Below the Trees
Dunlop White III
Club members often lobby for changes and additions to their golf course. Green committees frequently respond by altering their golf course in a careless and discriminant manner. Golf professionals, greens superintendents, greens chairmen and club members all have various personal agendas. Everyone ultimately will offer new bright ideas and try their hand at golf architecture and redesign.
Low handicappers usually will promote high rough, because they tend to believe that their course has become too easy. Similarly, low handicappers will insist on moving tee areas backwards to create more distance and help defend par. Low handicappers generally want to create a ‘championship’ atmosphere for their home club. In contrast, the high handicapper will want shorter rough and even wider fairways. The high handicapper may want to move some tedious bunkers or may simply want to level some engaging mounds. Moreover, ‘slicers’ will add more hazards to the left side of a fairway while ‘hookers’ will add more hazards to the right side of the fairway. What a mess!
In the early 1980’s, aesthetics was the growing rage across golf courses in America. Everyone thought green, green and more green. Everyone wanted to capture the ‘plush look’. As a result, excessive drainage channels were constructed, excessive water was applied, new cart paths were added or old ones were rerouted, and many new shrubs started taking root. Then there were the flower beds and the birdhouses for yardage markers. Of course, proper golfing attire would be mandated at all times, and carts would be required during weekends and most hours of the weekday. Just make sure you follow the many ‘directional signs’ which are presently posted throughout your course. Use your sand and seed containers to help the course, and use your digital distance finder to help your game. All of the above does, in fact, compromise playability, but perhaps none more than ‘ornamental and memorial tree planting programs’.
Today, trees are the most beautiful features on many great golf courses across America. In this modern era of golf course design, trees function to serve many diverse purposes. Trees are often used to serve as ‘safety buffers’ between adjacent holes. Trees similarly serve as ‘visual or sound barriers’. Trees further promote the growing issues of wildlife habitat and lend an aesthetic value to the course setting. Trees assist the golfer with ‘shot selection, shot direction and shot execution’. Trees are the most prevalent of modern day hazards, and once engaged, trees may very well be the most penal.
Trees are the most difficult hazard for the golfer to avoid. Classic architects incorporated such hazards as grass bunkers, sand bunkers, and fescues for rough, ravines and creeks. These types of hazards are only ‘two-dimensional’. The golfer only needed to calculate proper line and distance when negotiating with the common hazards of the classical design. The modern design, however, incorporates many more trees into play. Trees are ‘three-dimensional’ hazards. The golfer must calculate not only line and distance when negotiating with trees, but the golfer must also figure altitude into the pre-shot equation. Three-dimensional hazards, exemplified by trees, are naturally more difficult to avoid and recover from than the traditional two-dimensional hazards.
Trees magnify and compound the inherent differences between the modern and classic course design and the playability thereof. Pioneers of the classic course design did not believe that the game of golf needed trees. Donald Ross, for instance, believed that the game of golf should be played on the ground. ‘High carries, long carries, and the element of altitude were not a forced consideration’ while playing a Ross design. Fairways were typically open and wide (approximately 80 yards in width); however, its surface was usually uneven promoting variations in stance and lie. Run-up shots were often available with many alternative routs to the hole. His courses were thought provoking and the true challenge was presented at the greens where different angles were available for their approach. There was room to play and decisions to be made on every shot. Strategy was the essential ingredient in a Ross design. Bruce Hepner, golf architect for Renaissance Golf Design, stated that nothing has negated the strategic value of a classic course design more than the loss of fairway acreage due to tree plantings and overgrowth.
Conversely, modern course designs will likely maintain trees in close proximity guarding both sides of a fairway and other landing areas. The golfer has only one option to play such a hole. He or she has no choice but to hit it straight, to a precise distance, using a required club. In the era of modern design, successful golfers are forced into becoming target golfers who must strictly abide by the policies of shot- placement and course management. Olsen, a former USGA agronomist, coined the phrase that modern golf courses have become ‘bow and arrow courses’ due to the fact that a good shot is restricted to the dead center. Modern holes tend to be linear, both straight and narrow (often just 30 to 40 yards in width). With straight patterns of trees framing the fairways they took on a ‘freeway’ look. Bailout areas are not usually available and risky shots are often too penal for its reward. The art and creativity of classic shot making is lost when the course design presents the golfer with only one reasonable option to play a hole. Thus, the presence or absence of trees determines a golfer’s options and effectively distinguishes a classic Ross design from a typical modern design.
