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Here's the Second Question from Mr. U. Esgeay of New Jersey:

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


You mention that greens should be deeper for average players, even suggesting dimensions. I see many greens smaller and/or larger than this. Are there fixed rules for determining green size?

There are no fixed rules, only general guidelines for sizing greens. I believe that "form follows function" (unlike federal workers, who believe forms follow other forms) and there should usually be some relationship of green size to approach shot length.

It's an architectural axiom called "proportional difficulty," and its corollary - "long shot, big green, short shot, small green." The underlying premise is that a long shot is harder than a short one. A 200-yard shot 2 degrees offline misses the mark twice as far as a 100 yard shot!

Golf Architecture - like Landscape Architecture - is the art and science of arranging landscape features for anticipated human uses. Contrary to popular belief, architects want you to experience success, and size targets accordingly! Designs using data - rather than artistic intuition - allow "achievable challenge" (to use one a currently "politically correct" phrase - see below) to provide maximum golfing enjoyment.

USGA Slope Rating guides provide a good "Rule of Thumb" to size greens. I use design criteria for 20 handicappers for the main part of the green (15% of approach shot length for width, 22.5% of approach shot length for depth - estimating green size like a waitress tip), but create "premium" pin positions, sized to challenge scratch players (about 12% - a low tip - of approach shot length in width and depth) in tournament events.

However, I call any golf design formula - like the one above - or any architect who designs strictly, by such formulas, a "ROBOT," ("Rules - Often Broken - Of Thumb.") You will see this term again in this series!

I create different challenges with small greens for long shots, or large greens on short approaches, often with "internal contours" that make for smaller real targets. Off-size greens make approaches shot easier or harder than average, compensate and balance hole difficulty for an extraordinarily difficult or easy tee shots, and provide variety among similar length approach shots.

While the adage, "Rules are meant to be broken," applies to creating unique designs, its easy to overdo it! If you break design rules too often, eventually you get an unplayable golf course for the average player who "pays the freight" at most facilities!

Note to readers: As I mentioned in the Introduction, I find some language and topics in the "Golden Age" golf-design books hard to follow, because they are no longer topical. It occurs to me that I may have some readers 75 years in the future - probably kids looking for the most obscure writings of the early 21st Century on a scavenger hunt, and certain topics here may be confusing!

For my future readers, "politically correct" is a late 20th Century phrase indicating you should never say something, even and especially if true, that may offend the ultra-sensitive sensibilities of any special interest group trying to effect change in society. It is safest to say nothing at all.

"Achievable Challenge" is also a late 20th Century educational reform term, describing new school curriculae as making a broader cross-section of students in the U.S. feel better about their abilities. Many feel it means dramatically easier schoolwork, but it would be politically incorrect to say so.

I think teachers adapted much of the new curricula from golf. In the new math, students can now add up a column of numbers to about anything they want - and teachers still call it a correct answer, so they can feel good about themselves. Golfers have known about this for years.