Fairway design is is a very interesting part of golf course
architecture. I don't think it has the interest or intracacy
of green design, but as a weapon against the modern day player it
has increased and increasing importance.
So tithers doesn't think I'm picking on RMW again,
I'll only discuss KH and leave RMW as a topic for the reader.
A good starting point is #13. For years subsequent committees
fiddled with the right side of this hole. It was scalped. It was
grassed. The left side was ignored. Nobody seemed to notice that
the best way to play the hole was down the left hand side, even
into the trees.
Nowadays we have the traps down the left hand side of the hole.
I'm not convinced they are in quite the right place, and
equally I'm not convinced the execution is perfect, but it
messes with the players mind enough that they must make a
decision what club to hit off the tee. Even better the current
green makes the approach shot increasingly difficult once you get
inside about 80m
As an aside, there were suggestions to put a water hazard down
the right hand side of #4 once upon a time. The 60s and 70s
really were the dark ages of golf course design. I will be ever
grateful that I am living in today's renaissance (pun
Now turn our attention to #11. As usual I'll oversimplify to
make my point. The green is narrower at the front and runs
slightly front right to back left. The only interest on this
green is whether you can get on the green with your second, or
recover if you miss. It doesn't matter very much whether you
approach it from the right side of the fairway or the left. The
severity of the green surrounds mean that the length of the
approach shot is at the front of the player's mind.
Beyond #11, let's consider other holes where you really just
want to get on the green and two putt. (hint hint -- short par
What should the fairway be like? There should definitely be one
or more spots from which the green is unreachable (bunkers,
bracken, whatever). I think this is what the designers of the
centre bunker on 11 had in mind. Even better if there are some of
the seemingly irrelevant bunkers which only come into play if
you've stuffed up your tee shot. Better still if these are
visually attractive as the cross bunkers 50m short of the green
are at #11.
The fairway must create a preferred line off the tee (because the
green doesn't). In this sense #11 would be dreadful if it had
a 50m wide fairway with only a hint of trouble somewhere out
So we have a clash. Wide sweeping fairways are a winner, except
when there really isn't a preferred side to approach the
The solution requires quite some courage. An excellent resolution
is seen on KH#18. Those old enough will remember when the only
fairway bunker was perhaps 60m closer to the tee and this hole
effectively had no fairway bunkers. The green was basically round
and flat as were the surrounds. It typified the view that KH had
Now we have the same distance from tree line to tree line (the
key "splendour" factor), but all of a sudden we have a
hole with defences against the modern player.
When people throw terms like toothless or redundant at a
wonderful golf course, what has been done on #13 and #18 (#2, #6,
#12, #13 & #18) at KH is a beacon for others to follow.
I'll leave it to others to consider the implications of this
masterful work for courses located a little closer to the beach
than KH. Is constant updating sacreligious or essential? Are
these courses pristine or stagnant?