Blog

Textualism, Pragmatism, and Capes: Can The Meaning of A Template Evolve Post-Macdonald?

Last week, your correspondent took some liberties with word choice in the name of Twitter character count and, in the process, invoked rebuttals from two members of the online golf architectural community (two respectable members, whose opinions I value. Want to emphasize that moving forward).

My error, and one that makes quite the difference, was not being careful to refer to the tee shot at Wintonbury Hills’s No. 2 as “Cape-style,” instead implying (through poor syntax) the entire hole was a Cape. It is not in the least a “Cape” hole, and a quick Google search will make that obvious to you. My intended point, however, was to note the steep falloff on the left side of the fairway, which is where the proper angle to the green sits as well. A less gutsy player can hit to the wide right of the fairway, which offers a much tougher approach. The two response tweets were “Cape Holes have nothing to do with the tee shot” and “A true Cape hole only has the trouble at the end.” These comments came from gentlemen who know their stuff, and—again—I respect.

Both of their statements are 100% accurate. And I don’t agree with them.

Continue reading “Textualism, Pragmatism, and Capes: Can The Meaning of A Template Evolve Post-Macdonald?” »

Golf Heritage Society: The Difficulty in Bringing Young Golfers to Hickories & History (Spoiler: It’s Easy)

If you couldn’t gauge from the entire premise of this website, being hip has never been a high priority for BPBM. So here’s another dose of unpopular sentiment in the current age of “woke” golf: I haven’t yet been tempted to try hickory golf.

Part of it is that I’m not a particularly talented golfer to begin with (15 handicap as of this writing) and I see no need to exaggerate the fact. Secondly, if I spend money on golf, it is almost 100 percent in the pursuit of playing nice courses, as golf course architecture is my primary (and, frankly, only) connection to playing golf. I’ve received a number of generous invitations during the offseason to play at very nice institutions, and I’ve been hustling like heck on freelance gigs to justify this hobby to Black Metal Bride. Your correspondent aside, as a precedent, investment in first-hand history seems to be on the down-and-down, if Civil War reenactments are any suggestion.

“How on Earth,” (to paraphrase what I asked Dr. Bernard “Bern” Bernacki, President of the Golf Heritage Society) “does one who heads a 50 year-old organization go about drawing in younger generations to play hickory golf? Modern middle schoolers mock me for owning an iPhone 6…how would they treat me if they saw my niblick?” It is a question Bernacki has often answered. Rather easily, actually.

Continue reading “Golf Heritage Society: The Difficulty in Bringing Young Golfers to Hickories & History (Spoiler: It’s Easy)” »

Making Mountains Work for Membership: Old Toccoa Farm’s Techniques for Not Killing Retirees with Insane Slope

It’s been a minute since we played at Old Toccoa Farm and since The Fried Egg ran our feature regarding shaper Jack Dredla’s involved work creating a golf club out of the difficult, and beautiful, Blue Ridge Mountains—and his ongoing commitment to that project. Dredla, recovering from kidney cancer, took a full time position with the club (which opened its full 18 during 2019) so that he could see it through to term, understanding that a golf course requires four to five years to reach its fruition. You can read that piece here. That said, I’ve got a lot of photos left and very little subject matter for new content coming out of Winter. So here’s a post I hope doesn’t step on their toes too much.

The Fried Egg has also recently begun a series, the “School of Golf Architecture,” that I imagine will focus on the core elements of the subject. Garrett Morrison’s first entry is on “place”; not the soil or even the landscape, but the idea of a property’s personality. The land at Old Toccoa, and the region surrounding the title river, is not lacking for this. It’s beautiful, and the culture of the region is quickly making it a tourist destination.

But that does not necessarily make it an ideal location for golf, in the same way that the Congolese rainforest is not a great place for a golf course (or much human life, outside of Michael Fay). That said, ownership of the Old Toccoa development was determined to include a golf course within the community, which was aimed at the ‘50s and ‘60s demographic. The fly-fishing setup was easy, but a golf course was, frankly, a foolhardy proposition. Although it took much longer than they could have foreseen, their investment in Bunker Hill Golf to handle its design made the result a rare one…a golf course that manages to function amid such extreme conditions.

