It is not impossible to conceive of a course being laid out wholly and entirely free from bunkers or hazards of any sort or description, and yet furnishing good golf, provided always that the distance of each hole be properly arranged so as to call for one, two, or three good shots, as the case may be, to reach the green. Such a course, however, would lack that degree of interest which can only be supplied by the negotiation of difficulties, natural or artificial, which really form an integral part of the game - as well to reward good play as to penalize poor play. Thus we find that all the leading courses in the world are distinguished by possessing more or less hazards, according to the nature of the ground, and determined largely by the character of the play. Where, generally speaking, the standard of play is of a high order, it will be found that the growing development of the players is coincident with the development of the course; as the players improve the course is made more difficult. Especially is this true of the older links. Experience has shown where additional hazards are needed to keep pace with the advancement in the game, and there is usually a reason, and a good one too, for their appearance, although their projectors have had to fight hard for their adoption.
Speaking by and large, our courses here are not nearly so difficult, in respect of hazards, as those in Great Britain; nor, it may be added, has the game reached the same standard; and until we reach the approximate level of the one we can hardly hope to do so of the other.
A really good course, before it can be un-prejudicially pronounced as such, must abound in hazards - and good courses develop good players. Take St. Andrew's, for instance: in the absence of many of its hazards it could hardly be ranked as first class. I am speaking now of the old course. I know it savors of heresy to express such an opinion, but the cold fact remains that many of the holes are wofully weak in respect of distance and are only redeemed from absolute mediocrity by their attendant bunkers. I can only attribute the defect mentioned to the links having been originally laid out with reference to the old feather ball; likewise the presence of many bunkers which are now decidedly unfair. They may have been defensible in bygone days, before the introduction of the gutta ball, when certain of the holes which now call for a drive and a short approach formerly demanded two good shots.
So also with the bunkers, particularly on the fifth and twelfth holes, where a long tee shot straight for the hole will almost assuredly be trapped; and the same is true of a fine second after a good tee shot on the fourteenth. And there is absolutely nothing to indicate the existence even of these bunkers. You simply have to rely upon your knowledge of the course or act upon the advice of your caddie and play to either side. Yet, despite the manifest unfairness of these particular hazards - and others of lesser importance - there is a wonderful fascination in playing to avoid them, when you become more familiar with the course. Although not by any means an ideal links, scores of years of play have so hallowed the associations of every bunker that the mere suggestion of removing or changing any one of them would be regarded as rank sacrilege by its worshippers - sentiment that I can appreciate without wholly concurring in. It is only proper to add that the new course is so laid out as to render it practically free from any criticism.
On none of the foreign courses - that is, on none of the sea-side links - has Nature made it necessary to arrange the hazards of an artificial character on the same general lines as those in this country, and which, from Maine to Oregon, may be said to all bear the same family resemblance as to suggest a common origin. This is due partly to the physical configuration of the ground being somewhat different, partaking more of flat, unbroken stretches and a general freedom from dunes, and partly to an imperfect appreciation of the real needs of hazards and their refinements and artistic application in other than the regular stereotyped patterns, which tend largely to disfigure so many of our courses. They are coexistent with the era of terraced putting - greens and built - up trees. Usually they are represented by huge embankments thrown up transversely the full width of the course, resembling rifle pits, of uniform height throughout - hideous excreshazards cences on the fair face of Nature. There is a line of these fortifications confronting you from nearly every tee, ranging in. distance from 80 to 130 yards, and another line for the second shot, and so on, with little or no diversification throughout the round.
How much better and how infinitely more interesting it would make the game to vary these artificial creations at each hole, and how easy it would be to make them more picturesque and in keeping with the surroundings, and to have them so arranged as to make each hole present a new problem instead of possessing the same dreary uniformity now so characteristic. Let one hole be distinguished by a certain hazard for a sliced tee shot, another hazard for a pulled ball, and still another for a long second shot. Make the feature of another hole be a long carry from the tee, with a hazard guarding the green, so as to make imperative a well-executed approach with cut. Have another demand a fine second shot, and so on. In brief, so dispose the difficulties as to compel a player to extract the full value from each and every club in his bag during the round, and on one or two of the holes to play certain testing shots with such nicety and keen judgment as to make even the best player pause before attempting their execution.
