Steve Smyers, golf architect and elite player recounted a story told to him by Nick Faldo. Nick goes to meet with Ben Hogan to discuss course management, and Nick is well aware that Hogan would walk a course backwards before playing it, so he knew the best angles to approach the greens. Faldo would say to Hogan “but Mr. Hogan, in your time, agronomy was terrible, fairways shagging, turf was not irrigated, and balls were unpredictable, you had to find the best angles to run it up. Today, the fairways are perfect, and the ball spins. Modern pros don’t look for ways to run it up, they fly it to the center and might work it left or right into the pin”.
This begs the question, is there such thing as golf hole design strategy? If there is no point to getting the “right angle” why are holes designed with these time tested templates. Templates like, “you drive in next to the trouble, you have a better angle to the pin”.
You are probably saying, well no one reading this article is an elite player. That furthers the argument. If elite players don’t follow the strategy, and average players have no idea where the ball is going, what is the point of designing strategies?
I think you could make the case that strategies are not physical tactics, they are mental decisions. Yes, the shot from next to the hazard will be easier, but should you be trying to hit it next to the hazard? Should you be trying to hit it next to the hazard on all 14 driving holes? If you are playing in the member/guest, should you be trying to hit it next to the hazard 14 times a day, for all 3 days? Elite players have figured out that there is no way this will turn out well. Hole design strategy is always tugging at them, but it is the mental discipline to play the percentages that makes them so good. Maybe you’re a average player simply because you can’t assess the awful things the architect is tempting you to do. But then again…you didn’t come all this way to lay up.