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SG11118

Tree Removal at Classic Courses

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Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, etc.  It seems like clubs are deciding it is a good idea to remove trees in an attempt to gets back closer to the original design intent of the architect.  I'm not sure I am a fan.  These courses were not 7400 yards in the original design.  Design intents change with time.  I'd think the original designers would not have trouble with the use of high value trees to add to the challenge of playing their course.  Thoughts?

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13 minutes ago, SG11118 said:

Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, etc.  It seems like clubs are deciding it is a good idea to remove trees in an attempt to gets back closer to the original design intent of the architect.  I'm not sure I am a fan.  These courses were not 7400 yards in the original design.  Design intents change with time.  I'd think the original designers would not have trouble with the use of high value trees to add to the challenge of playing their course.  Thoughts?

I prefer it. I rather play courses that visually look similar to the original design. I don't think constricting the course with trees is the best way to increase difficulty.

One of my favorite courses is Brookside CC in Canton, Ohio. A Donald Ross design, and they took out a lot of trees. It opened up the course, making it visually a beautiful course. Before it was hitting down alleys.

The trees at Shinnecock Hills looked like they were never in play. I was just checking Google Earth's historical imagery.

Sometimes adding trees diverts the intent of how the course needs to be played. Augusta National is much more of a driver oriented golf course because they added trees, and less of an approach shot course. I am not sure Bobby Jones would like the changes.

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Interesting that you mention this, because I just saw a couple of tweets about this pop up in my timeline. For example:

I think tree removal is almost uniformly a good thing. Most classic courses were designed to be wider than they are today. Trees have narrowed it, making the course more difficult and not play as intended. In that picture above, you have the best angle to the green blocked out by those trees.

The other, more important thing to me, is that classic courses doing tree removal sets an example for other courses. I've played many courses that are not nearly as nice as a "classic course" that have wild, unmanageable trees. A lot of those trees overhang the fairway, making the fairway narrower and the hole more difficult. A lot of these trees have low branches that make recoveries, and sometimes finding your ball, impossible. Most courses were not meant to have trees like that and have just been left unmanaged. If Shinnecock taking out trees filters down, I'm all for it. It makes courses easier, which is a good thing.

I'm sure some people scoff at trees coming down and making courses easier. Remember that most golf is played by people who aren't very good. Making courses easier makes the game more fun for those people, and they're more likely to come back.

As an example of this, my home course recently took out about a dozen trees. These trees only came into play off the tee for average players. Removing the trees made the tee shots look easier and play easier for average players. They also opened up sight lines for better players to take more aggressive (and risky) tee shots. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures to show of this, but it was a great decision by the course. The course plays just as hard for good players, but slightly easier for average players. I have heard no one complain about this.

Sure, there's a time and place for trees. And recoveries from the trees can be really fun. But the vast majority of courses have not figured out that balance and are just letting their trees run wild.

Edited by DeadMan

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I am in agreement with @saevel25 on this one. Design intent is important, and I wish that more courses out there would be "restored" to their original intent. In most cases the addition of trees just eliminated more angles to the green, while also making the holes play more penal for the average golfer than originally intended. I play a lot of tree lined courses, so I am not against the trees...just not a fan of them changing the intent of the design with them. 

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Not so much from the perspective of "classic courses", but a lot of places could benefit from getting rid of trees. ... Simple fact is a lot of us just aren't that good. 

Lately, it seems that the ash borer has had more to do with tree removal at my area courses than any concept of design. Community GC in Dayton even more wide open than it was before.

Truly fairway optional. 

 

Edited by mcanadiens

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I guess we would need to get into these designers heads and find out .......

“was the course designed to be just as it was built or was maturing landscape part of the final intent.”

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Shinnecock pretty much clear cut any tree that was on their property.  Oakmont came pretty close to doing the same.  I'm all for providing options and sight-lines for players, and making a course playable without a bunch of inside knowledge, but it is very unlikely that more than 20% of the trees that these courses took down had a real affect on limiting options and sight lines.  The elimination of these trees may have actually made the courses tougher in that they were more affected by wind and less likely to have wayward balls stopped before they landed in the 2 feet high rough. 