Do new trees really belong on our course at Blackacre Golf Club? (hereafter: Blackacre) Who decides where these trees should be planted? Are new trees and overgrowth not narrowing our playing areas? Is our classic design at prey to the influences and perceptions of modernization? Shouldn’t preservation of our maker’s design and his philosophies be our goal?
In 1994 our excellent greens superintendent reported that ‘an extensive tree planting program continued on our course at Blackacre’. The following variety of trees were planted in various locations: Eastern Hemlock, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, White Oak, and the Eastern White Pine. A grand total of fifty-two (52) new saplings were planted in that year alone, thirty-five (35) of which were of the evergreen, holiday variety. During the 1995 green’s committee meeting, we learned that Mrs. Jones had donated trees, which were to be re-planted on the golf course. Our superintendent further indicated that memorial tree plantings were to be encouraged. In 1996, our superintendent along with a lady member in charge of ornamental tree plantings informed the committee that trees had been planted in the off-season ‘to beautify and attract beneficial wildlife to our golf surroundings’. He reported that ‘tree planting this year not only included the use of Hemlocks, Evergreens, and the Colorado and Norwegian Spruces, but also the American Beech was added which is one of the finest in the tree species. This tree, native to various surrounding areas, is of the most spectacular of golf course specimen trees, providing both a housing habitat and a food source for wildlife’. He further noted ‘dead trees are left standing where possible, because they help build topsoil as they decompose, and they also harbor insects which provide a food source for various woodpeckers and nuthatches’. Wow!
Nonetheless, every summer we find new trees about our course at Blackacre. Perhaps some of these trees are arbitrarily planted along traditional landing areas. Or perhaps someone sought to place his/her stamp on a hole to make it play more difficult. Or perhaps these new trees are a result of environmental and beautification measures. Regardless of the reason, these trees don’t belong!!
Patrick O’Brien, Director of the Southeast Section of the USGA, has been employed by our club to provide advice for golf course improvement and to assist with turf-grass management. Mr. O’Brien visited Blackacre in November of 1996 and August of 1997, the latter of which Mr. O’Brien alerted me of his distaste of tree plantings. As he viewed young trees about our golf course, Mr. O’Brien inquired, ‘What is wrong with having open spaces?’ He claimed that tree planting committees have ruined many classic Donald Ross’ designs and encouraged us to leave our ‘open golf spaces’ alone. In particular, Mr. O’Brien disapproved of the new trees on both side of hole nine (9), the trees to the right side of hole (10), and the young trees to the left side of sixteen (16) fairway. Mr. O’Brien also displayed his distaste for the young tree at the corner of the dogleg on hole three (3) and the rows of pines which now buffer holes fifteen (15) from sixteen (16) as well as holes seventeen (17) from eighteen (18). Mr. O’Brien encouraged me to research the matter, and after doing so, I wholeheartedly agree with his professional opinion.
Bradley Klein offers a popular view of tree plantings about the golfing arena. Klein presently serves as the golf architectural and design editor for Golfweek and Superintendent News publications. He is also a contributing columnist for Golf Digest and Sports Illustrated. There are few, if any, who are more knowledgeable of the Donald Ross philosophy. Klein is a member of Donald Ross’ home course, Royal Dornoch in Scotland, and serves on the historical committee of the Donald Ross Society. He is also the author of two books, Rough Meditations and Discovering Donald Ross. Klein stated that it is easy to get upset about new trees on golf courses, because they simply don’t belong. Klein further writes:
‘Great damage can be done to a golf course in the name of ornamental tree planting. Sometimes the argument is for safety between holes. Other times, the membership is determined to make â€œ or keep â€œ its golf course tough. But too often the plantings detract from the design. Among the worst offenders are those who specialize in course beautification. One of the most prominent of these, run by well-intentioned folks who neither golf nor understand golf strategy, consistently recommends an aggressive program that becomes tantamount to filling up every available space, even if it means with little dopey Christmas trees 10 yards off the fairway ¦.yet there is too much evidence of recent tree plantings, many of them alongside the landing areas of tee shots, or to block long hitters from carrying the inside of doglegs ¦.Such tampering gradually puts at risk a wondrous piece of natural strategic contouring and subtly forces its artful ground game into a less subtle version of modern target golf’.
