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LIGHT BULB MOMENTS AT THE LOOP

A look at Tom Doak’s brilliant reversible design, The Loop at Forest Dunes Golf Club

“Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject.” – David Forgan

A golf course that can be readily grasped after a single round is not likely to ever be considered one of the game’s greats. The best courses require repeat play, and perhaps even a bit of study, to master—much like golf itself. The Old Course at St. Andrews ideally embodies this truth. The answers to the questions posed by the links are not printed on the scorecard. They are revealed to patient and persistent players over time, many of whom did not find themselves enthralled after their first loop. Those who are fortunate enough to experience The Old Course more than once almost invariably fall in love, as their initial confusion gives way to a curious desire to explore ever deeper its mysteries.

No modern architect has made a more thorough study of the links of the British Isles than Tom Doak. He wrote in his book Anatomy of a Golf Course, “Yet to truly understand the enduring popularity of golf and the essentials of good golf courses, it is imperative to become familiar with the British links over which the game evolved five centuries ago. The importance of studying the links is summarized by two facts: These are the courses over which the game itself was invented, and they have endured despite tremendous changes in all other aspects of the game.”

By the time the opportunity arose to return to Northern Michigan to build again, Doak and his team at Renaissance Golf had been successfully applying the lessons from the links to produce renowned courses such as Pacific Dunes, Ballyneal, Streamsong Blue and many others. However, it would be at Forest Dunes Golf Club that he would finally be given the chance to draw fully upon the inspiration of The Old Course in bringing to life a reversible course with eighteen greens – The Loop.

The 12th green on The Loop’s Red Course – Photo Credit: Evan Schiller

In the 1921 British Open, Bobby Jones famously picked his ball up and quit after repeated unsuccessful attempts to extricate himself from a bunker on the 11th at St. Andrews. Suffice it to say that the Old Course’s charms were lost on him. It is equally well known that as time went on, his appreciation for the links grew to become an abiding love. Those who are not immediately enamored with The Loop from a single play can take heart to find themselves in a similar position to the younger Jones. They ought further be consoled to know that the architect himself, the resort owner, club staff and scores of players have been on a long-term journey with The Loop marked by moments when light bulbs flip on to shed progressively more light on the brilliance of this design.

Flipped Switches

The concept for a reversible course had been rattling around in Tom Doak’s brain for decades. He believed that if he could just find the right client with the right piece of land, the concept could become a reality. Enter Lew Thompson, owner of Forest Dunes Golf Club, who wanted to entice visitors to stay and play longer at the resort by offering a second course that would wow them. In Thompson, Doak saw his chance. He set about studying the land and collaborating with his associates on a reversible routing.

Twenty years of mulling it over, and it was still a tall task to figure out how to make the concept work. In an interview with Matt Ginella, Doak described the routing process. “Early on, I was thinking that the more we just make (the course) a big ‘C’ shape, the better off we’re going to be. But as I started to draw it…it’s more interesting to not just play into the same green from 180 degrees opposite. When you’re changing directions, you have a chance to play around with things…I think that’s the fascinating thing about the concept…Sometimes the orientation of the green is so much different that it doesn’t look familiar to you at all.”

Light bulb.

After many hours of headache-inducing deliberation, the Renaissance team had their design ready to present to Thompson. The story goes that Doak showed his client the routing for one direction and the reaction was, “Nice looking course, but I’m not wowed.” Out came the course map for the other direction and it took Thompson a few minutes to realize what he was looking at. Same corridors, same greens, playing in the reverse direction. The response, “Wow.” Doak was not just giving Lew Thompson a second course. He was throwing in a third.

Light bulb.

Click on any gallery image below to enlarge with captions

Robert Falconer (@LoopSuper) is now the Superintendent at The Loop, but at the time construction was getting underway, he was working for a contractor. Falconer had a sneak peek at the plans and was not immediately impressed. “I thought that it looked goofy in some spots,” he recalled. “I commented that certain features seemed out of place. My boss asked, ‘Which way is the hole going?’” That question was one that he never had to stop and consider before and it took him aback. Like Thompson, the realization came that this was a different and special project.

Light bulb.

The opening of The Loop was highly anticipated among architecture geeks, Doak fans and the media. As the fanfare of those early rounds dissipated, the course proved successful in its purpose of giving players a reason to stay longer at the resort. However, some felt that it lacked the same level of pizzazz as Weiskopf’s Forest Dunes course or others at comparable facilities. That impression is not entirely unfair. It is indeed simple and subtle at first glance. But those reviews speak more to the surface-oriented perspective of modern golfers than to the quality of the design. The Loop is not merely a single golf course, or even two. It is more than that. It is a work of architectural art that offers a glimpse into a genius golf mind at depths that cannot possibly be fully comprehended with one play.

