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What is good golf course design?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

To me, a good golf course is one that forces/rewards a player for being able to hit lots of different LENGTH shots.  Put another way, I have a lot more respect for a course when I have played a round using ALL THE CLUBS IN MY BAG, rather than a course where I mostly used just a few.

 

This is from the Merion thread-

Quote:

Originally Posted by saevel25 View Post

 

Because that's what a US Open is. It goes back to when breaking par was a milestone, not something every player can do. I agree that the USGA walks a fine line between unfair and fair. I think Merion was very fair. If you hit good shots tee to green, you had opportunities, Phil had a ton. I think hitting driver on a par 3 is nuts, that is the only hole really were i didn't like the USGA set up. I think if you make it 230ish, force them to hit a long iron or hybrid, then that would make it a challenge, and reward a player with a good shot. For me, hitting driver on a par 3 is hoping for something good to happen instead of actually letting players achieve a good shot.

 

 

While a 260 yard hole is hard to fairly label a par 3 or a par 4, am not so fixated on the par of a hole and think it can be a good hole as long it is a fair par 3.5.  Give the player choices and risk reward alternatives and mixing up the length of holes seems like a good thing to me.  With some guys so long off the tee, the only way to get them hitting long irons into greens is with holes in the 200-250 range.  A course that never rewards/encourages players to hit drivers off the tee also seems like a bad design.

 

While natural environment, wind, dog legs, uphill/downhill etc play a factor, I would prefer to see a course that looks something like

 

140
170
200
230
260
290
320
360
400
420
440
460
480
500
520
550
580
620

Placing hazards, etc different lengths off the tee also seems like a good idea rather than always having the trouble a certain length off the tee.  This is why some courses have to be redesigned because a guy like John Daly comes along and blasts it over all the trouble on every hole (like he did when he won the PGA).

 

Forced layups are another way to create different length approach shots although I don't like it when too many of the par 5s have forced lay ups that make it impractical to hit driver.

 

What is good golf course design to you?

post #2 of 20

I think there are MANY different course designs that make for a good course.

 

For me, I typically like a course as long as it is somewhat unique and has a variety of different holes.

post #3 of 20

I have developed a few pet peeves of course design.

 

I like to walk, so I prefer a course that has easy transitions from greens to tees.

 

I also like courses where each hole has a different feel --- where no two holes are too similar.

 

I also want courses that provide, at the least, 200, 150, and 100 yard markers. 

 

Like the OP, I also prefer a course where I need to use most of the clubs in my bag.

 

Finally, I like there to be a good mix of difficulty along two dimensions. First, among the 18, at least a few holes should be hard, and at least a few should be nice and easy - the rest can vary between the two. Second, as much as possible, the different tees should actually provide different difficulty levels (or, at the very least, a reasonably different way to play the hole). 

post #4 of 20

I've enjoyed some very hard golf courses, TPC sawgrass, and some easier golf courses as well. Mostly i like a golf course that is fair. That has a lot to do with maintenance than design thought. I really dislike Jack's courses. He puts way to much a premium on driving the ball in the correct spot. Its not vary amateur friendly. I don't think i've enjoyed any of Jack's courses i've played, sadly. Pete Dye is hit or miss with me. I love TPC sawgrass, i think its just an amazing course. Donald Ross is an amazing course designer. His courses are very fair. Keep it in the fairway, and what ever you do, keep the ball bellow the hole. His greens are always domed shape, ungulating greens, just a blast to play his courses.

 

For me though, i hate a lot of dog legs, i don't mind slight bends, but to many 90 degree dog lets are not fun. I love courses that end the 18 holes with a par 5, i think its great to have a good reachable par 5 to finish, a lot of excitement on the last hole. I like courses that are visually appealing. If each hole is a bit different, and each hole has its own character i can enjoy a multitude of courses.