Harry S. Colt, a famous architect who designed Royal Portrush in Ireland and Swinley Forest in England, believed that the presence of trees on golf courses created too many inequities for the players. Colt reiterated in his Essays on Golf Course Architecture that ‘a tree is fluky and obnoxious form of a hazard.’, because a tree can obstruct and/or stymie one ball without even affecting another ball located just a couple of feet away. According to Colt, a tree’s primary function was merely to distinguish between those players who had good or bad fortune.
Even Alister Mackenzie, one of the most renowned golf architects, stated his disinterest in trees ‘ ¦.there are more mistakes in designing a golf course by attaching too much importance to the element of luck ¦and there is too much of that very element ¦in having to negotiate with trees’. Mackenzie further states that a green committees most common misuse of trees was to plant rows of midget evergreens between holes as a safety buffer. The rows of pines between holes fifteen (15) and sixteen (16) as well as seventeen (17) and eighteen (18) at Backacre automatically come to mind.
In The Lost Commentaries of Legendary Golf Architect, Donald Ross, it was initially apparent that Ross found that trees obstructed play. Donald Ross, a Scotsman, learned the game and its virtues on courses like Dornoch, Prestwick and St. Andrews, where the tree itself was never a factor. When Donald Ross designed the legendary courses of Oak Hill and Oakland Hills, the land used was barren and void of trees. Even when Ross designed Blackacre in 1926, old photographs reveal that a large portion of our mountaintop was essentially meadow and pasture land. Ross states in his Lost Commentaries: ‘As beautiful as trees are and as fond as you and I are of them, we still must not lose sight of the fact that there is a limited place for them in golf’. Donald Ross believed that trees could be used as a backdrop to visually frame a hole. Most importantly, however, Ross insists that trees should not be used for penal purposes on a golf course. Trees should serve perhaps as the scenery, but never as part of the stage.
Planting new trees beside traditional playing spaces also compounds the difference between low and high handicappers. These new trees generally do not affect the high handicapper. The low handicapper has the ability to avoid new trees as potential obstructions and is forced into abiding by the monotonous principles of course management. The player has but one option and strategy to playing a hole â€œ hitting it straight to a precise distance using a required club. This characteristic is foreign to a classic Ross design.
Conversely, new trees tend to obstruct the high handicappers more often. The high handicapper usually does not recognize the risk of obstruction, does not have the skill to avoid these obstructions, and cannot recover from these obstructions once engaged. Therefore, new trees to a high handicapper are inherently penal, also a characteristic foreign to a Ross design.
What was the impetus to plant unnecessary and strategically improper trees on classic designs? Michael Fay, Secretary of the Donald Ross Society and author of the book, Golf, As It was Meant To Be Played, maintains a plausible theory which he calls the ‘Pine Valley Effect’. Over the years many well-to-do and connected golfers made their way to Pine Valley, a vaunted and respected ground for the game. Most of these golfers have always been impressed by the fact that one hole cannot be seen from another at Pine Valley. Unfortunately, too many of these influential individuals returned to their home clubs and started tree planting programs to try to create the Pine Valley look. The problem with this, according to Fay, is that Pine Valley’s golf course sits on over three-hundred (300) acres of land while the average classic course contains anywhere from ninety(90) to one hundred and ten(110) acres. Separating the holes with trees on only one-hundred (100) acres of land inevitably will affect play. Ironically, our course at Blackacre sits upon less than one-hundred(100) acres and many of our members are members of Pine Valley as well. Thus, Fay’s theory perhaps has validity.
Now add another contributing factor: golf course irrigation. The classic Ross design was built before the advent of complete irrigation systems. Originally, a Ross fairway tended to be open, wide and elaborately curved. However, after the widespread adoption of full-length, single row irrigation systems constructed down the middle of fairways, these fairways consequently lost their width, contour and curvature. The exact length of the water’s throw (usually 20 to 25 yards on both sides) gradually became the demarcation lines for the fairway, particularly since the grass in this area was greener. Thus, open, wide fairways became narrow, and their elaborate contours and curvatures evolved into straight lines. As a result, trees were planted in the lateral playing areas of light rough, the areas, which could not be irrigated. Brad Klein, in ‘Discovering Donald Ross’, admits that all too many peripheral bunkers and lateral playing spaces have since been abandoned, covered-up, or overgrown by trees. Unfortunately today’s golfer has lost appreciation for the width and strategic variety which existed before irrigation. According to Klein, complete irrigation systems precipitated the narrow, linear, tree-lined, and parkland look, which unfortunately exists on too many Ross courses today.