Elliott Oscar is the PGA Professional at Forest Dunes who, like Robert Falconer, enthusiastically evangelizes the course. “The first time I played it, I thought it had a nice set of greens,” Oscar shared. “After more plays, I realized how much the green surrounds influenced play. Fifty plus plays in each direction later and I understand that every contour and feature is purposefully done. I like to go out late in the evening, play a few holes and then turn around to play in the other direction.” The Loop is not just a golf course. It is an experience.

Light bulb.

My Journey with The Loop

When the announcement of the reversible course at Forest Dunes was made, I was tremendously excited. Like a good geek, I studied the course map and was convinced that I understood how incredible the courses could be. I was wrong. During construction, I had the privilege of going out with a small group led by Tom Doak to play dirt golf in both directions on several holes. Although disoriented at first, I got my bearings and concluded, “Now I get it.” Wrong again. As I played the finished course this season, pausing periodically to look back and find a different hole in the reverse direction, I sensed another light bulb flickering on for me. But this time, I was not fooled into thinking that I got it. Quite the opposite.

Light breaks through to illuminate the 12th green on the Black Course – Photo Credit: Evan Schiller

Talking to those who have been around the course numerous times, and who continue to make discoveries, I can see that I am at the beginning of my journey with The Loop. It promises to illuminate light bulbs for me with each round. That is the good news that Lew Thompson and Tom Doak want to share with every visitor to Forest Dunes, especially those who might have had a Jones-at-St-Andrews reaction. The greatest courses reveal themselves over time. They are a reminder that if we can open and properly orient our minds, we will find in brilliant designs like The Loop an inexhaustible supply of challenge and joy.

Special thanks to Evan Schiller for contributing his gorgeous photos. More from Evan on his website (https://www.evanschillerphotography.com/), on Twitter (@EvanSchiller) and on Instagram (@evan_schiller_photography).

Copyright 2019 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Golf Shots – An Interview with Photographer Evan Schiller

PebbleBeach18P26A quick look at my Twitter or Instagram feeds reveals that I love looking at pictures of golf courses.  Sadly, I am quite terrible at taking good pictures of the beautiful courses I get to play.  That is why I am so grateful for talented people like Evan Schiller.

In addition to being one of my favorite photographers, Evan is also a gracious and generous man.  After patiently responding to my ongoing inquiries about his work, he wisely suggested that we conduct a virtual interview.  Shared here with some of his photos are insights about the practice of his craft.  Hope you enjoy.

(Although it is selling quickly, there are a few copies of Evan’s 2015 Golf Shots Calendar available here, along with his other work.)

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO OPEN THE GALLERY

How did you get into the profession?

To make a somewhat long story short…my parents gave me what is an equivalent these days to a point and shoot when I was about 8…I just started taking photos of everything, especially on our vacations…..about 17 years laters, I was playing the 9th hole of The Stadium Course at PGA WEST in 1986 and as we walked down the fairway in the early morning the scene was breathtaking.  My friend and I had just played in the California Open in August in the Palm Spring area..yes, a bit hot.  I wished I had a camera with me to capture it.  No cell phones in those days.  Upon returning home I purchased a camera and started taking it with me on trips.  I would give the photos to friends and hang them on my wall.  Several years later while working as an assistant professional at Westchester Country Club a friend of mine said I should put some of the photos in the pro shop and sell them.  Well,…..I did and here we are.  One thing lead to another and I was off and running.

Describe your process for capturing the perfect shot.

This is a bit long, but I think it speaks to what you are asking. Where I shoot depends on which holes are most photogenic, of course.  However, I usually try to scout the course beforehand to look beyond that.  I want to see nuances and anticipate light patterns on specific holes so that I know where to stand for the critical moment when the sun rises and sets. I’ve captured beautiful shots without scouting the course, but it’s not ideal.  Why?  Because of the light.  It takes some time to understand the timing and angle of the sun’s rays on each fairway and green.  Taking the time to consider this can make the difference between capturing a good shot and a great one.

Let’s take Pebble Beach for instance. I know from experience that I must capture #8 and #18 as soon as the sun comes over the mountains or the sun will be too high and the light less than optimal.  I might position myself behind the 8th green in a cherry picker well before sunrise so I’m ready for the opportunity at first light. Not to say I won’t get a good shot after sunrise, but the hole won’t show me its best.

From my scouting preparation, I know that from the 8th hole I can head to the 6th and 7th because it takes longer for the sun to appropriately light those holes.  If I’ve done my prep well, I’ll have noticed that the light on #9 and #10 is likely better in the late afternoon and that the 7th hole faces almost due south so it photographs well in morning and afternoon light, although I prefer the evening!