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I disagree with you @SG11118. Oakmont is way, way better the way it is now than when it had the U.S. Open in, what, 1994?

Trees block the wind and provide for boring golf with limited recovery options.

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I agree with most, I think that retaining or restoring the sight lines and angles that were originally intended is generally a positive thing.  In addition, tree removal can improve turf conditions by opening up air circulation and sunlight.

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3 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

I agree with most, I think that retaining or restoring the sight lines and angles that were originally intended is generally a positive thing.  In addition, tree removal can improve turf conditions by opening up air circulation and sunlight.

I do like shade though. I would think keeping trees near tees may help with that on hot days.

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38 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

I do like shade though. I would think keeping trees near tees may help with that on hot days.

I agree, to an extent.  I've played on courses where too many trees stifle the grass growth on a few tees and greens.  I know for sure I've seen huge fans installed in some places to provide better air circulation.   I think that selective tree removal can open up air flow at least as effectively, perhaps more so, without affecting the playability of the hole at all.

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I'm all for it. Trees make it very difficult to recover when you hit your tee shot onto the wrong fairway :whistle:

On 6/19/2018 at 9:16 AM, SG11118 said:

These courses were not 7400 yards in the original design.

Players also hit the ball a lot shorter back when those courses were originally designed. Lengthening holes is part of bringing the course back to the intent of the original design.

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I just played Westchester CC. I had played it 15 years ago. They removed 1000 trees. The course was fabulous. Played with a 40 year member. He said the site lines are an improvement he didn't think possible. I have had chance to play a few other top spots too the past month. Tree removal is critical for the Classic courses. Air flow, Sun, site lines, grass growth, original playing conditions. It's just part of the care to keep the course more original...That and inputting further back tees.

I am reminded of the story about the kid and his Grandfather playing....and the pop says to the kid...ya know when I was your age I blew my drive right over that tree and got home in 2 on this par 5...The kid knocked it into the tree...Pop says ya know when I was your age that tree was 10 feet tall.....Ha

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I don't care about original intent or what the courses looked like 20 years ago. If they want to make changes, please do. I don't believe an original design has to be better than a redesign, just because it's how it first was made. If anything, today's architects got decades of experience with said course and know how they play better than the original architect.

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Don’t mind any improvements as long as the original shotmaking isn’t being changed to the current “ bomb and gouge” mentality.

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On 6/24/2018 at 8:12 PM, iacas said:

I disagree with you @SG11118. Oakmont is way, way better the way it is now than when it had the U.S. Open in, what, 1994?

Trees block the wind and provide for boring golf with limited recovery options.

I agree, When Henry Fownes bought the property it was a cattle farm! It was mostly open pasture with a few trees here and there to provide shade for the stock.

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If the original designer planted trees he envisioned tree lined fairway as the course matured. Wide open pastures are popular today because golfers, even modern pros, want to be able to bomb it anywhere and just keep playing on. But shotmaking is a big part of the game. Hit the right side of the fairway or pay the price of having to work the ball to score. I say less length, more trees.

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1 hour ago, tinker said:

If the original designer planted trees he envisioned tree lined fairway as the course matured. Wide open pastures are popular today because golfers, even modern pros, want to be able to bomb it anywhere and just keep playing on.

I don't think that's why they're popular. I think they're popular because:

  • They allow great sight-lines across several holes.
  • They allow wind to play a greater role.
  • They are better for turf conditions.
  • They require less maintenance and upkeep. I'm not just talking about leaf pickup, either.

Plus, many architects did not plant many trees originally. Several older architects didn't really even like them. They were often added by "beautification" committees and the like.

“Playing down a fairway bordered by straight lines of trees is not only inartistic but makes [for] tedious and uninteresting golf. Many green committees ruin one’s handiwork by planting trees like rows of soldiers along the borders of fairways.”—Alister MacKenzie

https://www.linksmagazine.com/the_treeless_trend/

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