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Monday Morning Golf Course Architect: Erin Hills No. 4

The most frequent complaint I hear from those who visit Erin Hills for the first time: “It’s long for the sake of being long.” The solution to this problem is fairly simple: Just play from shorter tees. Guys who play from the tips at Local Golf & Country Club shouldn’t be playing the tips at a 7,800 course, much less one designed with the U.S. Open in mind. Consider the length differences from the Black to the Green (6,750 yards) on No. 14, my favorite hole at Erin Hills…106 yards, down from 613 to 507. It’s intended to be a risk/reward hole. If you don’t think about going for it after a solid drive, you’re playing from the wrong tees. Guys who average 295, hitting downhill, can do that. You cannot.

That rant aside, we turn to a hole that actually gave the pros trouble, despite its relative lack of length: No. 4.

Playing at just 440 yards from the Black tees, the hole played as the second-most difficult during the 2017 U.S. Open. It trailed only No. 3 for score-above-par, adding a quarter to the average player’s scorecard.

I enjoyed playing it, even if the pros didn’t. But it could be better. And I aim to do so, as part of “Monday Morning Golf Course Architect.”

Continue reading “Monday Morning Golf Course Architect: Erin Hills No. 4” »

Tillinghast Templates Part 4/4: The Reef (Newport Country Club, Ridgewood, Bethpage and More)

“I have known Charley Macdonald since the earliest days of golf in this country and for many years we have been rival course architects, and I really mean rivals for in many instances we widely disagreed. Our matter 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.”

If you were to take A.W. Tillinghast’s word for it, the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture was broken into two camps: those using templates, and those going without. There’s a kernel of truth to this…and plenty untrue as well. Tillie, for all his hay about the “natural suggestions of terrain,” frequently turned to templates. Tillinghast went as far as developing his own portfolio of templates. There are four, and this series will shed some light on these “lesser templates,” typically ignored in today’s conversations on the subject of designed holes.

Today’s is perhaps the most legendary of Tillie’s templates, because it’s the toughest to find in the “ideal” state that the architect described during his writing. Most of us are familiar, at this point, with the Great Hazard, and many even know the “Tiny Tim,” Tillinghast’s more famous short hole template. He was no slouch for strategy, but Tillie enjoyed coupling such thought with a fair amount of brawn, including within Par 3s.

And so, today, we examine the last of Tillinghast’s templates, the “Reef.”

Continue reading “Tillinghast Templates Part 4/4: The Reef (Newport Country Club, Ridgewood, Bethpage and More)” »

The “Valley” Template: Explaining Perceived Design Diversion from C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor

“By the way, first hole at Tamarack is a Road Hole.”

It wasn’t a promising preempt to my scheduled phone call with Anthony Pioppi, who—as an author/blogger/podcaster/historian/etc and, most importantly, leader of the Seth Raynor Society—was more equipped than most to shut down new ideas from the fringes of golf architecture analysis.

My intended point of discussion: “What’s a ‘Valley’ hole?”

It’s not that I didn’t know what a “Valley” hole was (and if you don’t, no worries…we’ll look a bit more at this somewhat obscure MacRaynor template), but that I wasn’t sure if Seth Raynor knew what a “Valley” hole was. It’s an absurd thought, I know—that Macdonald’s construction chief wouldn’t have picked up on the concept by implementing Macdonald’s ideas—yet almost every Raynor example of a “Valley” seemed to be tremendously off-base.

And so I reached out to Pioppi, whose aforementioned expertise I hoped would generate some clarity. And, though the road was twisted, I’ve got a theory. We’ll get to Tamarack’s so-called “Road” soon, but let’s start with a primer: What is a “Valley” hole?

Or, at least, what does amateur-hour architecture blog BPBM allege that a “Valley” should be?

Continue reading “The “Valley” Template: Explaining Perceived Design Diversion from C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor” »

Tillinghast Templates Part 3/4: The Double Dogleg (Shawnee, San Francisco Golf Club, and More)

“I have known Charley Macdonald since the earliest days of golf in this country and for many years we have been rival course architects, and I really mean rivals for in many instances we widely disagreed. Our matter 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.”

If you were to take A.W. Tillinghast’s word for it, the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture was broken into two camps: those using templates, and those going without. There’s a kernel of truth to this…and plenty untrue as well. Tillie, for all his hay about the “natural suggestions of terrain,” frequently turned to templates. Tillinghast went as far as developing his own portfolio of templates. There are four, and this series will shed some light on these “lesser templates,” typically ignored in today’s conversations on the subject of designed holes.

