Geeked on Golf


4 Comments

EMBRACING MACDONALD’S LEGACY AT SLEEPY HOLLOW

An in-depth look at the evolution of the C.B. Macdonald-designed and Gil Hanse retrovated Sleepy Hollow Country Club

“From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow…A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere.”

— Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Perhaps there was a time when the public’s consciousness of C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor’s work at Sleepy Hollow Country Club fit this description from Irving’s classic tale. With a retrovation of the course led by Gil Hanse now largely complete, players and architecture enthusiasts are fully awake to its greatness. In The Legend, suitors Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones vie for the heart and soul of Katrina Van Tassel, climaxing in a ghostly confrontation at a crossroads in the woods. That story foreshadows the challenge Hanse, consultant George Bahto and the club’s leadership would ultimately have to face. Standing at a crossroads, haunted by ghosts of architects past, which path would they take? By committing to recapturing the heart and soul of Macdonald’s Sleepy Hollow, they laid those ghosts to rest in a fashion that can best be described as legendary.

The Evolution of a Design Philosophy

By all accounts, Charles Blair Macdonald was a man of both feisty temperament and erudition. He was worldly and his wide-ranging interests included commerce, art, sport and architecture. Through his studies, he became aware of the work and writings of Humphry Repton, who was influential in Britain around the turn of the 19th century, coining the term “landscape gardener”. As Macdonald would later be considered the father of American golf course architecture, Repton’s publishing of The Art of Landscape Gardening in 1797 conferred upon him similar patriarchal status in his field. A passage in the book was particularly resonant with Macdonald and would send him down a path of evolution toward his distinct brand of design: “I can only plead that true taste in every art consists more of adapting tried expedients to peculiar circumstances than in the inordinate thirst after novelty, the characteristic of uncultivated minds, which from facility of inventing wild theories, without experience, are apt to suppose that taste is displayed by novelty, genius by innovation, and that every change must necessarily tend to improvements.”

Perhaps a respect for the traditions of the game and its playing fields came from time spent with Old Tom Morris in St. Andrews, but even while pushing the craft forward, Macdonald retained a connection to the unequivocal greatness of the old links. He did not believe that new and different necessarily equated to better in creative pursuits.

George Bahto, wrote the book on C.B. Macdonald, literally. In assembling his compendium of Macdonald’s life and work, The Evangelist of Golf, Bahto and his collaborator Gib Papazian illuminated the progression from a restless dissatisfaction with the quality of America’s courses to the creation of the ideal golf course at National Golf Links of America.

Another writer, Horace Hutchinson, built on the intellectual momentum of Repton when he published articles in Golf Illustrated in 1901 exploring the best and hardest holes of that time. Macdonald was affected by the articles’ premise. “These discussions certainly caught the attention of Charlie Macdonald,” wrote Bahto. “Why shouldn’t America have golf equal to that in the British Isles? In his mind, the content of the article was the definitive listing of those holes reverenced by the world’s greatest players. If America was to have golf that compared to that in Britain, its courses must be based on the same timeless genius as those across the Atlantic.”

From 1902-1906, a series of voyages back across the Atlantic ensued. With an assist from Devereux Emmet, a study was made of the greatest holes of the British Isles with the original intention of replicating them on American soil. “Now why should not one try to absorb that sanctified tradition of each hole by copying its features in another climate where in time tradition might sanctify its existence,” wrote Macdonald “The flowers of transplanted plants in time shed a perfume comparable to that of their indigenous home.” The plan to transplant holes morphed into a distillation of the strategy and features that could be drawn upon to create new courses. Bahto described that shift of focus, “It became clear to Macdonald that his original concept of topographic duplication was not as relevant to the quality of the course as the individual strategic elements.”

The land on which The National was built was optimal for Macdonald’s first experiment with his ideal concepts approach to design. It shared characteristics with traditional linksland—unforested, with topographical movement that was interesting, rather than severe. The project also fortuitously connected Macdonald with Seth Raynor. The combination of the former’s ideas with the latter’s surveying and engineering brilliance, applied to that land, resulted in a masterpiece. But what about more “peculiar circumstances”, as Repton put it? Would the approach hold up on wilder terrain? The duo’s next three projects at Piping Rock, St. Louis Country Club and Sleepy Hollow, which opened for play in 1914, proved that the ideal concepts could be applied to great effect on any site.

The original course explored the slope, the ridge and the valley, with the greater portion on the clubhouse side. Although the routing stayed mostly close to home, there was an adventurous spirit to the manner in which Macdonald and Raynor laid their ideal holes out on the dramatic landforms. Their creation was well received, but it would not take long for the course at Sleepy Hollow to begin evolving away from this starting point.

Calling in the Cleaner

How did a man who was a dry cleaner by trade become the foremost authority on the work of one of the Golden Age masters? Serendipity, or rub-of-the-green, had a strong hand in George Bahto’s story. He took up golf as an adult in New Jersey and found himself drawn to courses with bold features. Curiosity about the who, how and why behind his favorite holes and courses led him to the discovery of Charles Banks. Research on the protege Banks uncovered the mentor Seth Raynor, which subsequently brought him to Charles Blair Macdonald. The men’s creative approach fascinated Bahto, and down the rabbit hole he went, resulting in an avocation as a golf architecture historian.

Bahto connected with Gil Hanse, who got him involved in his first construction project at Stonebridge Golf Links, a course that drew some design inspiration from the philosophy of Raynor. It would not be his last. In writing The Evangelist of Golf, George Bahto enlightened the world on the value of C.B. Macdonald’s approach to design. He cleaned up Macdonald’s image, and the thinking of many club Green Committees who had been directly or indirectly degrading his courses for decades. It should therefore come as no surprise that some of those clubs would turn to Bahto for counsel, including Sleepy Hollow, which brought him on as a consultant.

It is worth noting that in all of Bahto’s writing about Charles Blair Macdonald, one word is conspicuously absent. That word is “template”, which has become shorthand when referring to the holes Macdonald, Raynor, Banks and others created using the ideal concepts. Unfortunately, the term carries with it the potential for an intellectually lazy inference that Macdonald and Raynor’s design process was somehow akin to dumping out a bag of cookie cutters and arranging them willy nilly across the landscape. The strength of each of the holes at Sleepy Hollow, with their strategically placed hazards and wondrously varied greens, is evidence that any downgrade to the ideal concepts approach as involving shortcuts is entirely off-base. The application of timeless and proven design elements to a unique landscape is more demanding because the architect is choosing to adhere to a constraint. There is no bailout, and no acceptance of inclusion of weak holes on a course. Bringing the course back up to Macdonald’s higher standard, and his constraints, was the challenge that would occupy Gil Hanse and his team for more than a decade.

The Retrovation

By the time that Gil Hanse found himself standing at a design crossroads with George Bahto at Sleepy Hollow, he had already traveled a long road to gain an understanding and appreciation for the architectural roots that gave rise to America’s Golden Age. He followed in Macdonald’s footsteps by taking an extended study trip to the British Isles, returning to initially work for Tom Doak before venturing out on his own. In 2003, as Hanse Golf Design was beginning to gain momentum, Hanse contributed an essay entitled “Stop Making Sense!” to Paul Daley’s Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective in which he shared a point of view that at first glance seems discordant with respect for Macdonald’s philosophy.