Once I’ve identified the holes and times I want to shoot, I turn my attention to composing the shot, keeping in mind that it might be viewed on a computer screen, in a magazine, a book or as a framed print.  I always intend to create a shot where everything flows and is of interest, while keeping in mind balance and eye appeal.  So while it’s not a rule, I generally don’t photograph from the middle of a fairway. Unless there’s something interesting at play like a fairway bunker or shadow, it’s not the most intriguing shot.

So preparing to photograph a course is more than a logistical run-through.  It’s an opportunity to see beyond just looking.  It’s seeing with my imagination to anticipate the flow of light and capture its shimmer within finite time frames.

This may be where the art of photography lies.

What is your most memorable moment while working on a shoot?  

Wow, that’s a tough one!!  See below when I write about shooting the 7th at Pebble Beach.  A couple other times were when I was first asked to go photograph The Masters for Golf Digest and The Masters Journal and, the week before asked to shoot the course for Golf Magazine.  Now that I think of it, in 2001 I was asked by a notable publisher if I wanted to be the photographer of a book entitled “Golf Courses of Hawaii”.  Not knowing at the moment what was required of course I said yes.  Well, I soon found out that it would require me to go to Hawaii for about 8 – 10 weeks to photograph 40 golf courses….At the time I thought I was in heaven but still alive!!  I ended up making two trips to Hawaii and spending a total of about 9 weeks there shooting….tough duty.

What are the Top 3 courses you want to shoot?

Another good one. I’m assuming this means courses I have not photographed before?  Off the top of my head Cabot Links, Barndougle Dunes in Tasmania looks amazing, Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand and if I could add one more it would be Sand Hills in Nebraska.

How do you know when you have hit the sweet spot and captured a special picture?  

It’s usually the convergence of a series of events.  A great hole / shot / beauty….great light and cloud formations.  And, I just know it.  Things are different now with digital cameras and backs.  Ten years ago when I was shooting film you didn’t know what you had until you got the film back.  Now you know instantaneously when you look at the image in the back of the camera.  For instance, the attached, which by the way was shot with film.  It’s a photo of the 7th at Pebble Beach.  I had arrived about two hours before sunset and sat around waiting on an overcast day….hoping for the marine layer to break.  I never know when that special moment will occur, I can try and anticipate it based on past experiences and be ready if and when it does.  So, I waited almost two hours for this shot and just before the sunset there was a break in the clouds by the horizon and the sun came out for less than two minutes and I was able to capture a few shots.  I could even say this was one of the more memorable shots because of the place and the fact this has been one of my most popular images ever.  It also appeared on the cover of the 2010 US Open Magazine which was play at Pebble Beach.

Pebble-Beach-Golf-Links_7th-Hole---

What do you love about practicing your craft?  

Many things…first of all, I have the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and courses and not only photograph them, but sometimes play them.  I meet so many wonderful people along the way as well.  I love to share my images and experiences of shooting because often times I am out on a golf course when other people are not.  Usually very early or late.  I also love the adventure (scouting courses, shooting from lifts and helicopters and recently with drones and being out early in the morning when the sunrises…. and the creativity of it all, looking and seeing what’s the best angle for shooting the hole…I never know what’s going to happen or what I’ll find along the way and I like that…I like being surprised.

Who is your favorite golf course architect, and why?  

Tough to choose one there, so many architects are doing such great work, many of whom we are only now getting to know.

What are your favorite courses to play?

This is probably the easiest question.  Royal County Down, Fishers Island, Punta Espada and Pacific Dunes.

When you’re not taking pictures, what are you doing? 

My wife and I have also made numerous trips to Africa and have become fundraisers for the conservation of Big Cats.  We’ve done several fundraisers over the past few years for Panthera (http://www.panthera.org/) and The Big Cats Initiative. (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/big-cats-initiative/)  We love Africa and I’ve taken thousands of photos during our trips.

I’m also a golf professional and coach with Extraordinary Golf. (http://www.extraordinarygolf.com/) and, love to hang out and photograph our three cats.

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Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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My Bucket List – U.S. Open Venues

Goal setting is important. Having a goal has a tendency to enhance motivation and focus, and increase the likelihood of achievement. In my early career, I was extremely goal oriented and meticulous in my goal setting. My colleagues ribbed me about it and asserted that my approach would not survive the arrival of children. I scoffed at the time, but it turns out they were right.

My children have brought me more into the moment, and I am grateful to them for it. I still believe in the value of having a vision and goals though, even if my rigor for the practice has diminished.

I have been thinking about setting a goal for golf that incorporates:

  • My interest in golf course architecture.
  • My interest in the history of golf in America, specifically the history of the USGA Championships.
  • My love of playing golf at great courses, of course.

USOpenMoments

Therefore, I have decided to set the goal of playing every US Open venue. I have always loved the mystique of that championship, and it has been played on a wonderful variety of courses over the years.