Continue reading “Making Mountains Work for Membership: Old Toccoa Farm’s Techniques for Not Killing Retirees with Insane Slope” »

Bentgrass is Bentgrass: The Greens (and Mainly Croquet Courts) at Grandfather Golf & Country Club

On a routine run of the internet a few weeks back, we were struck by arguably the worst choice of words we had ever seen in a golf course/club review. It was directed, specifically, at Grandfather Golf & Country Club’s croquet competition: “The club also has a robust croquet program,” the reviewer noted. “Whites only!”

Appalled, we rushed to the internet. Let’s be real…there are courses that still ban black membership. Just, you know, not so overtly as to actually write it into their bylaws. And we would have expected these places to be much farther south than the North Carolina Blue Ridge range. The good news: It is common practice to wear only white in competitive croquet. There is probably questionable history, and music taste, behind this but at least we’re not talking about outright racism here. Many apologies to all the croquet fans of the world for our ignorance.

This ignorance, however, led to a further examination of the croquet world. And dang. It’s a more legitimate thing than you might have guessed…especially at a place like Grandfather.

Continue reading “Bentgrass is Bentgrass: The Greens (and Mainly Croquet Courts) at Grandfather Golf & Country Club” »

Debatably Donald & The Damage Done: W.D. Clark and The Architects Forgotten at Faux Ross Courses

Special thanks to Jay Revell and Rick Shefchik for their contributions to this piece. Many of you are familiar with Jay from his site, but Rick is an accomplished sports and music writer, whose ‘From Fields to Fairways’ is a history of Minnesota’s classic courses. 

This is not a story about Donald Ross.

However, as much of the subject matter is tied to Palatka Golf Club—a municipal south of Jacksonville that is also allegedly a Donald Ross design—it’s tricky to avoid him. You may have caught that one word in the previous sentence that sets up an obvious premise…a fact-and-fiction regarding the course’s lineage. It’s a common theme, covered by Will Bardwell at Great Southern Golf Club, and covered eagerly by the press during the drama surrounding Mayfair Country Club in Sanford, FL. A similar tale could be told about many Ross courses, and many have previously broached the topic regarding Palatka. Analyzing Palatka won’t be a Pulitzer “A-HA” investigative moment.

So this isn’t a story about Donald Ross or about why the proper identification of this course is important for his legacy. This is a story about W.D. Clark and why the proper identification of this course is important to his legacy.

Continue reading “Debatably Donald & The Damage Done: W.D. Clark and The Architects Forgotten at Faux Ross Courses” »

Golf.com’s Top 100 Courses in The World…and What YOU Hate About It. Comparing Trends at Every “Top 100” and Finding Your Match

The few of you who were around at this point last year might remember our feature, “Golf Digest’s Top 100…And What YOU Hate About It. A Statistical Analysis of The ‘Best’ Courses.” You may remember a few things about it…for one, it had nothing to do with statistics, and everything to do with looking at simple numbers and noting trends (they’re different). Secondly, it focused specifically on three major services’ Top 100 U.S. golf courses. Due to the overwhelming lack of readership we had last year, we are unable to provide solid evidence that there’s a demand for the same feature highlighting the Top 100 golf courses in the world.

So we’re doing it anyway…and then you can tell us “never again.”

As a reminder, the three most certifiable rankers we’re looking at are Golf, Golf Digest, and Top100GolfCourses.com—three offerings that base their rankings on a panel of some scope, and not simply a roundtable.

Continue reading “Golf.com’s Top 100 Courses in The World…and What YOU Hate About It. Comparing Trends at Every “Top 100” and Finding Your Match” »

The Fox & The Lion: Restoring Seth Raynor’s Lion’s Mouth Hazard at Fox Chapel Golf Club

Here’s a book concept for any number of the golf historians / architecture aficionados I follow on Twitter: The Redans of Raynor. A chapter dedicated to every Redan that Seth laid out. It could be a fine book, and Redans are a fine concept, but there is a point where the tried and true needs a rest. You and the missus need something slightly more exotic from the Raynor repertoire.