“The use of natural landforms to create interesting and creative golf holes should not be held to any formulas,” wrote Hanse. “If a rule must be stated, it should be that no rules apply to the use of a landscape to create playing grounds for golf. The golf course architect should be creative in utilizing natural features to dictate the strategy of the course. Inherent in the unique character of every site are unique golf holes just waiting to be discovered. Is this not the true challenge of golf course architecture, to build fresh and innovative holes that derive their beauty, playability, and interest from their natural surrounds?”

Repton might have raised an eyebrow reading those words. There are certainly times when exercising one’s creative license courageously involves blazing a new trail. Making the choice to honor tradition is not mutually exclusive with creative freedom by default though. As it turned out, Hanse’s focus on working from the ground up, coupled with his reverence for the Golden Age, was exactly the remedy needed to cure Sleepy Hollow’s ills. Over the years since Raynor completed the original eighteen, the course had changed considerably. New holes were created by Tillinghast and others when land was sold and the club expanded to 27 holes.

The expanded 27-hole routing after Tillinghast’s addition

More recently, other architects and green committees without the benefit of Bahto’s knowledge of Macdonald made further modifications that altered hole strategies and aesthetics for the worse. The initial wave of retrovation focused on consistency of style, primarily of the bunkering, prioritizing the Tillinghast holes. Those phase one changes having been well received, Hanse and the club’s leadership decided to fully embrace Macdonald’s ideal concepts. This decision was momentous at two levels. First, they were removing the work of A.W. Tillinghast in the Westchester neighborhood where he reigns supreme. Second, they were choosing to accept Macdonald’s standard for greatness. They were all in.

“Deciding to remove the work of Golden Age architects, especially one as prolific as Tillinghast, is always a difficult choice,” explained Hanse’s associate Ben Hillard, who worked extensively on the Sleepy Hollow retrovation. “If you consider golf architecture in Westchester County, Macdonald & Raynor have one course and Tillinghast has a handful, including a couple of masterpieces. With the bulk of the holes to be restored/renovated being Macdonald & Raynor, a more cohesive course could be made by taking the Tillinghast holes and replacing them with holes like ‘Road’, ‘Knoll’ and ‘Double Plateau’, some of which had been lost when the club sold land to the North side of the property in the late 1920s.”

It would not be enough to simply add those features and holes back into the mix, however. They had to do so in a manner that would fit the land as well as if the Macdonald and Raynor had done it themselves. In being attuned to the landscape at such a high level, Hanse was able to channel the true genius of Macdonald’s ideal concepts. The Leven 1st, Road 8th and others are new, but could easily be mistaken for originals. The remaining holes were brought even further into line with the ideals. The following montage of the Short 16th illustrates the extent of the transformation over time.

The original short – Credit: Simon Haines

Before the retrovation began, with misfit bunkering – Credit: GolfClubAtlas

After phase one of the retrovation with trees removed, bunkering and green partially restored

Excavation of the tee and green surface begins – Credit: Ben Hillard

Restoring the thumbprint – Credit: Ben Hillard

Grassing the newly shaped putting surface – Credit: Ben Hillard

Gil taking in the finished product – Credit: Ben Hillard

Bunker and thumbprint fully retrovated

A place where magical moments happen at Sleepy Hollow

Like Macdonald and Raynor, George Bahto would sadly not be alive to see this current, magnificent iteration of the course that began a century ago. The spirit of all three men and their ideals can be found in the completed work of Hanse and Hillard, and one can safely surmise that generous praise and approval would be forthcoming.

The Course

“…there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.”

Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Click on any gallery image to enlarge with captions

The club takes its name from the Pocantico River valley in which it sits. The Dutch name for that river was Slapershaven, or “sleepy harbor”. Although it might have accurately described their maritime activities, “sleepy” is not an adjective that applies to the land the course traverses.

Arriving at the grand front gate, visitors are immediately aware that an awe-inspiring experience awaits. The drive up to the mansion that now serves as the clubhouse provides tantalizing glimpses of golf holes arrayed across the hillside. After a warm welcome from staff and members alike, players walk onto a porch with stunning views of the Hudson River and Palisades of New Jersey beyond. Before striking the first shot of the day, the spirit is already soaring.

The first two holes bring players up the western side of the ridge that serves as the anchor feature in the routing. The 3rd through 15th explore the terrain high and low on the eastern side. The iconic 16th returns players to the top of the ridge, from which the final two holes return home. A loop around Sleepy Hollow has a literary quality that would make Irving proud. The story builds in a broad arc toward climax, interspersed with moments both dramatic and quietly sublime.

The Hanse retrovation unified Sleepy Hollow, and Superintendent Tom Leahy and his team continue to refine and present it beautifully. It is a highly cohesive golf course comprised of eighteen holes, each worthy of study and appreciation. To allow for an examination at depth, the tour that follows includes original sketches by Gil Hanse (@Gil_Hanse), the artwork of Tom Young (@BallparkBlueprints), the photography of Jon Cavalier (@LinksGems) and commentary from Ben Hillard (@Ben.Hillard). Playing the course has a wonderfully transportative effect—we invite you to get similarly carried away as you read on.

HOLE #1 “Leven” – 418 yards – par 4

The 1st is finally a worthy start to this golf course. Gil Hanse knocked down trees and opened better views, and turned a flat, boring green into a wild one. Though it doesn’t get the publicity that some of the other holes do, this is low-key one of the most improved holes on the course. “This hole was not in either of the first two renditions of the golf course and was built at some point in the 1930s,” explained Hillard. “We transformed it into a Leven by introducing a whole new strategy to the hole. Golfers are encouraged to play towards or past a big bunker on the left edge of the fairway to provide the best angle into the green which is protected by a mound short right.”

HOLE #2 “Climbing” – 372 yards – par 4

The short par-4 second is a transition hole—it’s main purpose is simply to take a player from the bottom part of the course to the upper shelf. These kinds of uphill transition holes are usually rather boring, but this is one of the better versions of its kind, thanks to an exciting green sloping hard back-to-front and a deep bunker front right. This is a birdie opportunity, but it’s also a hole that can bite the careless player. We speak from experience when we say that you can be on this green in two, in the front bunker in three and walking off with a triple before you know what happened.

HOLE #3 “Eden” – 172 yards – par 3

The 3rd is the first of Sleepy’s brilliant foursome of par-3s, and maybe the best of the bunch. With a panoramic view of the Hudson at your back, you play over the ravine to a huge, sloping green protected in front by a deep Strath bunker. Hanse’s restoration of this green opened up an infinite number of outstanding hole locations, and it’s not uncommon to have a putt that breaks more than 10 feet.“The green for the third hole originally played as a blind ‘Alps’ from somewhere near the current 5th tee area,” recounted Hillard. “This can be seen in the earliest plans of the course. At some point the hole changed to being the mid-length par-3. Although called an Eden it lacked the proper characteristics. The decision was made to build an entirely new green and bunkers for the hole—only the very deep bunker on the right hand side of the green was original.”