 

Besides that, as long as the maintenance is good, greens taken care of is my top requirement, i enjoy anything from a simple municipal course to an exotic golf course while on vacation.

post #5 of 20

My biggest complaint when it comes to course design is when all of the par 3's are similar lengths. A good example of this is Stumpy Lake at Virginia Beach. I hit 5 iron on 3/4 of them. The only reason I hit a 6 iron on the 4th was because the wind was helping. They were all 175-185 yards. That's boring in my opinion. 

 

So a feature of a good golf course, for me, is different yardages and looks on the par 3's. 

post #6 of 20

My favorite type of golf course designs are the ones that force you to use every club in your bag.  It has cleverly designed bunkers, hazards, doglegs, that force golfers to decide on risk/reward approach, but not so many that it becomes ridiculous.  Greens that are not crazy and undulating but have a little bit of slope or hills on them.  Maybe not have all greens sloping back to front like so many of the muni courses I have played on.  Courses that have elevation designed into them is something I like in golf course design.  I also like when courses realize that the overwhelming majority of rounds played on the course are going to be played by amateurs so design it with them in mind.  Lastly, I like when courses design a signature hole and not just a bunch of carbon copies.

post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 

Great stuff so far- It seems that most of us like VARIETY whether it be in terms of difficulty, length, clubs used or look of the holes.

 

RE fairness, I realize that some of this comes down to maintenance, but am not a big fan of lots of random undulations or holes where it is better to miss 30 yards off line than it is to miss 10 yards off line.

post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by saevel25 View Post

I really dislike Jack's courses. He puts way to much a premium on driving the ball in the correct spot. Its not vary amateur friendly. I don't think i've enjoyed any of Jack's courses i've played, sadly.

That's an interesting observation.  There is a Jack-designed course near me (Timber Banks) that is on my "bucket list" for this year.  I have heard that the course is nice but the greens are tough to hit and hold.

 

Like others, I like variety in hole layout and difficulty that is walker-friendly.  I do not like courses with lots of houses right on the fairways.  I also don't like too many blind tee or approach shots.  A few is OK for variety but too many gets old real quick.  And lastly, I don't like 200+ yard par 3s. Par3s should be score-able by us mere mortals and include those that are really short but heavily guard and those that are longer and maybe a little less guarded due to the extra distance.

post #9 of 20

I like courses that offer variety and give you a chance to score.  Ideally, I like this on the courses I play:

 

  • Vary the length of par 3s - give me something from 120 yards and something 200 yards
  • Make 1 par 5 on each side reachable (480-490 range) by good golfers who hit a good drive
  • Give me a couple par 4's in that under 350 range than give you options

 

Here are two holes at Forest Dunes in Michigan that I absolutely love - short Par 4's (#17 is driveable) where you can bomb your driver to try ans setup a short wedge, but you can just as easily hit an iron off the tee and leave yourself 140 and a relatively easy par.

 

post #10 of 20

Experts on golf course architecture talk a lot about schools (philosophies) of golf course design. Golf writer and author Geoff Schakelford suggests six schools: Natural, the Penal, the Strategic, the Heroic, the Freeway, and the Framing.

 

More basic views suggest three classic schemes:

  • Penal: "My way or the highway" design in which you have to hit a specific shot from a specific spot on a hole, or you are severely punished. Let's say a 420-yard par 4 has a tight dogleg right. The prescribed drive is a fade. You hit it straight, the ball hits the hill and runs OB to the left. You hit a slice, and you land in deep pot bunkers which require you to take a sandwedge blast back to the fairway. Example: Pine Valley in NJ / Oakmont in PA.
  • Heroic: A fairly number of odd and quirky holes, often with blind shots, in which bold shots are rewarded but safe shots are not. Unfortunately, luck is often at a premium. Lots of older British courses.
  • Strategic: This scheme offers players multiple ways to play most holes. The risk-reward theme gets played a lot here. It you hug the creekline on your drive, you have an open shot into the green. If you play away from the creek, you have to hit your approach across a deep greenside bunker. You also get bailout areas on more difficult holes so that you can play for bogie if pushing for par would be disastrous. Most modern USA courses.

