The ultimate list for the discerning golfer

10 Great Architectural Crimes of the 20th Century
By Ran Morrissett
Ever since a trip to Scotland in 1981, Ran Morrissett has been hooked on the study of golf course architecture. With help from his brother, he started in 1999 to promote a frank and serious discourse on the subject.

Augusta National:
When Bob Jones founded the club, Oakmont and Pine Valley were the established titans in American golf. The design that MacKenzie came up with was truly revolutionary, with its apparent lack of hazards. Please rename it the Masters Course, as MacKenzie’s startlingly original design of wide fairways and less than 30 bunkers has devolved into a course with rough and ever narrowing treed corridors. In
short, it has become a straightforward parkland course. Translation: yawn.

George Thomas:
The mistreatment of his courses in Southern California—the hatchet jobs at Bel-Air, LACC North and Riviera. It is alarming that more excellent alternate shot holes, like the 11th and 17th at Bel-Air and the 8th at Riviera, have been lost or wrecked than have been built since. Why should one of the three or four greatest architects of all time have his best work so mistreated?

Oakland Hills:
The pinching of the fairways in the hitting area and the frontal bunkers spelled the end of options and the ground game for at least
40 years, while promoting a boring type of "championship" golf. Also, the work set the horrible precedent for future changes to other classic courses including Oak Hill, Inverness and Scioto.

Decades of neglect at Yale:
Ranked No. 29 in the world in 1939, Yale Golf Club now does not even
rank among the top five courses in the golf-weak state of Connecticut.
The bunker work done in the last several years shows either a lack of understanding of Seth Raynor’s work or a lack of ability—or both.

No. 12 at Garden City:

In an ideal world, an architect would resist when a club wants to destroy a unique hole that has good—though rarely seen—golfing qualities. However, in the real world, architects need to make
a living too, so it is hard to blame Robert Trent Jones, Sr., for accepting a project at prestigious Garden City on Long Island. However, he can be held responsible for coming up with, first, a bad hole and, second, a poorly conceived hole that never looked like it belonged with the other 17 on the course.

Royal Liverpool (Hoylake):
Royal Liverpool should have shown better judgment and left well enough alone—but instead it wiped away the distinctive playing attributes of the once feared 7th and 17th holes at Hoylake, the out of bounds hard left and right of each respective green. Tom Simpson’s love of the course was based largely on his belief that out of bounds is the truest test of a golfer’s mettle, and his love of the course would now, no doubt, be tempered.

Pinehurst :
Sandy soil is the one common denominator among 90 percent of the world’s top 30 courses. In addition to the courses at Pinehurst Country Club, Ross took full advantage and built numerous engaging courses on such soil— like Pine Needles, Mid Pines and Southern Pines. However, since Ross’s death in 1949, architects have squandered the advantage, building little that is special. An example is Fazio’s expensive makeover of Ross’s No. 4 course at Pinehurst, featuring countless small pits for bunkers which the locals refer to as Fazio’s tribute to Rees Jones. How could course design have gone so awry, given that a man with a team of mules and scrap pans gave us a how-to blueprint decades ago?

Pebble Beach:
Of the 10 greatest courses in the world, Pebble Beach in the 1930s also rivaled Royal Melbourne West as the most handsomely bunkered. Today, Egan’s imaginative imitation sand dunes are long gone. The course is left with obviously man-made, formalized bunkers instead—a very poor substitute, especially with Cypress Point just down the road. And yet no one seems to care. Equally bad is the way the 12th and 17th greens have been allowed to shrink to the point where both of these one shotters on the back are now hit and hope shots in any kind of wind. The new owners should make a concerted effort to review the course as it was in the 1930s, via aerials and other photographic evidence, and bring back as many of Egan’s features as possible.

The Medalist:
The best type of golf committee is a committee of one, as clubs like Pine Valley, The Golf Club and Oakmont have shown in past years. Initially, Pete Dye gave founder Greg Norman a superb low profile course with some of the best medium sized greens built in modern times. In its scrubby natural state, with its ground hugging features, it was a thing of true beauty and in many ways as original as the more heralded TPC Sawgrass. Unfortunately, many of the original members were active golf professionals, fixated with the card-and-pencil mentality. Ten years later, after listening to whining about the course being too tough, Norman has shifted his view of what he wants it to be and his persistent tinkering has watered down Dye’s work. Whereas the 1st and 6th greens were once glued to the ground, they are now elevated four feet and blandly bunkered front left and right a la the dark days of aerial golf design in the 1960s. The 8th green is now bulkheaded and would fit in on countless other modern courses—the original beach bunkering was more imaginative and natural. Worst of all are the changes to No. 18. What was once a par-4 where the golfer hooded a 3-iron under the wind to an immense, rolling home green tied into the practice putting surface, now is a par-5 right out of Myrtle Beach with huge mounds left and a silly water feature right. It rivals No. 18 at Whistling Straits as a horrible finishing hole. But Dye can at least live with the fact that he is solely responsible for the one at Whistling Straits.

The Stimpmeter:
A countless number of some of the wildest greens in the U.S. have been "softened"—i.e. their character stripped away—in an effort to accommodate speeds of 11 and higher on the Stimpmeter, particularly in the northeast at neat designs like Herbert Strong’s work at Engineers Country Club on Long Island. Rather than chase pace, why not encourage character?

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