HOLE #4 “Headless Horseman” – 415 yards – par 4

Be sure to take in the view of the famous 16th and the river behind and check the pin location on the blind Punchbowl 15th, then try to avoid the fairway bunker up the right. Long tee shots will clear the ridge and offer a view of the skinny, deep green, which was expanded by Hanse’s crew. The connected complexes and shared bunkers of the 4th and 14th are a personal favorite.

HOLE #5 “Panorama” – 435 yards – par 4

Another strong par-4 on the front side, and a LinksGems favorite. The tee shot over the hill is completely blind, and players need to stay to the right to avoid rolling out into the rough on the left. Cresting the hill in the rolling fairway is one of the great visual reveals in all of golf, and the uphill approach to this infinity green is among the most exciting shots on the course. The putting surface has been significantly expanded to the right and the views from this spot are some of the best on the property.

HOLE #6 “Lookout” – 475 yards – par 5

The first of only two par-5s at Sleepy, the 6th is an eagle opportunity if you can manage to put your drive in the upper fairway—easier said than done. A Principal’s Nose bunker guards the layup zone, and the green itself is canted sharply front to back. If you’re trying to hang a number, you need to make no worse than five here. “One of the coolest Macdonald/Raynor green complexes we’ve ever seen,” gushed Hillard. “George Bahto said that he’d never seen a Macdonald green like it.”

HOLE #7 “Redan” – 221 yards – par 3

The 7th holds the place of LinksGems all-time greatest reverse Redan. It plays steeply downhill to a green sloping HARD away toward the back right. Right-to-left shot shapes can attack the green directly, but a straight or left-to-right tee shots must use the slope. Shots played to the fairway left of the green will tumble all the way down to the right side of the green. Recent tree removal has brought the wind back as one of this hole’s many defenses and the green has been expanded to allow for additional hole locations.

HOLE #8 “Road” – 488 yards – par 4

This monster par-4 is the toughest on the course. Hitting the hog’s back fairway is a must, as players will then need to contend with the treacherous Road Hole bunker guarding this green front left. It looks big and plays bigger than that. Par here is a great score. “We converted this Tillinghast hole to a Macdonald ‘Road’, repurposing the existing hog’s back in the fairway, which adds a layer to the strategy of the hole,” said Hillard.

HOLE #9 “Knoll” – 424 yards – par 4

“The fairway bunkers on the 9th are truly penal, and any shot that misses the green left is in major trouble. The green itself—one of the few cut off from the fairway by a section of rough—can play relatively easy when the pin is up front, but is much tougher when the hole is cut on either of the back tiers. This is one of the most improved holes on the course. “We converted this one to a ‘Knoll’ with rough across the approach, which was a bit of a bold choice but it separates the playing and visual characteristics of the 9th and 11th holes,” Hillard elaborated. “We were particularly excited about how the 8th and 9th turned out, especially when looking down the two holes from the halfway house.”

HOLE #10 “Lake” – 168 yards – par 3

The 10th is a picturesque par-3, and the only hole at Sleepy Hollow with water near a green. “This is an all new green expanded out to the lake edge,” detailed Hillard. “We lowered it to make the green expansion work.” The two sets of tee boxes—one attached to the back side of the 9th green and the other short and left of it—combined with the huge spine installed in this green by Gil Hanse allows the 10th to play like four different holes in 1, depending on the day’s hole location. Putting across the spine is a lot of fun but not very healthy for your score.

HOLE #11 “Ichabod’s Elbow” – 433 yards – par 4

This par-4 favors a left-to-right tee shot, as it’s no fun trying to hit a long iron into this volcano green if the drive doesn’t get far enough up the fairway. It’s really a ‘hit it or else’ proposition—anything short will roll all the way back to the fairway, a miss left or right catches the deep bunkers (if you’re lucky), and if you go long, you might just want to keep walking into the clubhouse.

HOLE #12 “Double Plateau” – 536 yards – par 5

The second of the two par-5s and the first hole substantially changed by Gil Hanse, the 12th used to play as a hard dogleg par-4 to a green along the woods line. Hanse turned the hole into a beautiful par-5 playing through a rocky valley and over a winding creek to a beautifully designed Double Plateau green. “The Tillinghast green is still visible short and 100 yards right up on the hill,” Hillard said. “We also formalized the meandering brook to help with drainage and add strategy to the hole.”

HOLE #13 “Sleepy Hollow” – 408 yards – par 4

The 13th is the LinksGems selection for most underrated hole on the golf course. The ridge in the fairway hides some terrific squared off bunkering up the left side, while the green is guarded by one of the deepest bunkers on the course. As on the 11th, there are few good misses here—the little bunker in the face of the rise helps players more than it hurts them. “Very soft alterations were made to the front of the green to expand the pinnable area closer to the false front,” added Hillard.

HOLE #14 “Spines” – 414 yards – par 4

The par-4 14th marks the beginning of a four hole run from the highest point on the property to the lowest. Staggered cross bunkers make this an exciting tee shot, but the green is where the fun really begins. Formerly an unremarkable complex, Hanse restored two spines running from the back of this green toward the front, effectively chopping the huge putting surface into three smaller ones. “The original Macdonald green was manipulated at some point and significantly reduced in size,” Hillard explained “In looking at some aerials of the golf course from the 1924 aerial, we found a larger squared green with two spines running from the back well beyond the center that were begging to be recreated.” It is now in the realm of possibility to be on this green in regulation and make double.

HOLE #15 “Punchbowl” – 502 yards – par 4

With the exception of the 4th at Fishers Island, this is the LinksGems favorite Punchbowl. Blind from everywhere, the green can be hit directly, but players who aren’t long enough to make the full carry can land approaches 50 yards short up the left side and use the chute to bounce a shot into the bowl. When the hole is cut on the little shelf on the left edge of the bowl it plays a full shot harder. “We made minor edits to the green to introduce more pinnable space,” detailed Hillard, “and completed the punchbowl to ensure all balls that make it over the hill find their way onto the putting surface.”

HOLE #16 “Short” – 149 yards – par 3

One of the most photographed holes in the world (due in no small measure to LinksGems), this par-3 is as memorable as they come. From an elevated tee over a ravine to a square green ringed with sand and featuring a deep thumbprint, with the Hudson River and the Palisades below and beyond, this is like playing golf in a postcard. “Working off of an old photo from the club’s archives as well as what we saw in the ground, we figured that the original green had been manipulated at some point but not completely rebuilt,” said Hillard. “The horseshoe was still there, but the surface either side of it had been filled in. The high point of the horseshoe was identified and then we delicately removed that extra material to expose the original contours—an incredible moment for a shaper.” When the pin is in the middle, you’re thinking of making an Ace, but the real fun is playing to a pin on one of the edges—the green is pinnable to all eight sections outside the thumbprint.