 

One type of course that bothers me is some subdivision courses. My home course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, has OB left and right, or OB on one side and hazard on the other, on 13 holes. Four other holes have OB on one side, and the only non-OB hole is a par 3 crossing a lake. You really start feeling boxed in when hole after hole has no safe side.

 

I find it interesting when holes of the same length play differently. Example: two 160-yd. par 3 holes, one which goes uphill and one which goes downhill.

Or, Glen Echo CC in St. Louis: No. 7 is a 470-yd. par 4 going downhill, No. 8 is a 470-yd. par 5 going uphill.

post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by saevel25 View Post

I really dislike Jack's courses. He puts way to much a premium on driving the ball in the correct spot. Its not vary amateur friendly.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Topper View Post

That's an interesting observation.  There is a Jack-designed course near me (Timber Banks) that is on my "bucket list" for this year.  I have heard that the course is nice but the greens are tough to hit and hold.

This fascinates me too.  I have played all of ONE Jack Nicklaus course, so I can't really dispute the claim for anything but that course.  (Old Works GC, Montana)  However, on that course, the fairways were huge, as were the greens.  Most of the greens were at least 40 yards long, and one was nearly 50.  And most were wide as well.  And, not that the lady in the pro shop is an expert, but when she described the course to us prior to the round she mentioned both of those facts (big landing areas and big greens) as being "typical" of a Nicklaus designed course.

 

For me, I like courses with variety that have things like ...

 

- Like others have said, make me use a different club on all of the par 3's (and have a short one too)

- A short risk-reward par 4

- A super long par 4

- A reachable par 5

-An unreachable par 5

 

One thing I don't like:

 

My home course has one hole in particular that I find to be a little ridiculous.  It is a 615 yard par 5 from the blue tees (not the tips) that has a narrow fairway that ends if you drive it too far.  I drove through it last time with a 3-wood, so this is a 615 yard par 5 that requires you to layup on your tee shot.  A "perfect" drive near the end of the fairway leaves you on a downslope and you're hitting over a hazard (bushes and reeds and such growing up out of it) so unless you hit the ball really high or hugged the right edge of the fairway on your drive, you have to consider "laying up" on the second shot as well ... which is uphill.  You have to hit 2 "perfect" shots on this hole to leave yourself at 160-170 yard approach.  And because of the hazard that cuts into the fairway, it makes no difference which tees you play.  A perfect drive is always going to leave you at 370 -380 yards away from the hole with (usually) an overgrown hazard to carry, and an uphill shot.  I just think that is too much gimmick built into one hole.  A long par 5 is great, but make it wider so amateurs have a chance.  A par 5 that requires a 3 wood or hybrid off the tee is fine too - thus creating a guaranteed 3 shot hole - but make it a reasonable distance like 550 or something.  And at the very least, shave down the bushes growing out of the hazard.

TL;DR ... Fred Couples sucks. (he's supposedly the designer)

 

EDIT:  Apologies to Chriskzoo as I didn't read his whole post, yet basically said the exact same thing.  I guess we like the same courses!!

post #12 of 20

When i say premium on driving the ball, i mean being able to place the ball in the right side of the fairway. Example is Muirfield Country Club. Tiger hits his drive, he's on the right side of the fairway. Bunkers line the right side, and there is this huge tree sitting there. That's the design that drives me crazy. Bunkers protect the right side, why the hell do they put a tree there. I am not a fan of doubling down on obstacles.

post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by WUTiger View Post

One type of course that bothers me is some subdivision courses. My home course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, has OB left and right, or OB on one side and hazard on the other, on 13 holes. Four other holes have OB on one side, and the only non-OB hole is a par 3 crossing a lake. You really start feeling boxed in when hole after hole has no safe side.

 

 

I f**kin hate this.  There is only one course I've ever played on that I told myself I would never pay to play again.  It's similar to what you describe above.  It feels like they tried to cram as much course onto as little land as possible, and you end up with a lot of OB and hazards that get very close to target areas, as well as no safe bail-out areas on several holes.  

