Sunday, July 5 2020


What defines “Playability” for a golf course?

Update: June, 25/2017 - 09:00
Viet Nam News

by Robert Bicknell

I was just reading where The South Shore/Jackson Park Tiger Woods-designed golf course project expects to cater to a wide variety of players - juniors, elderly, avid players, not-so-avid players and people who simply suck at golf, by being more “playable”.

Hmm, a 7,354-yard, par-70 course is “more playable?”

Tiger Woods version of playable is most likely a lot different than what the average player considers playable.

I suppose many people have differing opinions on what exactly the definition of “playable” would be. Golf course architects have been losing their minds due to the continuing improvements in golf equipment, much of which have made some of the older courses almost obsolete.

Yes, there are courses which used to terrify players, but now couldn’t scare a toddler, so the architects have gone hard core to put teeth back into the courses and that causes problems on many fronts.

For example, in the old days, fairway bunkers had a minimal lip to them. You could still whack a 5-iron out of them with a chance of getting onto the green, but nowadays, there are fairway bunkers which only allow you to go ballistic with a wedge to escape them. Where is the fun and challenge in that?

Designers shouldn’t force golfers to play the course a certain way. There should be good risk vs reward options available. That’s where the fun is. There are some courses which almost force a player to hit an iron off the tee and use a 3-wood for a 2nd shot.

Sorry, that’s not “innovative”. That’s a poor design.

In the old days, a 7,000-yard course was a “monster” and only the truly long, or the truly insane played from the tips, but nowadays, designers are looking at designs over 7,400 yards as an average from the tips, just to increase yardages for the blue and white tees. Otherwise, the course becomes a pitch and putt for good players.

When my club owners asked me to make a plan for the additional new 9-holes, we thought long and hard and decided to go with a “Precision Course” instead. Some people refer to these types of courses as a “Par 3” or an “Executive” course.

Not this one. Trust me. This one will absolutely kill you if you don’t have a great short game.

Trang An Golf & Country Club’s new “Pine Course” measures 2,993 off the back tees and plays to a Par 54, which sounds easy until you see the place.

Carved through a pine forest, the course challenges you on every shot. We had over 20,000 pine trees on the site and cut down less than 10 per cent (and for every tree we cut, I planted three new ones somewhere else to ensure long term viability for the forest.

Length is not the issue – except for the 267-yard 16th hole (which plays 244 yards, Par 4 for the blue/white tees) and has four bunkers and a green surrounded by water.

When I thought about designing a course, I realized that the only part of the game which has not changed was “putting”. So, with that in mind, we designed the greens to be 700-800sq.m and with Augusta National style slope and speeds. No, we will not ramp them up to 16, but there will be times they are rolling at 12 or more. Oh, did I mention the 1,200sq.m green with two separate sets of tees, or the 18th hole island green?

Whoops. Silly me. I forgot.

The key to playing this course is “precision”, meaning you need to land the ball where you have a decent chance for a straight putt. Miss the zone and you’re probably looking at a 3-putt or worse.

The other good thing about this course is that most players in Viet Nam are not long hitters, but they have good short games, so this course levels the playing field a bit and allows for good competition (betting).

There are also lights installed for some night golf opportunities on weekends.

The first 9 holes of the Precision course is expected to open for VIPs and selected guests on July 1-2, and the club will open for limited bookings on the following weekend.

The Championship course will remain open as usual. — VNS





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