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Ryder Cup Thoughts

 

 

Imagine the Ryder Cup here!

 

The most positive remark I can make about the 2010 Course is it was perfect for spectators. The viewing opportunity on the final three holes was astounding and the crowds around those holes were impressive. I played the course in the spring and would say it may have been the least interesting course I played in Wales finishing only just ahead of the Montgomery course which was dreadful.

 

The Ryder Cup is great because of the competition. The result is completely up in the air because of the excellent balance between the two sides. I loved that Europe won this year, but also enjoyed the US winning the year before. I just flat out love the Ryder Cup.

 

 

Royal Birkdale would be ideal for spectators and great golf

 

They have played great courses such as Brookline and (less so) Oakland Hills, but the European courses have been dreadful with Belfry and the K Club heading the list. The list of clubs should be far greater than it is and that’s where I think its time to improve the list.

 

If you gave me the next 5 Ryder Cups, this is where I would play:

 

2012 Merion  (currently Medinah)

 

2014 St. Andrew’s Old  (currently Gleneagles Centenary)

 

2012 Shinnecock Hills  (currently Hazeltine)

 

2012 Royal County Down  (currently TBA – thought to be an “unbuilt” Spanish course)

 

2012 Pebble Beach(currently Whistling Straights)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elm Ridge Update

 

The 6th at Elm Ridge

 

Another major project I have underway is the green side bunker work being done at Elm Ridge’s South Course. It’s the first time that I’ve got an opportunity to build bull nosed bunkers in the Montreal area. The original bunkering was designed by the Gordon’s and was quite good. Many of the forms were still apparent, so the plan was to rebuild the eroded noses, lower the exaggerated faces and provide new edges around the periphery. The biggest change was to add a bull nose face designed to give them a little more character and to provide a living lip that will extend their lifespan.

 

There were only two holes where the bunkers required relocation. The 5th had the right bunkers reduced to one and that was brought to the side of the green (and from out of the trees). The other, shown above, was the 6th where the two front bunkers were miles away from the green. The bunkers were relocated 20 feet closer to provide a consistent character with the other holes.  

 

The work has an immediate impact and everyone at Elm Ridge is pleased with this new look.

 

 

 

 

Knollwood Update

I was away this week-end in New York to give a Master Plan presentation at Knollwood Country Club. I also used the opportunity to review all the work Jim Easton and I have done to date around the course.

 

The 16th hole growing in

 

 

 

I was very pleased with how accurate we were with our work at the 16th. We solved all the issues that caused problems and worked very hard to match the photo with our work.

 

The Old 16th before (a slightly different angle)

 

The presentation at Knollwood went very well.

 

I usually give the entire presentation and then take questions at the end, but this evening was one of those unusual nights where we discussed each holes as it came. What worked was the discussion was a conversation about what the holes would play like. The group was very open to the ideas and was curious to fully explore many of the ideas. It made the presentation quite dynamic and very enjoyable for me too. I had a lot of fun.

 

 

The main question had to do with all the green and fairway expansions. Some saw the holes getting easier, but I think most got the idea when I explained there would be nothing in between the green and the hazard to save a shot and you would be either be in or on. Then I went on to explain that this also meant that pins will be much closer to the edges once the greens are expanded.

 

The 18th fairway and green expansions

 

 

 

 

 

Laval Presentation

 

 

Proposed 14th

 

What a fascinating presentation from many levels. The first was the entire presentation with the small exception of the video by Mike and the comments I made was done in French. I don’t speak French, so I spent the entire evening getting an abbreviated version from the golf superintendent as the presentation was given.

 

The video that Mike made to open the presentation was edited to include many of the before and afters images while he spoke about those holes. They were presented as original photos that merged slowly into the new image. Very cool! Each matched the exact moments that Mike spoke of an example of what we were doing on that specific hole to explain the philosophy. The video presentation was excellent and is something I plan to incorporate going forward.