Today’s is most definitely the least-recognized of Tillinghast’s templates…perhaps because it often appears to simply be quality course architecture. The majority of his templates are instantly recognizable: The “Great Hazard,” of course, has an obvious great hazard, and the greens on a “Tiny Tim” stand out for their ring of defense. Technically today’s template also has an easily-identified feature built right into its name…but it’s not as glitzy as the phrase “Great Hazard.”

And so we examine Tillinghast’s “Double Dogleg.”

Continue reading “Tillinghast Templates Part 3/4: The Double Dogleg (Shawnee, San Francisco Golf Club, and More)” »

Ohio in 50 Features: Sleepy Hollow Golf Course and The Forgotten Abyss

Ranking the courses in any region—especially one as golf -rich as Ohio—is very much grasping at pins. Selecting a feature—a green, a bunker, a creek, even a dip in the fairway—that best defines those courses is an even more subjective exercise…which is of course why we’re doing it. Ohio in 50 Features” aims to highlight the Top 50 courses in the Buckeye State and focus on one key element at the course that gives a greater representation of the the club’s style, its architect, its history, and—hopefully—some fodder for you to check it out when you’re in the region. Our first entry is a  worthwhile municipal offering in the Greater Cleveland / Akron areas, Sleepy Hollow Golf Course.

Continue reading “Ohio in 50 Features: Sleepy Hollow Golf Course and The Forgotten Abyss” »

Tillinghast Templates Part 2/4: The Tiny Tim (Bedford Springs, Baltusrol, and More)

“I have known Charley Macdonald since the earliest days of golf in this country and for many years we have been rival course architects, and I really mean rivals for in many instances we widely disagreed. Our matter 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.”

If you were to take A.W. Tillinghast’s word for it, the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture was broken into two camps: those using templates, and those going without. There’s a kernel of truth to this…and plenty untrue as well. Tillie, for all his hay about the “natural suggestions of terrain,” frequently turned to templates. Tillinghast went as far as developing his own portfolio of templates. There are four, and this series will shed some light on these “lesser templates,” typically ignored in today’s conversations on the subject of designed holes.

The first is the most frequented of Tillie’s templates, but rarely receives recognition as being just that…a “template.” The reason may be the huge variety present across this template’s history; Macdonald and Raynor always incorporated some degree of ingenuity into their own templates, but Tillinghast’s variance in this concept may fool some into not recognizing it as a template at all. And MacRaynor’s use of a similar (yet distinct!) concept doesn’t help Tillie’s cause.

And so today we look at the Tiny Tim. Continue reading “Tillinghast Templates Part 2/4: The Tiny Tim (Bedford Springs, Baltusrol, and More)” »

The Appalachian Golf Trail: Pack Some Clubs & Play These Notables Along America’s Best Hike

Your correspondent is not keen on golf trails. Part of it is that there simply isn’t a golf trail that particularly appeals to me. I’d be willing to play a round or two on the Robert Trent Jones trail in Alabama, but simply don’t have that much interest in RTJ to justify a week of vacation. Heck, Pete Dye is my personal favorite architect and his trail is right next door in Indiana, and I’ve barely given it a thought (to be fair, the cherry on that six-course trip is French Lick, which costs more than the rest combined). Don’t let me dissuade you from seeking one out, however.

The second, more prickly reason for disliking golf trails: I’m a hiker and they’re not “trails.” You don’t walk from course to course (don’t judge me…I’ve heard what you say about non-links courses that have “links” in the name).

Accordingly, I’ve crafted The Appalachian Golf Trail, bringing together every noteworthy golf course falling within 5(ish) miles of The Appalachian Trail. If you’re ready to pack a change of clothes and a few clubs (or rent) for the 2,200 mile hike from Maine down to Georgia, you can add an extra badge to an already impressive accomplishment.

Continue reading “The Appalachian Golf Trail: Pack Some Clubs & Play These Notables Along America’s Best Hike” »

Tillinghast Templates Part 1/4: The Great Hazard (Pine Valley, Bethpage Black, and More)

“I have known Charley Macdonald since the earliest days of golf in this country and for many years we have been rival course architects, and I really mean rivals for in many instances we widely disagreed. Our matter 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.”

If you were to take A.W. Tillinghast’s word for it, the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture was broken into two camps: those using templates, and those going without. There’s a kernel of truth to this…and plenty untrue as well. Tillie, for all his hay about the “natural suggestions of terrain,” frequently turned to templates. Tillinghast went as far as developing his own portfolio of templates. There are four, and this series will shed some light on these “lesser templates,” typically ignored in today’s conversations on the subject of designed holes.

The first has not actually been ignored at all, if we’re being honest. In fact, it’s quite popular. The Great Hazard is a rarity…a recognized Tillie template.
Continue reading “Tillinghast Templates Part 1/4: The Great Hazard (Pine Valley, Bethpage Black, and More)” »

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)” »