Here lies the Lion’s Mouth, a template (in some circles) that Raynor didn’t attempt to place at every routing. You’re probably familiar with the concept already; a large bunker cutting into the front of the green, both discouraging the ground game (a generalization) and muddling the distance to the flag. As opposed to the Redan—which is always en vogue—the Lion’s Mouth has had a few flash-in-the-pan moments over the past few years that have driven newfound interest to this relative rarity. For one, Keith Rhett and Riley Johns incorporated the concept during the drivable No. 6 at the hip Winter Park nine north of Orlando. More so, the U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston brought wide eyes to the intimidating bunker laying at the feet of No. 16’s green.

So let’s keep that momentum moving into 2020. More accurately, Fox Chapel Golf Club will keep that momentum rolling.

Continue reading “The Fox & The Lion: Restoring Seth Raynor’s Lion’s Mouth Hazard at Fox Chapel Golf Club” »

Sunnehanna Country Club’s Almost-Greats: Tillinghast’s Favorite Hazard and Its Allegheny Adaptation

A.W. Tillinghast was not a fan of templates.

“I have known Charley Macdonald since the earliest days of golf in this country and for many years we have been rival course architects,” he wrote. “Our manner of designing courses never reconciled. I stubbornly insisted on following natural suggestions of terrain, creating new types of holes as suggested by Nature, even when resorting to artificial methods of construction. Charley, equally convinced that working strictly to models was best, turned out some famous courses. Throughout the years we argued good naturedly about it and that, always at variance it would seem.”

That is, Tillinghast was not necessarily a fan of MacRaynor’s template philosophy when it came to MacRaynor’s own template holes. Tillie approved more so of his own concepts, which include the “Reef” and “Double Dogleg” (his “Tiny Tim” was, for all purposes, just a different term for “Short”).

One has gathered more acclaim than those, however: The “Great Hazard” (frequently cited as “Tillinghast’s Great Hazard”…which probably fed into the architect’s noted ego).

Continue reading “Sunnehanna Country Club’s Almost-Greats: Tillinghast’s Favorite Hazard and Its Allegheny Adaptation” »

Slicers, Hookers, Cutter September 2019: Crypt Sermon, White Ward, Pharmakon, More

Slicers, Hookers, Cutters is a monthly rundown of the best and worst albums released during the previous month. Let’s be real…there’s only so much time we can dedicate to albums every month, so feel free to tweet @BethpageBM and let us know what we missed. Understand, of course, that we may have actually hated the garbage you recommend…so if you don’t see a social shout-out for that release, you’ll just have to sit there and wonder whether we missed your comment…or whether your taste is terrible. This crushing paranoia is all part of the doom metal experience.

Continue reading “Slicers, Hookers, Cutter September 2019: Crypt Sermon, White Ward, Pharmakon, More” »

Expanding The PGA’s Charitable Impact to Las Cruces, New Mexico: A Modest Proposal

You may hate the PGA Tour’s course setups, schedule, the major it shares a name with (or all of the above), but chill for a moment and consider the significant social impact the Tour has had. We’re serious! We’re discussing social good on a website named after Black Metal!

During the 2018 PGA season, the Tour had a combined $190 million “charitable impact” on communities / organizations that hosted an event. For the most part, it’s not difficult to find where these numbers are coming from. The FedEx-St. Jude Invitational obviously benefits the title hospital. Jack Nicklaus is an avid proponent of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in nearby Columbus, and the Memorial Tournament behaves accordingly. The biggest single-year donator on tour was The Players Championship, which brought in $9.25 million for affiliated charities. But it can get better.

Continue reading “Expanding The PGA’s Charitable Impact to Las Cruces, New Mexico: A Modest Proposal” »