Monday, May 23, 2011

Minikahda Layout Eviscerated By National Media (1916)

While conducting research for the forthcoming book, "History of The Minikahda Club Golf Course," I spent a great deal of time on the 1916 U.S. Open held at Minikahda.

It was the furthest west the event had ever been and when Chick Evans walked off the final green as the champion, he became the first amateur to hoist the trophy.

The layout was a Tom Bendelow design that incorporated virtually all of the original nine holes designed by Willie Watson and Robert Foulis in 1899. Prior to the tournament, Minikahda was aware that the layout needed to be improved following play and had hired Donald Ross for the job. There is now way, however, the club could have expected the harsh criticism the design received following the tournament. It was considered too easy and lacking in length and strategy by players and writers. (Below is the article by Bunker Hill that appeared in The American Golfer magazine.)

Reading the denunciations, I wondered if there are any big name architects today who would stand for such disparagement of their work. I get the feeling that Pete Dye and the team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore would read the disapproving words and forget them. For the preponderance of the others, though, I could only imagine how their frail and sensitive egos would handle such legitimate criticism on a national level. (If you're an architect and you think I'm referring to you, then I probably am.)

American Golfer, Aug. 1916

By Bunker Hill

“I will not mention the name of the professional who said:

‘What’s the use of wasting time and money going to play in a national open on a course like Minikahda? Any man might win there. It isn’t any test of real golf, for it demands nothing in variety of shots or in knowledge of execution beyond the drive, mashie and putter. Or wait, -- I might add that the player has to have some ability in hitting a tee shot with the iron, on holes where wood is over long. I’m speaking truthfully,’ he went on, ‘when I say that had I personally gone on the course with no clubs other than a brassie, mashie and putter, and been as well acquainted with the layout as I was at the completion of the championship, I haven’t a doubt that my score would have been lower by many strokes. To state the case further, the course no not only was merely a drive, pitch and putt, taken all through, but it was anything but a test of putting. The Minikahda greens were of such surface texture that all a man had to do was bang the ball straight at the cup from any point and feel that if he hit it both hard and straight at the cup he stood a good chance of holing the ball. There was none of that delicacy of putting stroke which is demanded of the golfer on some of the leading eastern courses, and no disparagement of Mr. Evans’ victory is intended when I say that I will form my judgment of his reputed improvement in putting after he had demonstrated his effectiveness of his new style on some of the keen and undulating greens of the east, such as at the national open championship presumably will encounter at the Merion Cricket Club during the national amateur championship.

‘As for the professionals, I know of many, myself included, who would delight at the chance of playing for the open title next year on a course like the Myopia Hunt Club or the Brae-Burn Country Club. These are the courses where the golfer is put to the test not alone on his execution of the simpler shots, but on his ability to use all the clubs in his bag and know when, as well as how, to use each club. No man can play Myopia or Brae-Burn with a brassie, mashie and putter, yet hop to land a title in a representative championship field. Either there or at Brae-Burn, a man must (and I emphasize the must) get his distance with a wood, plus accuracy; he must be able to pick up a brassie for distance and proper direction; he must be able to play full iron shots, half irons, mashie and niblick; he must know how to play out of bunkers which are as tenacious of their hold on the ball as those to be found abroad; he must have the power of the wrists and the knowledge of applying it, to get anywhere out of the rough such as Myopia boasts and, he must have the delicate touch, coupled with innate putting sense, which will enable him to sink a goodly number of putts of ten feet and under on greens where the ball has to be tapped almost as lightly as walking on eggs without breaking them.”

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