This section is from the book "How To Play Golf", by Harry Vardon. Also available from Amazon: How To Play Golf.
IT is certain that, if you are going to play golf, you must have a course on which to play it, and before proceeding to consider any other phases of the game, we may reasonably devote some attention to this essential.
On the manner in which the holes are designed depends not only the pleasure of the golfer. The style of architecture influences very considerably the methods of the habitual user of the course, and either limits or expands his chances of improvement. Much, naturally, must be governed by local conditions, but there are certain features that can be introduced almost anywhere, and the introduction of which must, I am sure, make for the common good in tending to combine efficiency with enjoyment. I have mentioned in the foregoing chapter that I would offer to the golfer the incentive to try to effect a good carry from every tee. The reasons are, I hope, satisfactory. There is not a lot of credit attaching to the performance of making the ball run along the ground from the drives. It ought to cover most of the distance in the air. Since the arrival of the rubber-cored ball, the outstanding tendency has been to abandon cross-hazards and substitute bunkers and various other agents of retribution on the wings, with an occasional pot bunker towards the middle of the course. The consequence is that it pays very well to play the flat running shot; often it does not matter if you top the ball, so long as you keep straight. The top is sometimes more profitable than the cleanly-struck shot which goes slightly off the line.
I feel convinced that the way to restore the old standard of golf, the way to counteract some of the harm done by the rubber-core, is to induce golfers to realize that, in long shots, the ball ought to do most of its work by carry and not by scuttling along the ground. Everybody will be better off in the end for such an appreciation of the true element of the game, because everybody will know better from sheer necessity of practice how to get a ball into the air when executing iron shots. In short, I am appealing for a return to something - but not exactly - like the mode of hazard that prevailed when the gutty ball was in vogue. It has been called many hard names in its time. Truth to tell, the old type of inland bunker, which stretched across the course at right-angles to the fair way, was a very dull, unnatural-looking feature of the green. But it had its good points, which were capable of improvement, and the wave of feeling against it that swept over the land was matter for regret.
I may be assailed with the remark that, if we reinstate the cross-hazard, we shall at once revive the objections to it, chief of which was the fact that it had a sliding scale of difficulty, governed by the strength of the wind. Down wind, it was an easy carry; in the teeth of the gale, it was almost impossible. It may also have occurred to the reader that the carry, to be of any value at all as a restorer of the former kind of shot and to test the good player, would need to be a really long carry, whereupon the poorer players would be reduced to a state of misery. Their best shots would merely end in bunkers.
I have thought of these matters, and I cannot see that they offer insuperable difficulties. The plan here suggested could be put into practice in many places, if not everywhere. It is, in brief, to have the bunker running diagonally across the course, that part of the hazard which is farthest from the player when he stands on the teeing-ground being the direct line to the green. Or a chain of three or four fairly large, deep pot bunkers of different shapes stretching diagonally across the fairway is equally suitable. The point of this scheme is obvious. The player decides for himself first whether he will try to effect the carry at all, and next which line he will take. Under normal conditions, a first-class golfer would go for the farthest point, which, if he played the shot properly, would take him straight towards the hole. At the same time, he would open up the green for his second shot. Under this system of bunkering, the green should be long and narrow, so that a person who had taken other than the direct line for his drive would find an increase in the difficulties of the next stroke. The green would be at an awkward angle for him; the entrance to it would be slanting away from him. It would be spread out invitingly to the player who had made the perfect drive. Consequently, it would pay the inferior golfer to think carefully about his plan of action. He might not care to risk the long carry. He might prefer to pick out part of the hazard nearer to him as a safer carry for the drive. Or he might decide to play short of the far end of the hazard and trust to his second to take him over it, thus keeping the green well open. In any case, the person who could hit the longer and better tee shot would generally gain half a stroke - just about a fitting reward, I venture to think, for such superiority. This scheme is, in effect, the scheme which exists at Prince's Sandwich, which is the finest test of golf that I have ever sampled. Everybody is entitled to his opinion, but, personally, I never hope to play on a better course than Prince's Sandwich. And yet it is by no means a links suited only to plus and scratch men. On the contrary, it is immensely popular amongst the great army of handicap players who have tried it. The reason is, that no shots on it are impossible to the player who has mastered the rudiments of the game. The better golfer attempts the long carries; the worse golfer contents himself with the shorter ones. Everybody has the scope for employing all the proficiency that he possesses, and the crack does not always come so very well out of the ordeal since he is often tempted to try herculean feats, which are almost beyond his powers. But that, after all, is his own fault. The poorer player is subjected to equal enticement. It is a fine battle of wits as well as of power, and, under the conditions brought about by the rubber-cored ball, it is the best golf that I know.