HOLE #17 “Hudson” – 446 yards – par 4

On most courses, this hole would be the signature, but even after the 15th and 16th, the par-4 17th with a bridge and harbor view still impresses. The sharply canted fairway plays games with your head—the line is farther left than you think, and the bunkers down the right catch everything. The large green, which was expanded by Hanse’s team, makes the distance of the approach hard to judge. Trust your caddy, it’s farther than it looks.

HOLE #18 “Woodlea” – 426 yards – par 4

“This hole was built at the same time as the 1st hole in the ‘30s. A new, larger green was built inspired by Macdonald and Raynor, featuring a large false front and much flatter rear tying into the clubhouse steps,” concluded Hillard. “It sits much better on the landscape.” Playing back up to the mansion, this is your classic gut punch par-4 finisher—it will make your earn your match. The large tree on the right is murder on leaking tee shots, and the false front rejects indifferent approaches. The new back right section of this putting surface makes for some tough but fun recoveries, especially when the patio is crowded. A fitting finish for one of the greatest courses in the world.

Stories are often told of the great artists reaching inflection points in their work. Those moments when they can stay in their comfort zones or push forward into new territory. To leave a legacy requires the courage to take the latter path. In embracing the philosophy of C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor at Sleepy Hollow, not only did Gil Hanse evolve as an artist, he left a legacy for the membership and the game at Sleepy Hollow. The Legend’s author sums up best the impression left on the fortunate by a visit to this special place.

“If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley.” 

Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Copyright 2019 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


4 Comments

LinksGems Los Angeles CC Photo Tour

JON CAVALIER’S LINKSGEMS 2017 WALKER CUP PREVIEW

Los Angeles Country Club (North Course)

The 2017 Walker Cup is being contested at the historic Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course.  Originally opened in 1911 and redesigned by George C. Thomas Jr in 1921, the North Course was recently restored by Gil Hanse’s team, with an assist from Geoff Shackelford.

LACC-Sign.jpg

LACC is a wonderful setting for match play, with a variety of holes and plenty of risk-reward decisions for the players.  Let’s take a quick walk through each of the 18 holes before play begins on September 9th.

(click on collage images to enlarge)

Hole #1 – Par 5 – 544 yards

LACC1-Approach.png

LACC’s 1st is a wide, short par-5 (perhaps a par-4 for these players) that begins near the site of the now-removed fountain, and ends at a treacherous green framed by the Beverly Hilton.

Hole #2 – Par 4 – 484 yards

LACC2-GreenBack.png

Like many holes at LACC, the flat par-4 2nd seems simple at first, but positioning into its sloped, barranca-protected green is key.

Hole #3 – Par 4 – 400 yards

LACC3-Greenside

The 3rd at LACC is one of the best par-4s in the world – if the USGA pins this green on one of its two front prongs, watch out!

Hole #4 – Par 3 – 210 yards

LACC4-Approach.png

The 4th is a long, downhill par-3 over a barranca – Lionel Richie’s house is short right; the Playboy Mansion is long left.

Hole #5 – Par 4 – 483 yards

LACC5-GreenLeft.png

The 5th at LACC is a long, tough par-4 – a blind tee shot leaves an approach to a green open on one side and defended on the other.

Hole #6 – Par 4 – 335 yards

LACC6-GreenBack.png

The 6th is a drivable short par-4 down a chute bending right to a wide, shallow green benched between a barranca and hill.

Hole #7 – Par 3 – 282 yards

LACC7-Approach.png

The 7th is a stout par-3 from an elevated tee to a small, canted green.

Hole #8 – Par 5 – 537 yards

LACC8-GreenBack.png

For Walker Cup competitors, the all-world par-5 8th, halved by a barranca, is a very tempting risk/reward par-4-and-a-half.

Hole #9 – Par 3 – 181 yards

LACC9-GreenBehind.png

The par-3 9th at LACC plays over a ravine to a sharply sloping green; snow-capped Mt. San Antonio is visible some 40 miles away.

Hole #10 – Par 4 – 383 yards

LACC10-Tee.png

The epic back nine at LACC begins with the lovely par-4 10th – this wide, canted fairway is pocked with perfectly placed bunkering.

Hole #11 – Par 3 – 249 yards

LACC11-TeeZoom.png

The terrific 11th at is a reverse-redan style par-3 with incredible views of the LA skyline from the tee.  A personal favorite.

Hole #12 – Par 4 – 388 yards

LACC12-Short.png

The tee shot at the par-4 12th is blinded by a large hill – easy to get out of position on approach to this well-guarded green.

Hole #13 – Par 4 – 468 yards

LACC13-TeeZoom

The par-4 13th at LACC, as pretty as it is tough – occasionally, odd noises from behind the greenside hedge can be a distraction.

Hole #14 – Par 5 – 598 yards

LACC14-Green.png

LACC’s closing stretch begins with the 14th, a lovely par-5 featuring one of the best greens in golf.

Hole #15 – Par 3 – 133 yards

LACC15-Green.png

The short par-3 15th features an array of gorgeous bunkers and a huge crescent green reminiscent of the 7th at Crystal Downs.

Hole #16 – Par 4 – 465 yards

LACC16-Green.png

One of the most beautiful holes at LACC, the stout par-4 16th tips out over 500 yards, this hole will decide matches come Saturday.

Hole #17 – Par 4 – 455 yards

LACC17-Fairway.png

The closer the tee shot to the barranca on the right of LACC’s par-4 17th, the better the approach to its narrow, rolling green.

Hole #18 – Par 4 – 451 yards

LACC18-Approach.png

The 500-yard par-4 18th – as with so many great classic courses, LACC’s home green sits just steps from the beautiful clubhouse.

Little 17th – Par 3 – 110 yards

LACCL17-TeeZoom.png

This alternate par-3 was built by Herbert Fowler, adopted but ultimately abandoned by George Thomas, and lovingly restored by Gil Hanse.

Regardless of who wins the Cup, players, spectators, and TV viewers are all in for a treat.  It doesn’t get any better than Los Angeles Country Club.  Enjoy the match!

LACC-Skyline.png


MORE LINKSGEMS TOURS

 

 

2017 Copyright – GeekedOnGolf, Jason Way

 


5 Comments

Boston Golf Club Tour by Jon Cavalier

BOSTON GOLF CLUB – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

Hingham, MA – Gil Hanse

BostonGC-Feature1.jpg

Boston has long been known as one of America’s best cities for golf.  With classic gems like Myopia Hunt Club, The Country Club at Brookline, Essex County Club, Salem Country Club, Kittansett and Eastward Ho!, as well as modern entries like Old Sandwich by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the best of Boston-area golf can rival anywhere.

BostonGC-Feature2.jpg

Enter Boston Golf Club.  I had the privilege of seeing this 2004 Gil Hanse design on a beautiful late-October afternoon, and while I had heard good things about the club previously, to say that Boston Golf Club exceeded my expectations would be a dramatic understatement.