 

The presentation was done by three members. The first member ( a very well known man) presented why this was good for the future of the club. The green’s chair (same one I’ve always had and the man who joined Mike and me for the walk around) presented the design (yes it was presented in French and was not presented by me!). The final presentation was on the clubs financial position and how the work would be paid for. This is all pretty standard stuff really, except for the fact that I did not present the design. That was frustrating, but the reasoning was strictly about language and the ability for the membership to better understand the proposal much easier in their native tongue. They’ve had my English version on line for a few weeks now and the links to the blogs on here.

 

 

Proposed 3rd

 

There were comments against and as usual they were from older members not wanting change or to lose the flexibility of tee times. There were just as many from other members old and young who supported the change. The presentation was very well met and the buzz in the room was largely positive. My key role was explaining the timing and impact on the membership.

 

 I spent time answering questions after the presentation. The members all love the notion of recovery shots and the idea that the high handicaps will be able to play many recovery shots with a putter. There were a lot of very positive comments about the design. They gave me the indication that the design is not in question.

 

There is a lot of confidence that this will be well received and the vote will go through. The concern is not a majority, but rather a majority large enough to allow the project to proceed next year. The vote comes in early October and it will be the day that I most anticipate this year.

 

   
 

Cog Hill Reaction

 

I can’t remember a PGA course stirring up so much negative emotion, but the rebuilt Cog Hill certainly brought out more critical comment than normal. Having gone there last year to meet Mike, I was fascinated to follow this story, having my own thoughts on the course but also because Mike and I will likely face plenty of scrutiny if Laval gets built and holds the Canadian Open.

 

After Friday’s round at Cog Hill Stewart Cink said "I am going to echo what Zach Johnson told me. He said that on a scale of one to 10, this course is a minus 3."

 

Geoff Ogilvy said, “The short answer is it’s just not that enjoyable to play. Look, if your mission is to really punish a slightly bad shot and make it really hard all day, then it’s a success. If your mission is to create a place people enjoy playing, then it’s a failure.”

 

Rees Jones defending himself by explaining his work at Cog Hill, "We designed it to be an examination for the players, and that proved to be the case," Mr. Jones said. "It is a championship golf course. The tour doesn't want another Greenbriar (Classic), where the players are shooting 59, 60, 61. Remember there's a reason (Cog Hill No. 4) is called 'Dubsdread."

 

What is important is to understand the background too since the owner Joe Jemsek badly wanted the course to hold a US Open and thought having Rees toughen the course would get the deed done. He’s took note of the player’s criticism and handled all of it well, even making the sly remark that "Rees wanted it even more severe."

 

The funniest moment was Michael Bamberger weighing in during a roundtable by saying, “People are mean, and architects are an easy target. I know Rees. Rees is a friend of mine. And let me tell you something: these people dissing Rees, they couldn't build better greens if you spotted them two tons of St. Andrews sand. East Lake is one of the gems of the South — nay, the entire golf-speaking world!”

  

There are two issues at play in this case.

 

One is the players do not care for Rees Jones approach. He believes in defending par through oppressive length, compartmentalized greens and extremely deep bunkers. I got a chance to talk to a couple of players a few years back at Riviera and they said that everything he does takes the same approach and the courses are boring.

 

The other issue is the shorter hitters on the tour, like Mike and Jim Furyk, feel that are getting a raw deal. They see Rees approach catering exclusively to the longest hitters with his excessive use of length. They feel that the more work he does, the less likely a shorter player has of winning on tour. They want more variety and I think this is the most legitimate criticism of his work.

 

The whole thing is interesting to me on two levels. On one end Architects are not expected to be liked by the players, but I do feel we do have a responsibility to make golf interesting. After touring Cog Hill I can say that I found the course very long, the options were limited and the punishment always severe. The course is all about execution. Even Pine Valley has plenty of creative options, Cog Hill does not.

 

I always felt at Laval we were going to build a course that was interesting for the members first. We concentrated heavily on creating multiple options throughout to add interest to the round. We believe that the key to difficulty should be the set-up and by pushing the edges of the design the course could gain enough teeth to hold a Canadian Open. We never worried about defending par or that the players could go low because we wanted them engaged as players, just like the members, and wanting to return because the course was fun and interesting to play.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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