Monday, January 2, 2012

More Einstein on Golf Course Architecture

Einstein, if he had played golf, would have ended up a designer...and what would he have thought of modern design?

My partner in the Golf Course Design business, Richard Zokol, sent me this Einstein quote after he had read my EINSTEIN and GOLF COURSE ARCHITECTURE post, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." As it turns out we were both reading Einstein quotes at the same time. Zokol works hard to keep his intuitive side running roughshod over his logical side...and as for me, I live in both worlds.

The intuitive mind in golf course architecture has seen a rebirth in the last fifteen years or so. But let's be very clear, the sacred gift (intuitive mind) can use a healthy dose of the faithful servant (rational mind) if any design is going to be truly good. The problem with modern golf course architecture is that design and renovation have become far more rational and conventional than intuitive and original.

The intuitive mind should be the overwhelming force in any design with the rational mind reviewing the decisions and concepts to insure that they have captured the goals of the design. I have opined in my TREATISE ON GOLF COURSE ARCHITECTURE about this subject:

There is a difference between things, whether it be art, music, movies, man made landscapes, building architecture, and even golf course architecture that garner attention for short periods of time and others which become classics. What causes us to like something forever versus becoming enthralled for a short period of time and then losing interest? Why is it that some golf courses capture our attention to the point that we could play the same golf course over and over again and never tire of it, while other courses initially grab our attention but seem somewhat shallow in the long run? 
Perhaps it is a nature based originality that sets one golf course apart from another, that allows it to be considered a "classic". When those other courses, that are formulaic and impose preset artificial conditions and constraints upon any piece of ground that they are built upon, are considered in the long run as less than "classic", is it really any wonder? Can golf architecture avoid falling into formulaic convention? Through the Anarchy of nature it can.
We are all slaves to convention at some level. We constantly hear and talk about thinking out of the box. Golf architecture suffers from all of the same problems when it comes to shaking off convention and thinking out of the box.

To me the intuitive mind that Einstein talks about is the ultimate definition of being one with nature and all of its variability and anomalies. And the rational mind is all too often the convention that sneaks into our psyche and causes us to lose our creative fortitude to embrace our intuitive mind.

The lack of intuitive design in today's golf course architecture is mind numbing and the playability of modern golf continues to have a sameness to it, no matter what aesthetic treatment is utilized. It has become popular today to push some tees back, scallop bunker edges using native/fescues or to create maintained steep grass bunker banks and flat sand bottoms. Oh yeah, don't forget the runoff areas, it's considered cutting edge strategy to add short grass areas around greens that only take the ball away from the putting surfaces. And that's it, yep, no interest in enhanced and varied strategic options, just more of the same; the sacred gift of intuition is nowhere to be found and the faithful servant, rational mind, continues to be honored.

So, designers in general redo bunkers and push some tees back while improving aesthetics. Their rational minds won't even let them think about a paradigm shift in strategy through enhanced and varied playability options and strategies. The problem with this standard approach is that these courses continue to offer limited shot options and strategies which make golf less interesting and less playable. The "gift" is still missing, even when the courses look as if they should offer options in playability, they don't because they still require the air game on most approach shots and repetitive strategy off of the tee hole after hole and course after course...

Einstein believed that the intuitive or the right brain, was critical in achieving great things and that the rational or left brain, while necessary, had to be utilized in conjunction with intuition to avoid the mundane. Is today's golf course architecture more intuitive or rational?

No comments:

Post a Comment