Golf Course Architecture - Issue 54: October 2018

35 INSIGHT The seventeenth at Machrihanish Dunes him take on the enormous and deep bunker to favour the right side of the landing area, when, in fact, the tee shot should be played down the left side to provide the best angle into the green. However, that angle on the tee shot will likely cause the second shot to be blind, as well. In other words, the design of this hole involves the brilliant use of ‘false strategy’ on the tee shot, causing a more difficult approach after making a seemingly bold play from the tee. “The third choice in my list is the ninth at Pacific Dunes. This one is another example of the semi-blind feature, but I felt compelled to include it simply because of the way the fairway fits the ridge. The tee shot is uphill, over the leading edge of a broad ridge, which is angling away from right to left, and sloping away in the same direction. The player is asked to decide how far left to play the tee shot, with increased carry distance and blindness the farther left he plays.” Links golf is home to most of the famous blind holes, so it isn’t surprising that many of those mentioned by architects come from the links. Martin Ebert, for example, highlighted a number of well-known blind links holes. “The Sea hole (the thirteenth) at Rye is a great example,” he says. “Many people would like to drive a huge great valley through the dune ridge which divides the fairway from the green. However, for me, the blindness makes the hole. A good drive ‘over the pipe’ (a raised and exposed culvert pipe) is required to give the golfer any confidence that the ridge can be cleared. Then, using the two marker posts (I am not sure I have seen that anywhere else) to help line up the second shot, an estimation of the club required must be made. “There are two possible blind elements to the seventeenth [formerly fifteenth] on the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush. If the drive is well struck, it will run down the dune hillside, a feature which is rare in links golf. The fate of the tee shot will depend on the line taken. Slightly right and an awkward lie in the rough will result. Slightly too far left and the new bunker lies in wait leaving an awkward length recovery to the green. Just right and the drive will bound towards the approach to the green, and possibly onto the green. Into the wind, however, and the drive is more than likely to stay on top, probably leaving a blind second shot to the wonderful Harry Colt-designed green. Darren Clarke describes that shot as the most difficult at Portrush, with only the purest strike with a low trajectory having a chance of not being blown up by the wind rising up the dune slope. “The sixteenth hole at Askernish can be a real brute when played into the wind. The fact that you get a glimpse of the green and the flag from the tee before you drop down the dunes lets you know what challenge awaits. The green surface is one of the wonders in the world of golf and its folklore has been added to by Tom Doak’s suggestion that it should be reshaped, which I hope with all my heart will never happen.” But there are modern blind holes too. American designer Mike De Vries highlights a couple he himself designed. “The first thing I think of with blindness when designing something is how to allow blindness to creep into a hole’s design but not all the time. For instance, in looking at the third and fourth at Kingsley Club in Michigan, the land is constantly moving and players have an idea of where to play the ball, but a mishit will find their ball in a deep hollow, with a blind shot to the green. The player is not dead and has information but there is still that bit of angst in the coming shot. Kingsley’s fourth tee shot has more obscurity to it and quite Faith is defined as belief in something that is blind. This may be a little too much theology for golf, but it makes my point. If I am faced with no option but a blind shot I want to know that if I take the leap of faith good things will likely happen. This is a basic tenant of blindness on a golf course. I have to confess that I have not always lived by this simple logic. The seventeenth at Machrihanish Dunes asks the player to hit across a hollow and into a raised blind fairway that doglegs left. It’s a tough shot with no wind, but with an onshore breeze it’s a beast. A miscued drive gets caught in the wind and pushed into the rough. As it’s blind the player doesn’t always know where to look, and his blind faith is tested. In term of blind greens, the same logic is true. If I can be so bold as to offer insight on a peer, the seventeenth at Coore & Crenshaw’s Sand Valley course is a blind par three but the green is wicked. Bad things can happen with nothing but luck the decider. I would suggest that as often as this hole pleasantly surprises it also frustrates. I guess some might say that’s the rub of the green, the very definition of golf. Obscuring the line of sight for a golfer is a key tactic in golf course architecture but it has to be well considered. If there is no option but blindness, then it can’t be overly penal. If blindness is optional, then it’s a trade-off and if it’s a penalty, then it is often penalty enough. A leap of faith Mike DeVries designed the fourth hole at Kingsley Club in Michigan with blindness very much in mind Golf course architect David Kidd provides his perspective on blindness in golf

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