Golf Course Architecture - Issue 58 October 2019

61 avid players who tend to travel a lot (they see a lot of different golf courses), their opinions are valued by their less-skilled friends, so what they say is bad, good or great, makes it so. Golf writers have done a tremendous job of exposing average golfers to courses that have sometimes been panned by the 10 per cent group, by talking about variety, fun and excitement as it presents itself to the average player. “My dad [architect Dick Phelps] made a career out of designing courses for the average player. His courses were rarely trumpeted by the low handicappers, but they were, and still are, almost always the busiest courses in their given market segment.” Jay Blasi, one of the world’s leading young architects, takes a different view. “It can be done,” he says. “For me the key is green complex design and ability to recover. I’ve had this same design brief twice on existing courses (SentryWorld and Santa Ana). Both times the course rating went up from back tee (indicating the course was more difficult for scratch players) and the slope went down from middle tees (indicating the course was more playable for normal golfers). This was achieved by widening corridors and removing penal bunkers/trees/rough/ water that wasn’t in play for scratch players. The green complexes feature open entrances and lots of short grass around greens. This allows regular players to approach and recover. Scratch players find short grass around greens more challenging on approaches and recoveries. Good design can achieve both goals and there are examples with objective results.” Australian designer Scott Champion of Harrison Golf says that the best answer can often involve looking back. “The best tools at our disposal need not be new ideas,” he says. “They are ingrained in the make-up of the great courses that continue to be enduring tests of golf. The tool I believe to have the most value in combating distance is the use of angles. “Place greater importance on where to position your ball, rather than how close to the hole you can hit it. A 150- yard shot from a particular part of the fairway should be easier than a 120-yard shot from another. Provide sufficient width to let scratch golfers figure out where they need to be to access certain pins, while providing the bogey golfer ample space to enjoy their round without continually hacking out of long rough. “Firm greens are an essential ingredient for this strategy to be effective. If you are served the usual lush, soft greens that we see most weeks in professional golf, it doesn’t matter which angle you approach from – or whether you are even on the short grass – because you will be able to stop the ball with a short iron regardless. “The greens should emphasis these angles, and in some cases require different angles to different pins. The use of downslopes within greens is a feature that is not utilised enough today – nor are greens that slope away from you. These amplify the importance of angles and ensures that accessing certain pins from out of position is very demanding. Want to see the best example of this? Go to Royal Melbourne. However, with the distance modern professionals hit the ball today, even Royal Melbourne is not immune to being overrun in benign conditions.” GCA At Royal Melbourne, greens that slope away from the player amplify the importance of angles Photo: Gary Lisbon