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Mr. Carl Wallenda asks, ‘How do you balance the green types you described when answering Penn Tucker?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


The most important consideration is to design each green to fit its site. That's the easiest thing to do, and it almost always looks the best. And, if it doesn't work as an individual green, it won't work as part of a balanced collection of holes, will it?

That being said, it's obvious that a variety of green target types, shapes, sizes, contouring, approach areas, surrounding hazards, and backdrops usually makes for the most memorable golf course, and that we must consider the green as part of the entire golf course.

A routing may present three consecutive opportunities for small greens. Is it better to design three small greens, rather than force a big one into one site, simply for variety? Small greens will look most natural, but if one occurs on a long par-4, without accommodating poor shots, it won't be a great hole, either.

Golf course architecture is nothing if not an exercise in compromise.

I have learned to balance the sometimes conflicting design needs of natural needs, shot values and variety by using a circular design process that revisits my thoughts from all perspectives several times before making a final decision.

I start green design looking at what each site gives. Narrow sites suggest narrow greens; small sites suggest small greens; large sites suggest large greens; sites angling left suggest greens angling left, etc. So, natural features quickly suggest some design parameters.

But, I must quickly consider shot values, too. For example, while a site area suggests a big green, for a long hole I want a big, Sunday pin green (usually). If I have a large site for a short approach shot, I may favor a multi-target green, unless another similar hole cries out for an identical type of green.

In most cases, a few green sites very strongly call for a specific green type. Others have fewer natural features and offer some flexibility. I "plug in" those greens, strongly suggesting a particular design first. I design other greens around these, considering shot values and variety to make decisions. Where wind is a factor on an exposed ridge, I select those design concepts next, using the wind the best way possible – accepting different concepts on calmer valley holes, for instance.

I design holes as groups – usually the four par-5s; two short, four medium and four long par-4s; and the four par-3s. I like each to have a variety of greens – typically one or two Sunday/weekend pin greens, and one each precision, multi-target, and/or concept/conversation-piece green. This makes each hole distinct from others of similar length and par.

I revisit the concepts for good sequencing, in many forms. I tally how many of each green type I have used and, where possible, try to alternate the predominant Sunday pin greens approximately every other hole, interspersing a variety of the other types of greens so that golfers rarely play the same type of green on consecutive holes. Since my biggest preference is to fit the individual site, the final design doesn't usually end up that way, but it is a start.

Then, I visit the site again to visualize my ideas. After that, I put all the concepts in the drawer and don't look at them for a while. It's amazing how my perception changes each time I look at it freshly.

Staying fresh is the key to great design – and good writing. (I won't flatter myself by saying great writing.) Anyway, it's quitting time, so I am filing this in the drawer for review next week.

Oh, wait, I'm past deadline. Well, I hope Cybergolf likes it, because I'm sending it out right now.*

* This will be a good test of the editing staff there. If this has mistakes, then I know they don't read this stuff before posting it. That's good news for readers, because the next chapters could be REALLY interesting. See you then!

Editor’s Note: Au contraire Monsieur Brauer. We at Cybergolf always read your stuff before anybody else’s. After all, it’s rare to find such a combination of wit, insight and technical know-how in one package. Keep up the great writing.