Jerry Pate knows golf. He's got eight wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1976 U.S. Open, and he's an accomplished course designer. Throughout the season, he'll be stopping by Devil Ball to offer an inside-the-ropes look at the week's upcoming course. Today: Houston's Redstone Golf Club, site of the Shell Houston Open.
When routing a new golf course, balance is crucial to the ultimate success of the design. Balance refers to the routing of the holes that dictates a left-to-right shot, a right-to-left shot, or a straight shot and the equal distribution of those holes. The more evenly the balance in the routing, the greater the shot variety required from the player. Thus, a player who favors a particular shot pattern will not have an advantage.
The Redstone Golf Club has a routing of holes that is not perfectly balanced. Ten holes favor right-to-left tee shots, five favor left-to-right tee shots, and three favor straight shots. This imbalance in the routing tends to favor a golfer who naturally plays a right-to-left shot. This may not be a big deal for the professionals in the Shell Houston Open, although Paul Casey was able to take advantage as last year's champion at Redstone. However, the everyday player who is most likely to hit the ball left-to-right, will struggle on such a golf course. On many holes, the average player must start their left-to-right shot out over a water hazard and hope that it turns back toward land. If it does, the ball will be travelling across the angle of the fairway, not with it, making the fairway narrower and much harder to hit.
The greatest golf courses in the world are evenly balanced. One of my favorite courses, the National Golf Links of America, has a perfectly balanced routing. It is widely recognized as one of the top 10 golf courses in the country, and, is, in my opinion, the most fun to play. As for Redstone, look for the golfers who naturally hit the ball right-to-left to contend right through Sunday this week.
Jerry Pate has been designing golf courses for more than 30 years. His portfolio of work includes Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi, site of the 1999 United States Women's Open; Trump National Colt's Neck (formerly known as Shadow Isle) in New Jersey; Kiva Dunes on the Alabama Gulf Coast; and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in California. See more of his work at www.jerrypategolfdesign.com.)