Thursday, May 13, 2010

USGA Recognizes Sagebrush for "Firm and Fast"

In the video link above from the 2010 Golf Industry Show, the USGA identified Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club as an example of "Firm and Fast" golf course conditioning. Richard Zokol, PGA Tour player, club founder, and designer, had the foresight and vision to create Sagebrush five years ago. His goal was to create links playability in the mountains of British Columbia. The golf course was designed to be playable, engaging and aesthetically appealing, all while embracing the ground game. We are all proud of the golf course (Golf Digest's Best New Canadian Course for 2009) and the way that Superintendent or  rather, Keeper of the Green, Norley Calder has implemented the maintenance strategies to provide these conditions.

Contrary to popular belief, Firm and Fast conditions can be created on any soil type unless the region is subject to unusually high rainfall. Sagebrush is built on a silty soil. The construction was crafted based upon the maintenance regimes that were going to be required to provide the playability goals.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Golf Architecture's Uphill Battle

Has anyone noticed that there is a shortage of uphill Par 3s on modern Golf Courses? Today's designers will do just about anything while routing a golf course to avoid an uphill Par 3. Maybe you don't get to wear a plaid sport coat if you make uphill Par 3s or it could be that CAD programs used for golf design have a virus that is triggered by uphill 3s.

Modern designers venture onto level ground to design a Par 3 with little trepidation and literally salivate when they see that downhill ground for a lovely Par 3. And let's face it, really, how tough is it, to design a pretty downhill Par 3 and instill it with some kind of interesting strategy? Not exactly nuclear physics is it? But when it comes to the uphill Par 3, there just aren't many new ones out there. Of course, they can't be severely uphill but they can go up a moderate slope and create some real interest and a unique challenge.

Just look at the golf courses built in the last thirty years and at the plethora of downhill Par 3s. Some golf courses have 3 or 4 downhill Par 3s with another that may be level. At some point, the sameness of too many downhill Par 3s on these courses starts to become boring, no matter how good the architecture is and how aesthetically pleasing they are. It's just more of the same. Where are the great modern uphill Par 3s? Golf historians may look back at this era of architecture with disdain for its propensity to avoid uphill Par 3s.

In routing courses, designers often use the Par 3 as a "connector" between Par 4s and 5s. It's easy to use the Par 3 in those sticky parts of a routing and it is especially helpful when there is a significant sharp downhill grade change. These kinds of sharp downhill grade changes are much more difficult to deal with on Par 4s and 5s. Its easy and it makes sense to use a downhill Par 3 for continuity in the routing. Most modern golf architecture utilizes a golf car between holes to deal with uphill elevation changes and would never consider a Par 3 as a "connector" to go uphill, even when there may be a great opportunity for an interesting and original uphill Par 3.

Uphill Par 3s may be the most challenging design element in Golf Course Architecture and from a golfer's perspective; they are the most perplexing of holes and can really test one's mettle. We're dealing with a one shotter with much less visibility than we are used to or feel comfortable with. It is one of the more interesting challenges that one can have on a tee and maybe even a bit similar to the blind tee shot where you just know that there is fairway where you hit your ball, but you're really not positive.

Tackling the uphill Par 3 is perhaps one of the more, if not the most interesting and challenging aspects of golf course design. Creativity and a measure of intestinal fortitude are mandatory for those that venture into that uphill battle. Try explaining the benefits of the uphill Par 3 to a client sometime. But the end result is absolutely worth it. Think about those times that you've stood on the tee of an uphill Par 3 and what was going through your head before the shot and even as you approached the green after hitting what you believed to be the perfect tee shot.

Another Sketch