Golf Course Architecture - Issue 54: October 2018

le 33 Blindness Blindness is a strategic element on a number of holes at Cruden Bay in Scotland, including the fourteenth, where visibility is limited both from the tee (inset) and to the hole’s famous bathtub green (main image) B lindness, we can safely assume, has been a part of golf since the game began. Those fishermen and farmers who first started hitting things around the links of the east coast of Scotland would have had no conception that they might be able to alter the natural ground to provide themselves with better visibility, and it was really not until the principles of the strategic school of golf course design began to be formulated in the early 20th century that blindness started to become a dirty word. Throughout the first big golf boom, during the second half of the nineteenth century, blind holes were created almost wherever new golf was laid out. The reduction in the cost of golf caused by the invention of the gutty ball saw the game emerge from its home in eastern Scotland and start the process of conquering the world – first the rest of Scotland, then England, Ireland and Wales, and then overseas – but the men laying out these new courses were almost all Scots who had grown up on the ancient links. Blindness to them was just part of a normal day’s golf, and, indeed, because of the perceived need to put greens in hollows wherever possible so that rain would funnel down on them and keep the grass alive, they probably created more than their share of blind holes. Plus, it isn’t hard to imagine a group of men, in the 1880s, out investigating a piece of ground with the thought that it might be suitable for a new golf course. They’re armed with gutty balls and hickory shafted clubs – equipment that made getting the ball airbone quite tricky. It seems to me totally in character that they’d stop in front on the largest dune on the site and one person would say to the others ‘I bet I can hit my ball over that, and you can’t’. And so began many of the famous blind holes. When architects began to theorise about hole design around the turn of the twentieth century, blindness came under fire. That’s not to say Golden Age architects always eschewed blind holes: they were happy to use variable visibility as a strategic tool, and if a landform required that a particular hole, necessary to bring a routing together, was blind, then blind it was. But certainly,