If planting trees on the golf course is necessary at Blackacre, then standard golf landscaping principles should be recognized. Planting trees too close to tees and/or greens inhibits turf-grass functions, thus from an agronomic viewpoint, these locations are to be avoided. Planting new trees to both sides of typical landing areas promotes target golf, thus from a strategic standpoint, these locations are to be avoided. P. J. Boatwright, past president of the USGA, became a tree expert during his tenure of grooming US Open venues. His strategy is respected among golf architects and restorationist today. According to Boatwright, trees may exist between typical hitting areas and typical landing areas. These trees cannot obstruct and/or stymie the next shot. Instead, these trees will affect the curvature or trajectory of the next shot in proportion to the error of the drive. Thus, planting trees before and/or beyond typical landing areas advances the classical attributes of strategic golf and shot making.
As outlined below, Tom Doak, a golf architect, lists some general guidelines about planting trees on a golf course. In the book, The Anatomy of a Golf Course, Doak explains,
- Plant trees in groups, never individually or alone.
- Within these groups, plant trees of different species, never all of the same species. Disease therefore may kill one but not the group itself.
- Never plant evergreens, such as low limbed pines, which block recovery shots and stymie the players swing.
- Avoid planting trees in formal arrangements, such as rows of trees between fairways. Rows look unnatural in a natural landscape. Plus, the loss of a single tree destroys the form created.
- Avoid planting trees to the inside corner of a dogleg hole or even near typical landing areas. These positions undermine the principles of strategy and shot making.
- Avoid planting trees too close to the playing areas, especially tees and greens, because of turf-grass issues.
- If necessary, plant trees between typical hitting areas and typical landing areas, so long as they do not affect playability.
- Avoid filling up every open space with new trees.
- Avoid planting new trees too close to sand bunkers or other hazards. Such would create a double hazard for the golfer to avoid.
Instead of aggressively planting new trees, our focus should shift to removing existing trees in a prudent fashion. Growth on our golf course has remained constant for years now. But for a number of fortunate storms, minor tornadoes and Hurricane Hugo, our trees at Blackacre are continuously growing larger and their limbs are growing wider. Such growth narrows the playing area and minimizes many shot making options and alternative routes to the hole. Hence, the trees to the right side of both the tee and the landing area on hole five (5), and the trees to the left side of the landing area on hole three (3). Before long, the tree limbs on approaching the green on hole one (1) will further extend their canopies to close down its only established corridor of play. Although our course at Blackacre is of classic origin, it is now playing like the modern design. We must constantly remove, or at the very least, prune excess growth in order to open our playing areas and preserve the shot making choices inherent to a Ross design.
Christopher Sykes, golf superintendent at Donald Ross’ Cherokee Country Club, insists that proper course restoration includes thinning out hardwood areas (the woods) that have grown between holes. Sykes illustrated at the 2001 Donald Ross Society meetings that such tree clearing gives a hole the look with the added dimension of ‘depth’. He said that beautiful ‘vistas of hills and terrain’ are available when your eyes are not confined by a dense framework of trees. Jim Ferree, long time touring professional, concurred by saying that clearing hardwoods to open up vistas of other parts of the course is simply more pleasing to the eye.
Thinning hardwoods affects playability as well. In the book, ‘Golf Architecture’, the author states that clearing out wooded areas between holes allows a golfer to have ‘a fair chance of recovery’ when engaged therein. The standard practice for tree removal places select tree trunks (the keepers) at a minimum distance of twenty-five (25) feet apart. Furthermore, their limbs should be removed to a minimum height of ten (10) to twelve(12) feet above ground. Under these improved conditions, the golfer may at least access the risks for his next angle of attack, and depending upon his skills, may shape the ball through alternative openings to recovery.