Every hole should not be on parallel lines. It is a pleasing change to have a few laid out at obtuse angles, boomerang fashion, something like this:
One of the prime requisites of a hole of this nature is that it should be of such a length as to call for one or two good shots to reach the green. In the particular case under notice, the long, straight driver will perhaps essay to cut the corner on the left slightly, so as to make the second shot easier, particularly as a pot bunker or trap lies somewhat to the right of the direction to the hole, some forty yards from the green. The man who can control a pull will also reap an advantage. Both these shots, however, are fraught with more or less danger, which does not attach to the play of the straight driver, irrespective of length.
Other holes may be laid out with the elbow reversed. Single - shot holes, slightly around the corner to the left, or right, also call for excellent golf, and put a slight premium on scientific pulling or slicing, as the case may be. Very frequently the nature of the ground lends itself favorably to holes of this kind. But even if such is not the case, some of the regular holes on nearly every course can easily be so transposed by simply letting the grass grow on one side and correspondingly cutting it on the other.
Too much importance is attached to the putting in of bunkers across the entire width of the course, too often at just that distance that will catch a moderately played shot. This is not exactly right, in that it puts too great a premium on the game of the long - but often erratic - player and unduly punishes the shorter but more accurate player. Most hazards should be arranged so as to compel a man to drive both far and sure, and yet to give the weaker player a chance to avoid being bunkered provided he can place his ball wisely. There is no great penalty - if any, at times - inflicted on the swiper in the mere carrying of the regulation bunker, although he may have pulled or sliced the shot. Once over, the fair green is so wide and so free from side traps that he has little to fear, while the shorter player is compelled to play short, and thereby further handicap himself, or else run the almost certain chance of being bunkered. The better way would be to first have the distance of the hole right - that is, laid out with reference to its being reached in one, two, or three first-class shots, and then to so arrange the hazards as to catch the pulls and slices of the long player, with a long carry for the second shot. Don't trouble to put in so many traps for the short player; he has sufficient troubles of his own, and, with no mistake on either side, cannot possibly reach the green in the same number of strokes as the class man. The bunker previously noticed for the second shot will be so far away that he cannot get into it on his second, but will nevertheless have to negotiate it in some way on his third shot. Generally speaking, while we have not nearly enough bunkers, there is too much of what we do have. The material is there, but it is not scientifically applied. Let me endeavor to exemplify my meaning. Take, for instance, the regulation bunker for the tee shot. This almost invariably stretches across the entire width of the green. Instead of this I should put in one, irregularly outlined,
Hazards of about one-third the width across, leaving clear spaces on either side for the shorter player who cannot comfortably carry it, and from twenty to forty yards farther on- according to the distance of the first bunker from the tee - hazards of nearly equal size on either side of the course to catch a pulled or sliced ball, as the case may be, something after the following fashion:
Fig. I represents the bunker to be carried; Fig. 2 a trap for a sliced shot, or one off the proper line, and Fig. 3 a hazard for a pulled ball. A denotes the fair green between the side lines, and B the latter, representing long grass or other difficulties.
Again, in the case of a hole say from 300 to 360 yards, let there be two small bunkers, arranged thus:
The player carrying the first bunker (Fig. 4) would have the advantage of practically a clear and unobstructed approach to the green (Fig. 6); while the more timorously inclined, or shorter player, could play safely to the side, only, however, to be forced to negotiate the second bunker (Fig. 5) on his next shot.
Hazards arranged somewhat upon the lines indicated, rather than slavishly following the system adopted on the great majority of our courses, would, I think, make the game vastly more interesting, and more provocative of better golf all around.