BostonGC-Feature3.jpg

Every hole at BGC offers something worthwhile.  The golfer is put to strategic decisions constantly.  Despite its location, the playing corridors are wide, encouraging thoughtful placement of one’s ball.  And the setting is gorgeous.  Boston Golf Club is the best work I’ve seen by Gil Hanse, and I would recommend it without reservation to any golfer looking to play in the Boston area.

BostonGC-Feature4.jpg

I hope you enjoy the tour.

BostonGC-ScorecardCover.jpg

The first thing a visitor notices upon arriving at Boston Golf Club is the wooded setting.  After turning into the entrance, marked only with a stone post engraved with the number “19”, the visitor winds his way up a curved drive to the gravel lot and walks up to the wooden-shingled clubhouse, built to look like a relic from the revolutionary war.

BostonGC-Clubhouse1.jpg

The club has a well-appointed golf shop, locker rooms and a second-floor bar and grill with a view overlooking the 18th green.  Such tastefully done facilities that mesh well with their location are always a refreshing sight in today’s game.  Now member-owned, Boston Golf Club clearly puts the focus where it belongs – on the golf course.

BostonGC-Clubhouse2.jpg

In sticking with the revolutionary war motif, the club’s logo is a simple red and white striped flag.  It’s one of my favorite modern golf logos.

BostonGC-Flag.jpg

The golf course itself plays to a championship distance of 7062 yards, par 71, while the members generally play to a more reasonable 6740 yards (the distances used in this tour) or a composite yardage of just over 6300.  The course slopes out to a robust 139 (74.8 rating) at the tips and a 136 (73.4 rating) from the next set of tees.

BostonGC-Scorecard.jpg

As seen in this overhead, the course is divided by a public road – the front nine plays out across the loop to the east of the road, while the back nine plays on the western side where the clubhouse is located.

BostonGC-Aerial.jpg

Though the road is not visible from any part of the course and is completely unobtrusive during play, the unique routing does present a rather long initial walk from the clubhouse to the first tee, and from the ninth to the tenth tee.  But the course itself is very walkable.

BostonGC-Golfball.jpg

Superintendent Rodney Hine and his staff expertly tend to BGC with firm, fast greens and fairway and short rough, with an assist from the goats kept on property.

BostonGC-Goats.jpg

Need trees removed . . .

BostonGC-Goat.jpg

Happy to help!  Any course with goats on the maintenance staff gets extra points in my book.

Now, on to the golf course…

BOSTON GOLF CLUB

Hole 1 – 485 yards – Par 5

The course begins with a short but challenging par-5 that plays up over a blind rise to a fairway hidden largely from view.

BostonGC1-Tee.jpg

From the very outset, the player gets a sense of what they will encounter at Boston Golf Club – wide, heaving fairways and an abundance of gorgeous scenery – both natural and, in the case of the stone wall seen here, man-made.

BostonGC1-Teezoom.jpg

Though this sub-500 yard par-5 is reachable in two for some longer hitters, the challenge in attempting the hero play is stiff.  The elevated green is ringed with bunkers and fronted by a ribbon of gunch that will likely result in a lost ball for those whose attempts at the green come up short.

BostonGC1-Approach.jpg

Laying up presents its own challenges, and the elevated green is partially hidden from view from the end of the fairway.

BostonGC1-Short.jpg

The view from behind the putting surface reveals the substantial undulation in the first green and the ample width of the playing lane, which while often appearing tight, always provides the player with room to maneuver.

BostonGC1-Greenback.jpg

Hole 2 – 407 yards – Par 4

A beautiful two shot hole, the fourth calls for an ideal drive either short of or over the rocky outcropping that cuts into the fairway from the right side.

BostonGC2-Tee.jpg

Indifferent tee shots will find trouble on both sides of the pinched fairway.

BostonGC2-Fairway.jpg

Once beyond the choke point, the fairway tumbles hard down to the large green, which is open in the front to allow golfers to use the slope and attack the green on the ground.

BostonGC2-Greenback.jpg

As this view from the right rear corner of the green shows, both the putting surface and the surrounding mowed areas are rife with movement.  The deep valley to the left of the green adds considerable challenge to approaches hit to left pins.

BostonGC2-Greenbehind.jpg

Hole 3 – 420 yards – Par 4

The outstanding third hole begins with another blind tee shot to a fairway that swells up before dropping and bending slightly to the left.

BostonGC-Tee.jpg

Care must be taken to choose a line and a shot shape that will both enable the player to hold the fairway and to position himself to approach the angled, sloping green.

BostonGC3-Approach.jpg

A ravine divides the fairway from the large third green, which is angled from short left to deep right, and which is also sloped hard from left to right, making the angle of approach critical.

BostonGC3-Short.jpg

The view from behind the green shows the exceptionally undulated fairway, uncommon elsewhere but frequently seen here.

BostonGC3-Greenback.jpg

After bagging his (hopeful) four, the golfer sets off on this footbridge through a wooded marsh to reach the fourth tee.

BostonGC3-Footbridge.jpg

Hole 4 – 413 yards – Par 4

The third of three consecutive two shot holes exceeding 400 yards in length, the fourth hole requires a drive over the large framing bunker to the left over another rise, which hides . . .

BostonGC4-Teezoom.jpg

. . . these traps guarding the left side of the fairway, and which should be avoided at all costs.  Beyond this hazard, the fairway drops into a valley before rising again to meet the green.

BostonGC4-Approach.jpg

A common theme at Boston Golf Club is that many of the areas surrounding the greens are mowed to fairway height, accentuating the use of the ground game, providing recovery options for near-misses and exacting a heavier price for poorly hit shots that will not have the benefit of tall grass to stop the ball near the green.

BostonGC4-Greenside.jpg

Once again, the green is open across the front, allowing a variety of shots to be played.

BostonGC4-Greenback.jpg

Hole 5 – 313 yards – Par 4

One of the best modern short par-4 holes that I’ve seen, the fifth plays out through a chute of trees to an upsloping fairway with troublesome bunkering and mounds encroaching from the right.

BostonGC5-Tee.jpg

While the tendency of most from the tee will be to play safely out to the left of the open fairway to avoid these bunkers, which will certainly add at least a stroke to most cards . . .

BostonGC5-FairwayBunker.jpg

. . . those who do are confronted with an approach from a difficult angle to an extremely narrow green backed by a deep, tight bunker.

BostonGC5-Approach.jpg

At the same time, the closer one plays to the trouble up the right side of the fairway, the better the angle into the difficult green. From the right edge of the fairway, the player has the benefit of playing down the long axis of the green.

BostonGC5-Green.jpg

The narrowness of this green and the shape of the bunkering to the rear is reminiscent of the ninth green at Myopia Hunt.  Though most will have but a wedge in, this is one of the most difficult approaches on the golf course.

BostonGC5-Greenbehind.jpg

A brilliantly designed short two-shotter in every respect.

BostonGC5-Greenback.jpg

Hole 6 – 157 yards – Par 3

The first of an exceptional quartet of one-shot holes at Boston Golf Club, the sixth plays from an elevated tee to an elevated green across an ocean of sand and shrub.