In the book Rough Meditations, Bradley Klein said that ‘massive tree removal programs’ ranks number five (5) in the best trends in classic course restoration. Klein states that pure restoration is possible, but it is site specific. The National Golf Links on Long Island is a classic masterpiece where total restoration was made possible. Recently, all tree growth and shrub growth was cleared away to reveal the large, full-sized playing areas of its original design. Because the National Golf Links is a links style course, pure restoration was possible. All trees could properly be removed. On the other hand, pure restoration would be out of the question, for instance, here in the tree-filled mountains of Blackacre or among the thousands of pines at Pinehurst. Thus, partial restoration is a more reasonable option. Many clubs across the country are utilizing tree removal programs. Oakmont recently brought back its wide-open character by removing some two-hundred (200) hard woods. Similarly, San Francisco Golf Club has greatly expanded its playing arenas by removing more than five-hundred (500) trees. Coore and Crenshaw’s partial restoration of Brook Hollow involved the removal of some two-hundred twenty-five(225) trees. Similarly, Cherokee Country Cub has removed over five-hundred (500) trees with their restoration efforts. If trees could potentially interfere then they were removed accordingly.
One of the most extreme cases of restoration involves Timuquana Club in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1993, trees were so abundant, the course looked like a plant nursery or an arboretum. There were thirteen(13) doglegs on the course. According to Mike Fay, it was no secret where tree-planting programs were implemented. By the time, Bobby Weed, an architect, partially restored the course in 1995, there were only two(2) doglegs on the course and over six-hundred (600) trees had fallen. As a result, Timuquana was recently named as a site for a USGA event.
If your restoration plan is fortunate enough to include the hiring of an architect, which is highly recommended, such as Coore and Crenshaw, Doak and Hepner, Cupp and Fuller, Pritchard Silva or Liddy, to name only a few, then tree removal shall certainly be a large part of their endeavor. However, if your club will not support such a restoration project, then your green’s chairman or superintendent can certainly remove unnecessary and strategically improper trees. There are a variety of methods for such removal; however, there is one rule of thumb: Just don’t notify or alert the membership! The majority of club members tend to be ‘tree huggers’. Bradley Klein states, ‘ make the mistake of marking a tree for removal with a red ribbon or such, and members will call you at home at midnight to complain of your impending crime’. So do not alert the membership of tree removal plans! Klein explains that if trees are removed in the dead of winter, noone will even notice the next spring. Similarly, if trees are removed in the dead of night with ‘quick clean-up and a sod squad’, then noone will likely miss the trees even the next day. Klein notes, ‘By the time folks start noticing, they are endorsing a program they never would have accepted up front’. Other tricks of the trade include the use of copper nails or gasoline to kill unnecessary trees. Memberships never object to the removal of dead hardwoods or evergreens, because they are unsightly and present safety concerns.
Trees are becoming an even larger issue to golf professionals today. Restorationists and professionals alike are complaining about tree overgrowth. Recently, the Olympic Club’s Lake Course, host of the 1998 US Open, was anointed ‘the most overrated tournament site’ because tree growth encroached above traditional landing areas. Similarly, in the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill, Seve Ballesteros performed a tree recovery exhibition before bowing to Tom Lehman in the singles matches. Though some of his shots were errant, Ballesteros complained that many trees did not belong on this Donald Ross design. Consequently, in the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderama, Ballesteros employed a ‘battalion of eighteen (18) inch chain saws’ to remove foreseeable tree interferences. Sahalee, host of the 1998 PGA Championship, removed more than six-hundred trees before the tournament; however, trees still came into play on every shot. Sahalee is distinguishable from Oak Hill and the Olympic Club primarily because of its modern origin. Some professionals still complained!
Trees are obtrusive from a turf management standpoint also. As far as trees and turfgrass go, they simply don’t mix. Just look at the grass under the tree canopies of hole two (2) tee at Blackacre. The grass here is always unhealthy, dying, or dead. Some superintendents, at the direction of the membership or otherwise, will tend to seed and re-seed and sod and re-sod these areas continuously. The results are usually the same. No healthy grass! Trees tend to block necessary morning sunlight, especially from the east, which inhibits the growth. Trees further block air movement and air circulation, which prevent the necessary exchange of gases required for growth. Trees are dominant plants to grass, and when competing for nutrients and water, trees will always win. Also in the winter, trees block necessary sunlight, especially from the southwest, which prevent frozen turfgrass areas from having a chance to thaw. Thus, trees contribute significantly to the vast winterkill which strikes many portions of our country annually. Therefore, you are basically setting yourself up for a hit if you don’t pay more attention to your turfgrass areas which need more sunlight.
