it high and hit it high. It really is not that difficult, as long as you don't turn it over and the initial impact on the putting surface has a modicum of bite.  

Hey, we added 20 yards to our Biarritz in an attempt to make it play like as designed. We also began to mainatin  the front section as putting surface, and the ball truly does roll out now. I was Grounds Chair and on the restoration committee when we made those changes, so I  feel guilty as hell hitting driver... I absolutely should be able to hit a shorter running shot but I stink at it and got tired of hitting 40 yard bunker shots to the back section..


Sean,

You raise a great question that probably deserves a separate thread: how did ODG's and the course superintendent's keep grass alive without irrigation? What were the playing conditions really like in the early 1900's? Looking at my yard (given watering restrictions this summer) I imagine that most fairways were a mixture of grass, weeds and some brown or bare spots, all fairly hard packed.

Tony Ristola

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2012, 02:09:56 PM »
Perhaps their finest use is on short par-4's, a'la Berwick; and be sure to make the back of the green so small you'd be nuts to try and fly one in there.

The Biarritz as a par-3 probably works best for ladies, as they hit it flatter and with less spin.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2012, 02:11:32 PM by Tony Ristola »

Patrick_Mucci

Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2012, 03:02:34 PM »
Scott,

Your question could be expanded to every par 3 hole, and for that matter almost any par 5 hole.
And we could probably throw in the par 4's as well.

Are there any genuine three (3) shot holes that offer a challenge in the face of high tech I&B, without resorting to additional length.
I can't think of any.

Isn't the heart of your question the impact that hi-tech has had on golf architecture in general ?

The loss of the player interfacing with the features as the architect intended ?

Nowhere did this become clearer to me then a number of years ago when i was playing a match at NGLA and my opponent, a very good player, hit a high cut 6-iron to a back left hole location on the Redan.  I had never seen the hole played that way, and I don't think that's what the creators of that hole had in mind when they built it.

With the Biarritz, i think so much of the play of the hole is determined by the relationship of the tee to the green, elevation wise.
# 9 Yale, # 5 Fishers and Mountain Lake's are good examples of three different Biarritz's

Joe Andriole

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2012, 03:24:49 PM »
This is an interesting discussion but it appears that most of the emphasis is on the tee shot (and does it work). I look at it differently. I presume that at the time these holes were created they were long, difficult par 3s and that even the best players regularly placed their tee balls somewhere other than the level of the hole. Therefore, the major strategy/challenge of the hole IMHO was the putt or chip that had to contend with the swale. While the club used for the tee shot today is quite different and the average proximity to the hole improved, most players are still left with a challenging chip or putt. Chasing a running shot onto a green was pretty much the norm on most holes 90 years ago. It may be that Biarritz holes are more obvious reminders of those "lost" shot values.

Brian Colbert

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2012, 04:26:39 PM »
For what it's worth, I played the US APL at Old Macdonald last summer and the 8th hole there is a wonderful downhill par 3 with a Biarritz green. I thought it worked great when I landed my approach perfectly on the downslope and watched it kick to within 10 feet of the back hole location.

Bandon is not "most" golf courses, however, in that it is set up as a links course and firm and fast year round. But I would say this is an example of a Biarritz which worked exactly as it was intended.

Mark McKeever

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2012, 04:27:55 PM »
Brian,

Would you have flown it to the back if the green was soft?

Mark
Best MGA showers - Bayonne

"Dude, he's a total d***"

Brian Colbert

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2012, 04:38:50 PM »
Brian,

Would you have flown it to the back if the green was soft?

Mark

Yes

Ronald Montesano

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #21 on: August 21, 2012, 07:49:27 PM »
I've played the Bees at Fox Chapel (#17) and Yale (#9). Pin was back at FC and up at Y. Punched a 3-iron to front and through swale at FC and landed a 5-iron on front of #9 at Y. They fit my eye. The FC one does not play over a chasm, as did the original and does the Yale exemplar. Give me Bees anywhere and everywhere.
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Patrick_Mucci

Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #22 on: August 21, 2012, 10:19:32 PM »
JGAndriole,

Some of the Biarritz's I've played require an aerial tee shot into the green.

The 13th at the Knoll, the 5th at Fishers, the 10th at Piping Rock and the 9th at Yale are some that come to mind.

All too often, Biarritz's are viewed in the context of the tee and the green being at equal elevations, similar to Mountain Lake's, wherein a running shot may be the shot of choice.   But, often, a totally aerial shot to the green is required.

Scott Warren

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #23 on: August 22, 2012, 02:33:24 AM »
Thanks guys for some great responses.

I'm inclined to agree that many of those I have seen aren't maintained in such a way that a ball landing on the front portion of the green area (whether it's maintained as fairway or putting surface) will reasonably release to the back shelf.

But largely, I find that the shot required to execute the shot is exceptionally difficult -- especially on forced aerial approached such as Yale and Fishers Island. Probably more difficult than flying onto the green and stopping the ball quickly for those capable of doing both. So while the theory of the hole is really quite attractive to me, I haven't experienced it working in practice all that often.

And the point raised by JGAndriole is a good one, but brings us to the fact that even around the greens nowadays, an aerial shot is often preferred.

I like the sound of what Brian Colbert says re: Old Mac and I hope to get the chance to play the course before too long so I can expeirnce what he is talking about.

Grant Saunders

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Re: Do Biarritz holes (and Biarritz greens) work? Did they ever?
« Reply #24 on: August 22, 2012, 03:43:09 AM »
I cant help but wonder if the maintenance standards employed during the creation of the original hole ever really supported the ability to run a ball through the swale with any degree of consistency. Is it possible the that more modern green speeds have in fact made this particular aspect of playing a biarritz more feasible than back when greens were maintained at heights higher than todays fairways.

I like where template features are used in ways that perhaps restrict their ability to be classified as "true version" but offer up different challenges as a result. There may exist one somewhere, but I like the idea of a road hole green for a mid to short par 3.

Here is a thread talking about biarritz style greens on short par 4's.

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50728.msg1155407.html#msg1155407

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