BostonGC6-Teezoom.jpg

The wide, shallow green is shaped almost like a figure eight and plays more like two small greens than a single large one.

BostonGC6-Greenleft.jpg

The left pin placements play easier than those to the smaller but shorter right side.

BostonGC6-Greenbehind.jpg

As is the case with all of the par-3s at Boston Golf Club, the sixth perfectly balances visual appeal with a demand for quality shotmaking.

BostonGC6-Greenback.jpg

Hole 7 – 423 yards – Par 4

The tee shot at the seventh must carry an expanse of sandy waste area, and a hidden valley on the right side (a smaller version of a similar feature on the second hole at NGLA) should be avoided.

BostonGC7-Tee.jpg

The wide fairway gives way to a reverse redan-like green that is one of the most severely sloping on the course.

BostonGC7-Approach.jpg

Serious trouble awaits the weak cut that misses the green short.  Even shots that hit the front right portion of the green risk being repelled into the bunker below.

BostonGC7-ShortRight.jpg

One of the more difficult pars at Boston Golf Club – a four here is an excellent outcome.

BostonGC7-Greenback.jpg

Hole 8 – 210 yards – Par 3

The longest one-shot hole at Boston Golf Club, the eighth green is partially hidden from view by chocolate drop-style mounding that fronts the putting surface and makes this tee shot appear much more difficult than it is.

BostonGC8-Tee.jpg

As seen here, there is ample room between the drops and the green, which allows for the ball to be landed short of the green and bounced on to the putting surface.

BostonGC8-Short.jpg

Likewise, there is substantial room to miss the green short or left and still have a good chance at par.

BostonGC8-Shortleft.jpg

Missing this green long, however, is quite bad – this nasty little bunker is more than ten feet below the putting surface.

BostonGC8-Greenbehind.jpg

The green itself is rippled and mounded.  A wonderful par-3 hole.

BostonGC8-Green.jpg

Hole 9 – 440 yards – Par 4

From an elevated tee, the golfer gives back the nearly 100 feet of elevation gained over the first eight holes.

BostonGC9-Tee.jpg

Though the elevation change and the angle of the fairway make this shot look rather tight, the fairway is wider and more accommodating than it appears from the tee.

BostonGC9-Teezoom.jpg

From the fairway, the player must first avoid a small area of hazard intruding from the left side as he approaches one of the more scenic and interesting greens on the property.

BostonGC9-Fairway.jpg

The large green is nestled into a cove bordered in the front by the raised fairway and in the rear by a stone wall.  Missing this green long is not an option.

BostonGC9-Shortright.jpg

The green itself contains substantial movement, and hitting it in regulation is no guarantee of a par.

BostonGC9-Greenback.jpg

A tough, fair and pretty hole – a fitting end to the front nine.

BostonGC9-Greenbehind.jpg

Hole 10 – 390 yards – Par 4

From a tee bordered by the foundation of an old ruin, the tenth plays out to a fairway sloping downhill and to the right.  The raised mound on the right of the fairway complicates this drive.

BostonGC10-Tee.jpg

As seen here, the ideal tee shot favors the right side of the fairway, as anything left bears a risk of running off or through the fairway.

BostonGC10-Fairway.jpg

From the left edge of the fairway, the green is revealed.  Long is not an option, and the bunkers short of the putting surface make for a challenging recovery.

BostonGC10-ApproachLeft.jpg

The result is one of the more difficult approach shots on the course.

BostonGC10-ShortLeft.jpg

Despite these challenges and the visual difficulties presented by the setting of the green, as is often the case at Boston Golf Club, there is more room to maneuver than first appears.

BostonGC10-Greenabove.jpg

All in all, an outstanding par 4 and one of my favorites of the inward nine.

BostonGC10-Greenback.jpg

Hole 11 – 178 yards – Par 3

The penultimate one-shotter and the last until the eighteenth hole, the eleventh is a gorgeous par-3 playing out over a large wasteland to a green benched into the side of a hill.

bostongc11-tee

The large putting surface is heavily sloped, and the high mound to the left of the green again provides for redan-like characteristics and the availability of an indirect route.

BostonGC11-Shortright.jpg

Today’s pin, which sits at the base of the elevated left side of the green, is one of the most player-friendly, but . . .

BostonGC11-Greenleft.jpg

. . . pins on the back left side of the green are difficult in the extreme.

BostonGC11-Greenslope.jpg

This is neither the hardest green to hit nor the easiest green to putt, but one thing is certain . . .

BostongGC11-Greenback.jpg

. . . this is a beautiful golf hole.

BostonGC11-Greenabove.jpg

Hole 12 – 424 yards – Par 4

The tee shot here is over a long stone wall to a fairway angled from left to right away from the tee.

BostonGC12-Tee.jpg

The fairway itself is one of the most undulating on the entire course, and level lies are seldom found here.

BostonGC12-Fairway.jpg

Bunkers guard the left side of the fairway, and a principal’s nose feature sits some 50 yards short of the green in the middle of the fairway.

BostonGC12-Approach.jpg

Beyond these hazards, the fairway dips into a wide gully before rising steeply to meet the green.

BostonGC12-ApproachLeft.jpg

The resulting false front can repel even marginally indifferent shots well back into the fairway.

BostonGC12-Short.jpg

After negotiating these many difficulties, the golfer is rewarded with one of the most difficult putting surfaces on the course.  Putting from the rear of this green to a front pin can easily result in one facing a 30 yard chip on the following shot.

BostonGC12-Greenright.jpg

A very difficult hole, and the first in a string of three.

BostonGC12-Greenback.jpg

Hole 13 – 415 yards – Par 4

Playing over a framing bunker to a wide fairway, the ideal tee shot here is to the left of the fairway so as to provide room to clear the dogleg.

BostonGC13-Teezoom.jpg

Cut shots will often have to contend with the trees down the right side, but the green is sloped from left to right to aid such shots.

BostonGC13-Approachright.jpg

In a vision of dark comedy, Hanse turned this old ruin located on the inside corner of the dogleg into a bunker.  While few find this diabolical hazard, even fewer of those who do escape.

BostonGolfClub13-CoffinBunker.jpg

A welcome sight – yet another green open across its full width to the fairway.

BostonGolfClub13-Short.jpg

As this view from the left side of the green shows, the thirteenth is no pushover when it comes to putting.  A hard left to right slant and internal undulations provide a stiff test.

BostonGolfClub13-Greenleft.jpg

In return for providing a green open to the fairway, the thirteenth severely punishes the overly aggressive golfer who ends up long.  As is the case with so many holes at BGC, the thirteenth strikes an ideal balance in strategic concerns.

BostonGolfClub13-Greenback.jpg

Hole 14 – 418 yards – Par 4

The last in a difficult three hole stretch, the fourteenth plays gently downhill and slightly to the right along the eastern edge of the property.

BostonGolfClub14-Teezoom.jpg

This alternate tee to the left of the primary teeing ground provides the members with a different look at this hole.

BostonGolfClub14-LeftTee.jpg

Once more, the ideal line off this tee is to the left side of the fairway, avoiding the bunkering . . .

