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Best Handicap To Most Appreciate Course Architecture?

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On another forum, they've got a topic called "Is 7-8 Handicap The Best Skill Level To Appreciate Golf Architecture?" (link)

So I thought I'd ask the question here. I haven't read that topic yet, but I think 7-8 might be a bit high. I don't think you have to be a scratch golfer to appreciate GCA. I think you have to be good enough to recognize what's being asked of you, good enough to be able to pull it off somewhat often, and good enough to appreciate the recovery options when you fail.

That's a guy who gets par on a lot of holes, while a 7-8 is only getting pars on about half. So, maybe a 3-4 handicap, or better. (But not so good that you're too focused on just playing for a score, like a Tour player, many of whom are NOT great at appreciating golf course architecture.)

What do you think?

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Yea, I think the lower the handicap the more a golfer will be able to appreciate the course. I also think they have the arsenal to play the course more for how it was designed.

Lets say a bunker forces a golfer to either lay back to 170, or if they hit a good driver they can get it to 150 from the green. A higher handicap golfer, even from the correct tee box might be left with a mid to long iron on a good tee shot. While a better player might have a short iron on a good tee shot. So even the architects risk/reward is not appreciated because the higher handicap golfer can't take advantage of it. .

 

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I haven't read the article yet either, but my thoughts on any golf course are typically

1. Viewing the course from all tee's - ability level for players
2. The lay of the land for which the designer had to work with in perspective to design
3. Playability for all golfers - difficulty and enjoyment

Accessing the course after playing
1. Thoughts after playing, challenge versus risk/reward features
2. Did the course make me play every club in my bag
3. Easy versus difficultly holes
4. And fairness in design or was there holes which were too tricked up
5. Design which may cause poor pace of play on a daily basis when course is filled with players

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I think a bogey golfer can also appreciate the GCA when on the good tee box for his skill level. He may not have enough skill to play the shoot that is asked all the time but may opt for laying out as his only option some of the time. There is also a difference between appreciate it and playing it as the GCA wants you to play it.

Edited by Benit0

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I think it is a sliding scale. The better you are the more you can appreciate the strategic element of good golf architecture. However, I think it's important to note that just because someone is better than someone else doesn't mean that they do appreciate good golf architecture more. I am a 21 (so yeah not good), but I have started developing a love of good golf architecture. For the better player, they likely see the value of protecting par more than I do, and therefore they may enjoy some of the strategic aspects of the game that challenge them to tempt hazards for a birdie opportunity, in which I am frankly just plain lucky to have a good opportunity at Birdie. However, I think good golf architecture takes into the account the average player (I think I qualify here or am at least in the ballpark) and thus I enjoy seeing strategic elements that allow me to make decisions to take on a bit more risk to maybe make a nice par over a routine bogey, but bringing double or triple well into play. 

While I agree with George Thomas that "Strategy is the soul of the game", there are other aspects of golf course architecture that players of all levels can enjoy. I enjoy seeing a course that is well thought out for drainage, has interesting green complexes that make short game shots interesting or perplexing, has variety of holes such as short/long or strategic/penal/heroic, and is visually aesthetic. 

I play with a few players that are better than me, and have played with a few golfers near the scratch level (below 5 handicaps) that really don't understand GCA and think that a good golf course is 18 holes of precision target golf. Anything else is too easy. While it is certainly their right to that opinion, I don't think that those course are representative of good GCA...and I think most "scholars" of GCA would agree with me. 

Wow long post...but in summary I think the better a player is, then the more potential that player has to enjoy and appreciate good GCA increases. However, the player may or may not make use of that potential. 

Edited by HJJ003

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I was a 7 in the Netherlands and it took me a lot of time to recognize how to play courses. Sometimes even on my homecourse, that I played a lot. When playing together with better players, they sometimes opened my eyes. So yes, I only recognize by making a lot of mistakes.

Now, two years later, I play in Spain of 10 on a very difficult course. It took me a year to handle the course the way it needs to be handled. I am just not good enough to hit the shots needed on this course. Course design by Ballesteros.

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12 minutes ago, Benit0 said:

There is also a difference between appreciate it and playing it as the GCA wants you to play it.

This is the point I was coming to make, more or less.

What does "appreciate" course architecture actually mean? If you mean going out, understanding what the designer wants you to do, and seeing the options for shots to play, I mean, I think anybody can do that. 

If you mean playing the course as the architect intended it, I think you have to be pretty damn good. I also think it depends on the course. I can play my local Doak course pretty close to how he intended it. I played Pinehurst #2 and got my ass kicked and didn't play anywhere close to how it was intended. So, something lower than a 5, possibly?

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Personally I think it has more to do with golf experience than handicap. I played Baltusrol twice - the first time when I was a relative newbie and the 2nd when I had been playing for many years.  I really couldn't understand the course the first time but the 2nd time I saw its greatness.

A little off topic but similar - when you play a course that is supposed to be special (let's use Whistling Straits for example), what tees would you play? I prefer a tees between 6200-6400 for a par 72 - if you are playing a course that is supposed to be long, do you play long tees (say 6600-6700) to get the long feel for the course or do you play where you are more comfortable and will enjoy the day better.  I struggle with this one because I want to appreciate the course for its design but I also want to enjoy my day and hitting long shots into every green doesn't thrill me.

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Just about any handicap may be able to appreciate GCA. But it may take a better hcp to recognize when GCA has gone above and beyond or done something unique be it merciful or penal. Now of course you could have a 25+hcp who is a GCA who very easily will be able to appreciate courses he/she plays from their perspective.

