Friday, May 11, 2012


Donald Ross' plan for Essex' 12th hole (c. 1928)
illustrates the left-to-right angle of the green.
Click image to enlarge
In many respects, the finest golf architecture is about angles; and, there is perhaps no other course in the world that emphasizes angles as much as TPC Sawgrass, where THE PLAYERS Championship is being contested this weekend.

At Sawgrass, Pete Dye literally transformed an inhospitable swamp into one of the most crook-ridden layouts ever made. Not only is it extremely important to play to certain positions off many tees at Sawgrass to gain a favourable angle of approach to specific hole locations, many (if not most) fairways bend at some 280-290 yards off the tees requiring draws and fades simply to hold the short grass areas, without running through the fairway.

Imagine, too, without any natural topography to inspire the design, Mr. Dye created all of those holes at Sawgrass from a 'blank canvas' too. Love it or hate it, Sawgrass is a stroke of architectural genius. While watching THE PLAYERS Championship this weekend, notice how often (the best of the) television commentators talk about the necessity of shaping the ball off the tees and coming into so many greens from preferred angles relative to the day's hole locations - great stuff.

While playing Essex (in Windsor, Ontario) last weekend, I was again reminded of the cool effect the angle of Donald Ross' 12th green can have on the tee shot at this neat, nearly 100-year old par 3 hole. Built over dead flat ground, the hole measures about 190 yards from the back tees on the scorecard. But its elevated green is set at a distinct left-to-right angle (and fronted by bunkers) which makes left hole locations play much shorter than shots to a back-right flag. With the hole cut left-centre last Sunday, two low-handicap players in our group pulled their tee shots ever so slightly and, because of the aforementioned angle of the green, ended up in the back-left bunker. Without those slight pulls, those tee shots (probably) would have been 'perfect'.

Angles at holes like Essex' 12th, and so many at TPC Sawgrass make thoughtful consideration of lines of play, proper ball-striking and immaculate distance control absolutely essential to a golfer's arsenal.


  1. Well said Jeff. It's a bit extreme perhaps, but I think if the architect uses angles (around natural land formations, trees, and angling the green) well, there's no need for hazards. Okay, a few bunkers here and there.

  2. I like your way of thinking, Tony. Thanks.