BostonGolfClub14-FairwayBunker.jpg

. . . and providing a straight-on approach to this green, which slopes away from the player.

BostonGolfClub14-Approach.jpg

Again, the green is hospitable to a ground attack which, given the slope of the green, is often preferable here.

BostonGolfClub14-Greenback.jpg

An excellent two-shot hole.

BostonGolfClub14-Greenbehind.jpg

Hole 15 – 545 yards – Par 5

The longest hole on the course and the first par-5 since the opening hole, the fifteenth is also one of the more dramatic holes at BGC.  From the tee, the it plays out to a largely blind fairway that bends slightly right.

BostonGolfClub15-Teezoom.jpg

The second shot must carry Hanse’s rendition of a Hell’s Half Acre bunker complex, which divides the fairway.

BostonGolfClub15-HellsHalfAcre.jpg

Once clear of the cross hazard, the player confronts a gorgeously sloped fairway that pares down to a mere ribbon of short grass that bends left and dives down to the green.

BostonGolfClub15-Fairway.jpg

The beauty of the landscaping done on this hole cannot be overstated.

BostonGolfClub15-Shortleft.jpg

Arriving at the green, the golfer confronts a putting surface that slopes up from front to back and which is riddled with small mounds and internal slopes.  The intricate green is a fitting culmination to this wonderful three-shotter.

BostonGolfClub15-Short.jpg

One of my favorite par-5s in New England.

BostonGolfClub15-Greenback.jpg

Hole 16 – 340 yards – Par 4

The final par-4 at BGC, and one of the shortest, the sixteenth doglegs left through a fairway punched full of rough bunkers, including a proper principal’s nose.

BostonGolfClub16-Tee.jpg

The elevated green is fronted by several bunkers, including one of the largest and deepest on the course.

BostonGolfClub16-Approach.jpg

Hazards surround the putting surface, and a raised ridge running around the green from the front right to back left provides a half-punchbowl effect, and makes reading this green difficult.

BostonGolfClub16-Greenleft.jpg

Though a short par-4, the sixteenth is by no means without its teeth.

BostonGolfClub16-Greenback.jpg

Hole 17 – 538 yards – Par 5

The final full tee shot at BGC plays out to a wide, mounded fairway with a large, rocky mound down the center line.

BostonGolfClub17-Teezoom.jpg

Once this initial hill is crested, the remainder of this downhill par-5 is revealed.

BostonGolfClub17-Fairway.jpg

One of the more straightforward holes at BGC, the sixteenth is a rather simple proposition – keep the ball in the middle of the fairway and avoid the many hazards dotting its edges.

BostonGolfClub17-FairwayRight.jpg

Yet again, this green will accommodate a shot played along the ground.  The putting surface is cut by a valley that bisects nearly the entire green and provides for some interesting and challenging pin locations.

BostonGolfClub17-Green.jpg

As this view back up the seventeenth shows, the fairways at BGC are some of the wildest this side of Eastward Ho!

BostonGolfClub17-Greenback.jpg

The view from the seventeenth green across the 14th fairway is one of the best on the course.

BostonGolfClub17-Greento14.jpg

Hole 18 – 180 yards – Par 3

Often, courses that finish with a par-3 are referred to as “controversial.”  But if a one-shot hole best fits the land and the location, as it does here, an architect does the course a disservice if he forces a hole that doesn’t fit.  The final hole at BGC plays uphill to a green located in the shadow of the clubhouse.  It is a difficult par-3 and a fitting test to conclude a medal round or a match.

BostonGolfClub18-Tee.jpg

The green is fronted by a stone wall and deep bunkers – short is not an optimal miss here.

BostonGolfClub18-Shortleft.jpg

As evidenced by today’s pin location . . .

BostonGolfClub18-Greenback.jpg

. . . and the mounding within the green, the final hole is no pushover, and provides a fitting finish to this brilliant golf course.

BostonGolfClub18-Greenabove.jpg

Few courses that I played exceeded my expectations more than Boston Golf Club, and I had high expectations going in.  What I found here was an expertly designed golf course that was extraordinarily interesting in its strategic demands and, most importantly, extremely enjoyable to play.  Every hole, and every shot, at BCG offered a strategic challenge that required an evaluation of the various options available and the risks and potential rewards of each possible play.  As soon as I finished my round, I wanted to head right back out for another loop – only darkness prevented me from doing so.

Boston Golf Club has my highest recommendation and is a must see for any devout golfer in the Boston area.  Simply put, it is one of the finest modern golf courses that I have yet to play.

I hope you enjoyed the tour.

– Jon Cavalier / @linksgems


MORE LINKSGEMS TOURS

 

 

 

Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


3 Comments

Architects Week II is in the books. Now for the show…

Once again, the folks at Golf Channel have put together a nice Architects week feature.  Matt Ginella continues to evolve as a voice for the good of the game, giving us a break from Tour & Tip coverage, to help us connect to the soul of the game – golf courses and the people who create them.

A WALK THROUGH THE WEEK

 

“The more I learn about architecture, the more I want to know.” – Matt Ginella

The week kicked off with a preview from Matt, Geoff Shackelford, and a panel.  Bill Coore was originally slated to start off the week, but dropped of the agenda at the last minute.  Such are the lives of successful men, perhaps.

“Think of golf holes as human. You are wrestling with another animate object.” – Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

After a visit with Tom Weiskopf and discussion of his recent updates to TPC Scottsdale, next up was Robert Trent Jones, Jr.  It was an interesting segment with the veteran architect that culminated with discussion of Chambers Bay, the 2015 U.S. Open venue which promises to be a strong follow-up to last year’s game-changing event at the renovated Pinehurst #2.  “It is both the aerial game and the ground game,” said Jones of Chambers.  Clearly, he is excited to the see the best golfers in the world take on his course.

“Let the land speak and lay golf holes out that were relatively straightforward.” – David McLay Kidd

The old guard gave way to members of the next generation of great architects – David McLay Kidd, Mike DeVries and Gil Hanse.  This trio has already produced a portfolio of amazing courses, including my home course the Kingsley Club.  They are also working on some of the most exciting projects in golf – Sand Valley #2, Cape Wickham, The Rio Olympic Course, and now Streamsong Black.

“He’s so creative. He’s a real sculptor with the Earth.” – Alice Dye on Pete

A full day was given to Pete & Alice Dye, perhaps the most influential duo in golf course architecture history, not to mention a heart-warming story of love and marriage partnership.  Geoff Shackelford said of Mr. Dye, “He was sort of a change agent; that will ultimately be his legacy.”  Hard to argue with that assessment.

“It’s something I’ve had on the back burner for 20 years.” – Tom Doak

The week wrapped up with Tom Doak sharing what might be the most exciting thing to happen to architecture since C.B. MacDonald realized his “ideal hole” architecture at National Golf Links of America.  The reversible course at Forest Dunes.

The architects segments were great, as was the commentary between Matt and Geoff, and I highly recommend combing through the clips as a means to find leads to take you on further explorations into the field of golf course architecture.