Worse yet, when all agronomic efforts fail, superintendents will typically attempt to beautify these areas with mulch and/or pine bark nuggets. Today, you will see these landscaping materials all around golf courses. It comes shredded, in mini-nuggets or large nuggets. Just try to attempt a recovery shot out of this mess! Regardless of your skill and shotmaking ability, you are stymied! These landscaped areas beneath trees form a double hazard. If you are not stymied by the trees themselves, then you will certainly be stymied by the landscaping materials beneath.
Matters are compounded when they shape this material into little inverted pods approximately six(6) feet in diameter around virtually every sapling just off the fairway. We certainly have a few at Blackacre! If engaged, you better hope that your typical tripod of wire support with stakes suspends this sapling so you can get relief from the USGA rules and decisions.
Its not rocket science, get a chainsaw, grow grass, and forget this foolishness. In the book, The Masters by Curt Sampson, Ed Connors, golf course engineer claims, ‘People of golf courses tend to be tree huggers. Look at the picture of Pinehurst in the 1930’s when it had a wide-open links look. It’s anything but that now. You’ve got to keep trees at bay. Their nutrient and water needs and shade are all bad for grass ¦. What happens when an old golf course loses a bunch of trees? You get a better golf course!’
In summary, trees are not a virtue to a golf course. We must resist proposals to plant new trees. We must also aggressively remove and trim trees about Blackacre. Instead of being concerned about the influences and perceptions of the modern design, we should be concerned with restoring our maker’s design. Our golf course then would be truly unique!
Our duties are threefold. First, we should educate ourselves about the typical characteristics of a Donald Ross design and endeavor to understand his philosophy of the game. Then, we must cultivate this knowledge to our membership. In order to be reasonably informed, I suggest the following books, Golf Has Never Failed Me: The Lost Commentaries of the Legendary Golf Architect, Donald Ross; and Rough Meditations and Discovering Donald Ross by Bradley Klein. I also recommend visiting Khris Januzik at the Tuft’s Archives in Pinehurst who houses the history, architectural drawings, and document files of potentially your Ross course. The Tuft’s Archives is essentially the Donald Ross repository and can be very helpful. I also recommend playing other Ross designs, a list of all four hundred and five (405) of which can be provided.
Secondly, we should restore and preserve typical Donald Ross features on our course at Blackacre. The following constitutes a small list of common Donald Ross features:
- Greens are small in size, square and inverted in shape and slightly elevated in height. (Note: Today many of his greens have become even smaller in size and round due to machine mowing instead of hand mowing, while they are also more elevated due to years of top-dressings.)
- Sand Bunkers have flat bottoms with raised faces of coarse grass. (Note that fairway bunkers are easily seen from the tee and greenside bunkers are usually set back from the green. Also note that they may perhaps be set further back than originally because of the fact that green sizes have generally shrunken over the years.)
- Fairways are usually uneven with crater-like hummocks providing variations in stance and lie.
- Collection Areas usually surround the greens effectively enlarging green size and promoting run-up shots and pitches.
- Non-Penal Approaches – Trees are used merely to frame a hole while fescue grasses are long only in front of the tee and through collection areas, but at a height that the balls will not be continually lost.
- Options – Every player should have options and choices of shots. Although there are many routes to a hole, there is but one optimum route. Bailout shots are prevalent.
- Holes – Rarely will you find parallel hole designs; the routing always flows. There are long par 3’s and many short uphill par 4’s, many long par 4’s and reachable par 5’s. Lengths vary and the par was essentially irrelevant. Match-play essentially ruled the game then, and he simply tried to create interesting, thought-provoking holes using the terrain as his guide.
Thirdly, if changes are necessary, we must be convinced that Ross would have approved.
Donald Ross once said, ‘Golf is a game of pleasure, not of penance. (penal). When I design a hole, I say to the golfer. There’s the hole. Play it any ol’ way you please’ (options!!!) You simply can’t with tree plantings and overgrowth!
Note: Blackacre Golf Club is a fictitious Donald Ross course.