Architect's Notes

Exact line between success and failure

By August 7, 2017 No Comments

Hazards on golf courses add varying degrees of intimidation and resistance to scoring on a golf hole. One of the most impressive design elements Pete Dye brought to golf was the “exact line of success and failure.” By simply sharing the same edge or boundary between a hazard and a green or fairway, he married two completely opposing elements of golf course design.

The result of this technique has been anxious golfers waiting to see their ball land either successfully one inch to the good side of the exact line between success and failure, or unsuccessfully one inch to the bad side of the line.

When I’m routing a golf hole on paper or shaping a golf hole in the field, my first order of business is to create an interesting line of play that accentuates the topography I’m using. Next, I find ways to use that line as a border for design elements, and in as many areas as possible on both sides of the line.

The ultimate use of the exact line between success and failure is the 17th hole at the TPC. In this case, a ball either hits the island green in the air, or finds the water, there is no middle ground or gray area.

I have found over my design career that the further hazards are located from the preferred line of play, the more they penalize only poor players. Wrapping part of a green edge partially around a bunker seems to get everyone’s attention and focus.