There are really only three things that disappointed me about this second Architects Week:

  1. The lack of new faces, other than Mike DeVries.  I understand the need for the big names to keep the ratings up and the momentum going for GCA coverage.  In spite of that reality, it would have been nice to have more international representation, and a no-less-talented, but lower-profile architect or two.
  2. The lack of “field time”.  The modern minimalists who are at the forefront of architecture today like Tom Doak, Mike DeVries and others consistently point to the field as the place where the rubber hits the road in GCA.  Driving a bulldozer, shaping the sandy earth, doing the finishing hand work – generally playing in the dirt – this is where architectural magic happens.  Although I love the interviews and the routing discussions, it would have been great to see Matt strolling and chatting with at least one architect on-site.
  3. The segments were just too darn short.  There was not a single segment on the show that didn’t leave me wanting more.  Much more.  At a certain level, good entertainment leaves you wanting more.  But golf architecture coverage goes beyond entertainment.  Given the time appropriate for a subject with the depth and breadth of GCA, it could be educational and inspirational.  It could truly expand the horizons of the audience, and connect them more deeply to the soul of the game.

 

I have made my argument for a regular GCA show on Golf Channel in this previous post.  Architects Week just reinforced my commitment to keep agitating until this gets done.

For now though, you can get your GCA fix on GolfClubAtlas.com, and here at the ever-expanding Geeked On Golf GCA Video Archive.


12 Comments

GEEKED ON GOLF VIDEO ARCHIVE

A comprehensive collection of links to golf course architecture and history videos

It is exciting to see increased discussion of golf course architecture on Golf Channel and other televised golf coverage, with Matt Ginella and Geoff Shackelford leading the way.  Perhaps some day, we will see the GCA show I argued for in this previous post – The Art of Course.

In the meantime, this video link archive has been created to be a resource for all those who want in-depth exploration of golf courses, architecture and history.  Many thanks to my collaborator Kyle Truax (on Twitter @TheTruArchitect) for his extensive contributions to this archive.

A few words about the format and structure of the archive: Wherever possible, a playlist on my YouTube channel has been created for each subject, and can be played right from this page.  Links to videos from sources other than YouTube have also been provided, with hyperlinks in the video titles.

With proliferation of GCA-related videos, the original single page format was getting to be a bit unruly.  I split the archive into three parts.

GOLF COURSES

All golf course specific video links have now been moved to the GeekedOnGolf Global Guide.

GOLF COURSE ARCHITECTS

This page features architect interviews, presentations, etc. that are not course specific to a single course.  See the Architect videos here…

GCA COMMENTATORS

This page features the Golf Channel architecture features, as well as videos from other commentators and architecture enthusiasts.  See the Commentators videos here…

If you have any clips to add, please feel free to tweet them me at @JasonWay1493 or leave them here in the comments.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Copyright 2019 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


22 Comments

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:

 

 

Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


6 Comments

The Art of Course – Why Golf Channel Needs a GCA Show

There is much hand-wringing and serious conversation these days about the state of the game.  Rounds are down, and so are the total number of players playing.  The talk revolves around how to get the game growing again through future-forward change and progress.

Making the game more fun is certainly part of the solution.  Initiatives like Tee It Forward, Play 9, and Relaxed Rules are well intended and, hopefully, effective.  However, efforts to make golf more fun are, by their nature, superficial.  If golf wants to remain healthy in the long run, its stewards need to guide current and potential players to connect at a deeper-than-superficial level.  Golf can touch minds and souls with its unique magic, but the current golf culture often distracts players from discovering that magic.

And that is why Golf Channel should have a show dedicated to Golf Course Architecture.

I’m a businessman and realist, so let’s get the business case out of the way first before returning to the idealism.  Golf Channel makes money when it engages its audience.  The digital era has allowed media outlets to target content toward ever-finer niches.  The existence and success of Golf Channel is evidence of this trend.  So, the question is, is there an audience for GCA content that could be engaged?  And even further, is that audience one that could be monetized by Golf Channel through advertising?

First, the audience size.  There is ample evidence that an audience interested in GCA exists:

  • Matt Ginella’s course design and development updates are highly anticipated and never fail to cause buzz.
  • Morning Drive’s themed “Architects Week” was a smash hit.
  • Architects like Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak, and Gil Hanse have not only become widely known, they have become icons.
  • The rabid engagement of communities surrounding websites like GolfClubAtlas.com is at a peak.
  • Thought leaders like Geoff Shackelford and Brad Klein are no longer “niche” – they have reach and power.

Second, the audience quality for advertisers.  GCA devotees are the people who get on planes and travel to places like Bandon Dunes and Streamsong.  They buy golf equipment and clothing.  They have considerable spending power beyond their golf habits.

The audience exists and it is a good audience for the right advertisers to reach, but that is only the commercial argument for Golf Channel’s GCA show.  The intangible, yet larger, argument is that as a force in the game, it is in Golf Channel’s best interest to cultivate the game’s magic.  It is golf courses that are the source of that magic.

The course provides us with an outdoor adventure, exercise, and connection to nature.  The course also provides us with quiet space in our hectic lives to connect with family and friends, and ourselves.  The course is the opponent, providing us with endless challenges, both obvious and subtle.

Beyond the basics, great courses touch us at the deepest level.  When witnessing the beauty of man’s artistic vision merged with mother nature’s creation, it is hard not to be stirred.  Great courses also stimulate the mind – they give us options, sometimes confounding options.  They bait our egos.  They test our ability to think strategically, as well as remaining focused and confident in our strategic decisions.  Great courses are marvels of design, planning, engineering, technology, agronomy, and attention to detail – they are a magical blend of art and science.

Without the course, golf is a trip to driving range.  Without understanding of and exposure to the depth of great courses, people will not know why golf is the greatest game ever invented.  Superficial fun won’t keep people engaged without the deeper connection.

So, among informative and entertaining programs that Golf Channel produces, this is my call for them to give golf course architecture and golf courses their due attention.  The audience is there, and the game needs it.

I’m conducting a Twitter experiment to see if we can create a groundswell to get a show on the air.  GCA nerds and stewards of the game, join me in tweeting to @golfchannel to ask them to create the show.  Use the hashtag #GCAonGC so that we can track progress.  Let’s make this happen.

(Feel free to share your ideas for GCA show episodes as comments to this post, or tweet them to me at @JasonWay1493 and I’ll do it for you.)

If you are not Twitter inclined, you can also post to the Golf Channel Facebook page here.  Use the same hashtag in your post if you do: #GCAonGC.

Or, if you are just not into social media at all, you can email Golf Channel at programming@golfchannel.com and/or morningdrive@golfchannel.com.

Regardless of what media you use, if you think that a GCA show would be great TV (and good for the game), share your thoughts with Golf Channel.  If you don’t feel comfortable expressing yourself, then send them a link to this post and let my words do your talking.

If enough of us speak up, they will respond.

UPDATE: While we’re working on getting this show aired, I have started to compile links on this GCA Video Archive page for exploration.  Hope you enjoy!