 

For example, on the 16th hole there is narrow fairway/landing area on a 335 yard par 4.  OB is along the entire left side of the hole.  A lateral water hazard starts about 150 yards off the tee and goes all the way up to the right side of the hole, and somewhat protects the front of the green, especially if the pin is on the right side.  There is a pot bunker on the left side of the fairway that you want to avoid, and it's about 175 out and 190 to safely carry.  Also, OB is about 10 yards off the back edge of the green (and the green raises up, so anything landing on the back takes a hard hop on a downslope towards the OB.

 

So, a medium iron can still reach the hazard right or the bunker.  A short iron leaves you with tough approach in which you can't miss the green too far left (OB), can't go long (OB), can't be short (hazard) unless you are short left, and can't go right (hazard).  Driving the green bring OB and hazard into play, and so does 3W and most long irons.  I really hate that hole.  There are a couple other examples of that on this course, which is why I hate it.

post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by saevel25 View Post

When i say premium on driving the ball, i mean being able to place the ball in the right side of the fairway. Example is Muirfield Country Club. Tiger hits his drive, he's on the right side of the fairway. Bunkers line the right side, and there is this huge tree sitting there. That's the design that drives me crazy. Bunkers protect the right side, why the hell do they put a tree there. I am not a fan of doubling down on obstacles.

Totally agree.

post #15 of 20

Man, I totally agree with the previous posts!!!  I enjoy variety, unique holes, variation in distances, using different clubs, risk / reward, long, short, hard, easy, and I like a signature hole.  I like it to be well thought out and not have ridiculous obstacles and enough variation in the different sets of tees to actually make a difference.  Having 4 sets of tees all of them 4 yards apart is worthless.

 

One thing I'll add that I personally really enjoy in a golf course is a course that is put onto the natural contours of the land versus a lot of "manufactured" contours.  Perhaps a lot of them ARE made, but appear to be natural as opposed to a lot of Pete Dye designs where you have obvious manufactured drop offs and mounds.  To me, the natural lay of the land courses are interesting and well thought out to make a course flow on the land, versus making the land suit the design.

 

I really enjoy courses that you can think your way around and employ different strategies and shots off the tee.  I don't really enjoy a course that is Driver and Wedge on all of the par 4s.  I like using a mix of 3 woods, irons, and Driver off of some tees.  My old home course in Virginia I birdied the par 5 third hole more with 3i, 6i, wedge than I ever did Driver or 3 wood off the tee.  That course, you literally used every club in your bag.

post #16 of 20

Agree with most everything above.  Things I don't like are course where there are multiple holes that are just...straight (I'm looking at you Brookside #1 at the Rose Bowl.)  I don't mind 200+ par 3s, even though I will bogey them 90% of the time, however I hate par 3s where I'm hitting a wood into the green, so anything over 220.  

 

Finally I hate courses where you can be penalized despite hitting a great drive.  Trump National in Palos Verdes is a great example. If I smoke a drive 270 down the middle, my ball should be in the middle of the damn fairway.  

post #17 of 20
I like using all of my clubs. The harder and more unfair the course is the the more likely ill be to pay and play it again. Only thing I can't stand is poor maitenance. If I miss a putt because I pulled it, fine, but if I missed it because the cups been getting stepped on for 3 days and they havnt changed it, not ok.
post #18 of 20

my biggest pet peeve is needless heather that just slows down play and bogs down the golf course.  not to mention it just brings an inordinate amount of luck into play since it is difficult to find your ball in there unless there are objects near by that let you gauge the depth of your shot. 

 

It just is artificially tricking up the golf course to produce higher scores.  Also, courses with far too many hazards that dont allow you to use your shotmaking ability/short game to recover.  For example, drive the ball into a hazard that is just waste high grass.  Or if there are are monster pine trees that have their branches on them all the way to the ground so that you are basically taking unplayables if you hit into them.  Oaks are much better since they still can give you a swing and if you can curve your ball a bit you can get back into play.

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