Edited by Vinsk

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It depends on what you mean by appreciate.

Watching people play challenging courses is more entertaining and anyone can appreciate the look of an attractive course. But playing on them is another story.

If I'm chasing the pill, give me a chunk of farm land with some decent turf, few trees and no water.

I'll leave the fancy courses to the guys that know something about it.

 

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Another question we could ask ourselves is does good GCA is judged based only on how well it's design for scratch player or does it take into account a wider range of handicap when designed. I agree that a very high handicapper (>20) usually take the longest club that they should take without thinking about course strategy but at some point, you start thinking ahead for the next shoot and then you realize the options given to you by the course. I like going back to a course and realize the new options given to you now that you carry it a little further and are more able to perform the shot you want to.

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I guess to answer the question, If I had to BIN the handicaps,

+2 thru 5 handicap probably has a higher percentage of people who appreciate CGA.

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56 minutes ago, gbogey said:

Personally I think it has more to do with golf experience than handicap. I played Baltusrol twice - the first time when I was a relative newbie and the 2nd when I had been playing for many years.  I really couldn't understand the course the first time but the 2nd time I saw its greatness.

A little off topic but similar - when you play a course that is supposed to be special (let's use Whistling Straits for example), what tees would you play? I prefer a tees between 6200-6400 for a par 72 - if you are playing a course that is supposed to be long, do you play long tees (say 6600-6700) to get the long feel for the course or do you play where you are more comfortable and will enjoy the day better.  I struggle with this one because I want to appreciate the course for its design but I also want to enjoy my day and hitting long shots into every green doesn't thrill me.

 

You hit the two important points. Experience, and tee choice.

Ideally you play a tee that fits your length so that you have to think through the choices the architect intended you to think through.

Experience wise, using myself as a bad example. When I played my best golf at a fairly low handicap, in hindsight I had literally no appreciation for course strategy my mindset was - SMASH DRIVER, TAKE DEAD AIM at pin on every single hole.

 

I would say that if you do appreciate course architecture, the fact that you are appreciating it probably means that you are thinking through your hole strategy which means that you are probably also shooting lower scores than someone who doesn't appreciate GCA.

Edited by jshots

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6 minutes ago, jshots said:

I would say that if you do appreciate course architecture, the fact that you are appreciating it probably means that you are thinking through your hole strategy which means that you are probably also shooting lower scores than someone who doesn't appreciate GCA.

Agree. I would say that as 7ish handicap I have a pretty good appreciation of approach shot strategy and thinking around the green, but tee shot strategy is sometimes lacking as I just want to find the fairway, or at least that's my game. So a lower handicap may have the game to better really think through a course.

As to experience, I had the opportunity to play 4 bucket list courses in 2 months when I had been playing about a year or so. Fortunately I've since had the chance to replay two of them, but I "got" the course much better after playing for 9 years than I did the first time.  The other 2 courses - can't tell you a ton about what made them special - was too green regardless of my game.

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I think there are also levels to the word "appreciate."  Many golfers can spot what the designer was trying to do and appreciate the design, but like others have stated, I think only the lower handicaps can truly appreciate playing the risk/reward layout. Or maybe it just gets appreciated from a different viewpoint/mindset across the varying handicaps. But I do think that more than just a low handicap can "appreciate" the GCA.

Edited by TN94z

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I'd say you have to be good enough to recognize where, and where not, to leave the ball.  If you understand that...you understand what is being asked of you...whether you appreciate it or not.  

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5 hours ago, gbogey said:

Personally I think it has more to do with golf experience than handicap. I played Baltusrol twice - the first time when I was a relative newbie and the 2nd when I had been playing for many years.  I really couldn't understand the course the first time but the 2nd time I saw its greatness.

I agree with this.  In my opinion, a good design is one that offers an appropriate challenge for a wide variety players, and each player can appreciate how well the architect has done that for himself.  In that way, the evaluation of a high-handicapper is just as valid as that of a really good player.  The more golf courses I see, and the more I read, I feel like I recognize design features and the reason the architect decided to use them in a specific spot.  

I think it can be difficult for a good player to really understand how the course design impacts a lesser player, or vice versa.  The more each player learns about design, and the more different designs the player experiences, the better that player is able to evaluate the quality of the design.  There is some validity to the idea that a lower handicap might be in a better spot to fully appreciate the design of a course, since most of us started out as poorer players, and may still remember some of the experiences from those earlier days.  Higher handicappers may not have the personal experience to understand how the course affects a substantially better player.  

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IDK, just off the top of my head, I would say the number associated with one's hndcp doesn't really matter. 

I think it depends more on the individual, and why they are out there playing in the first place. 

I have a double digit number, and when playing, I am always admiring the way a course looks. How it is set up. This especially on new to me courses. Heck, even when practicing, I will take the time check the course out. 

My wife is not a golfer, other than she can hit a decent ball every now and then....from the 150 marker.  She goes with me to drive the cart, and to take in the beauty of golf courses. She might give a course a 10 rating, but could care less what her score is. 

I once heard a pga player during an interview after winning a Masters. He was asked what he thought of the course's architecture. His answer was he had heard it was beautifully built course, that he was more concerned about his game. No, I don't remember who that golfer was. It was quite a while ago. 

I suppose the argument could be made that for the better player, the more they have to focus on their game vs  the better player has more time to just look around and smell the roses, because of their better game.  

No I am going to go with hndcp doesn't matter. It's the individual's mind set that matters, and how they approach their own game when playing. 

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