Remaining venues to play (Years as Host):

  • Pinehurst #2 (2014, 2005, 1999)
  • Merion (2013, 1981, 1971, 1950, 1934)
  • Olympic Club (2012, 1998, 1987, 1966, 1955)
  • Congressional CC (2011, 1997, 1964)
  • Pebble Beach (2019, 2010, 2000, 1992, 1982, 1972)
  • Torrey Pines (2008)
  • Winged Foot (2006, 1984, 1974, 1959, 1929)
  • Southern Hills (2001, 1977, 1958)
  • Oakland Hills CC (1996, 1985, 1961, 1951, 1937, 1924)
  • Baltusrol (1993, 1980, 1967, 1954, 1936, 1915, 1903)
  • Hazeltine National (1991, 1970)
  • Oak Hill CC (1989, 1968, 1956)
  • Cherry Hills (1978, 1960, 1938)
  • Atlanta Athletic Club (1976)
  • Champions Golf Club (1969)
  • Bellerive CC (1965)
  • Northwood Club (1952)
  • Medinah #3 (1990, 1975, 1949)
  • Riviera (1948)
  • St. Louis CC (1947)
  • Canterbury Golf Club (1946, 1940)
  • Colonial CC (1941)
  • Philadelphia CC (1939)
  • Fresh Meadow CC (1932)
  • Interlachen (1930)
  • Scioto CC (1926)
  • Worcester CC (1925)
  • Inwood CC (1923)
  • Columbia CC (1921)
  • Brae Burn CC (1919)
  • Minikahda Club (1916)
  • CC of Buffalo (1912)
  • Englewood Golf Club (1909)
  • Garden City (1902)
  • Baltimore CC (1899)
  • Newport Golf & Country Club (1895)

U.S. OPEN VENUES PLAYED TO DATE

OlympiaFieldsLogo.jpgOlympia Fields (2003, 1928)

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Photo by Jon Cavalier

Olympia Fields was the site of Chicagoland’s most recent championship in 2003, where Jim Furyk was victorious.  It is more notable for a defeat than a victory, however.  In the 1928 Open, Johnny Farrell defeated Bobby Jones in a 36-hole playoff.

onwentsia-logo.jpgOnwentsia Club (1906)

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Photo by Scott Vincent

Onwentsia is a historical club in my hometown on Lake Forest, IL.  It played host to the 12th U.S. Open in 1906.  Alex Smith won by a wide margin over his younger brother Willie, and OC’s club pro Willie Anderson, all of whom were Scotsmen.

Midlothian_Country_Club-logoMidlothian Country Club (1914)

In the 1914 U.S. Open at Midlothian, a 21-year old Walter Hagen edged accomplished amateur Chick Evans by one stroke to win his first Major Championship.  Hagen would ultimately go on to win 11 Majors in his flamboyant career.

ShinnecockHillsLogo.jpgShinnecock Hills (2018, 2004, 1995, 1986, 1896)

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Photo by Billy Satterfield of GolfCourseGurus

A founding club of the USGA, Shinnecock Hills has been the host of four U.S. Opens, and will host again in 2018. It has been the scene of its share of drama, including Corey Pavin’s outstanding 4-wood into the 18th to clinch his Major title. On a personal note, visiting Shinnecock was a pilgrimage to a holy place, and it forever altered my perspective on this great game.

BethpageLogo.jpgBethpage Black (2009, 2002)

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Photo by Billy Satterfield of GolfCourseGurus

ChambersBayUSOpenLogo.jpgChambers Bay (2015)

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Photo by Jon Cavalier

The-Country-Club-logo.jpgThe Country Club at Brookline (1988, 1963, 1913)

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Photo by Jon Cavalier

ChicagoGCLogo.jpgChicago Golf Club (1911, 1900, 1897)

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SkokieCCLogo.pngSkokie CC (1922)

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Photo by Gary Kellner of Dimpled Rock

Bendelow, Ross, and Langford & Moreau have worked on Skokie, making it an interesting and unique architectural hybrid.  It also hosted the 1922 U.S. Open, won by a young Gene Sarazen who claimed the title with a heroic birdie on the final hole.

North shore logo.jpgNorth Shore Country Club (1933)

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Glen View Logo.jpgGlen View Club (1904)

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Myopia Logo.jpgMyopia Hunt Club (1908, 1905, 1901, 1898)

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Inverness Logo.jpgInverness Club (1979, 1957, 1931, 1920)

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OakmontLogo.jpgOakmont (2016, 2007, 1994, 1983, 1973, 1962, 1953, 1935, 1927)

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ErinHillsUSOpen.pngErin Hills (2017)

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PhillyCricketLogo.jpgPhiladelphia Cricket Club (1910, 1907)

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Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf