Golf Course Architecture - Issue 54: October 2018

they saw visibility as important, and worked hard to achieve it on their courses. Hugh Alison, Harry Colt’s longtime partner, in his early 1920s report for Toronto Golf Club, said of one suggestion: “A long two-shot hole, if introduced at this point, would be a complete failure, as it would be impossible to achieve visibility.” Today, blindness is still regarded with suspicion, verging on outright hostility in places. Ed Carton, golf architect with civil engineering and landscape design specialists Hurt & Proffitt, exemplifies this view when he says: “Number seventeen on the Old Course, from the greenside bunker, that’s as blind a shot as I like. I believe a golf course should be straightforward, offering the golfer options not questions.” And yet, some take a completely different view. Mexican architect Agustin Piza, begs to differ. “My design philosophy calls for a bit of mystery with two blind shots wherever possible on a golf course,” he says. “The beauty of the blind shot philosophy is it can be aesthetic, strategic or functional, but you have to use it wisely. I learned it from Tom Fazio when I had the opportunity of working with him at Querencia in Cabo, Mexico. There he designed a nice blind tee shot on hole 16 and it was the first time I ever heard of such a thing in a design philosophy. This was back in 2000. It wasn’t until 2003/04, during my Masters degree, when I had the chance to play top links courses in Scotland that I understood, appreciated and cherished the blind shot. From then on I made it my own and have integrated it into a few of my designs like Las Parotas in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico. Although the blind shot is usually a hard sell to my clients in Latin America, I am fortunate to have a few that respect my artistic expression, thus being the courses that have won awards or mentions.” Australian architect Harley Kruse says: “Blindness in golf holes is always a reminder of the three classical landscape characteristics of surprise, variety and concealment. It provides that element of surprise with the unknown as your shot disappears over the brow and the journey as you walk forwards to then be finally revealed with all asunder. The effect of blindness in golf design can be a great tool as it helps with the distortion of distance and challenges a golfer’s judgement. On the tee of Royal Melbourne West’s par-five fifth, one is presented with a huge and blind uphill tee shot. It is dramatic in every which way as the hole reaches up to the sky almost. A cluster of three large, stunning, sand-faced crater bunkers are set high into the crest of the ridge. A narrow alley of fairway between these bunkers on the left and vegetation on the right provides an enticing play line up the hill. A good drive that carries the crest and is not too far right to avoid the heavily right sloping part of the fairway, is then rewarded of a decent kick forwards from which the green then becomes most reachable both in distance and angle of shot. “Another great blind hole in Australian golf is the par-five fifth at New South Wales in Sydney. From the tee the golfer is presented with a rugged carry over low vegetation, then a valley in the fairway leading up to a bold cross ridge at some 230 yards or so off the tee. Beyond the ridge the hole is blind. It disappears and the view is of the distant ocean horizon beyond. While the ridge creates blindness and drama it also ensures the hole is incredibly flexible for a range of golfing ability and in a range of winds, including hitting directly into a cold southerly or having a summer noreaster sea breeze to lend a hand. With a tee shot over the ridge then there are big gains to be made with the downhill slope. Short of the ridge and you will be held up in the valley from where a blind second shot is over the crest as it meets the sky in dramatic fashion.” A key question that we asked architects to consider was to identify holes whose greatness was inseparable from their blindness. Denver-based Rick Phelps says: “I have three holes that most accurately fit your ‘precisely because’ definition. The first is the Dell at Lahinch. One of the factors I kept asking myself when considering all of the great blind holes out there was ‘How would the hole look and play if the blindness were simply removed?’ The Dell would be a very bland, medium-to-short par three, and nothing more. My other two choices fit into more of a semi-blind category, but that is precisely what makes them such fantastic golf holes. The golfer is tempted by the blindness, under the sometimes false assumption that the more boldly he conquers the blindness, the better the result. The fourth at Royal St Georges, fits this description perfectly. The golfer who is unfamiliar with the hole would assume that the blindness from the tee is challenging Blindness “The beauty of the blind shot philosophy is it can be aesthetic, strategic or functional, but you have to use it wisely” The Dell hole at Lahinch in Ireland Photo: Steve Carr Photography 34   Golf Course Architecture