Golf News for Monday, July 29, 2013 | Books

Putting a Little Spin on It, The Design's the Thing by Mark Leslie

SEATTLE, Wash. -- In the world of golf, its architects are the true artists, the people who mold 150 acres of woods, pastures — and sometimes lava sites — into the playing fields for millions of sportsmen. In the first volume of Putting a Little Spin on It, newly released as an eBook for Kindles and Nooks, long-time golf writer Mark Leslie gleans the best from 25 years of interviews with the cream of the architects crop.

"I've been blessed to be able to meet and interview the best golf course designers in the world," said Leslie. "People with the class of Arnold Palmer and Gene Sarazen, the wit of Patty Berg and Jeff Brauer, the downright 'good guyness' of Ben Crenshaw and Jay Morrish, the earthiness and straightforwardness of Bob Cupp and the late Ed Seay, the creative genius of Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and, well, scores of their colleagues."

While this first volume, The Design's the Thing!, conveys the reflections of golf's designers, the upcoming second volume will allow golf course superintendents and other turfgrass experts to tell their side of the industry.

Leslie, the founding editor of Golf Course News (now Golf Industry) and contributor to numerous golf trade and consumer publications, added, "I thought it was time to put together a wide range of insights from them — many of which have never been published before."

Little is off-limits in Putting a Little Spin on It: The Design's the Thing!

A few tidbits:
• "You can play in a 400-yard room with wooden walls, floor and ceiling straight away with a washtub at the end and somebody's going to make a 6." — Ed Seay, the late president of Arnold Palmer Course Design

• "The guy who pays the freight [plays the course every day] can't play these hard courses that have been built the last few years. The deep traps and gullies, the 175-yard carries over canyons scare him to death." — Sam Snead

• "There are a lot of great holes on the Stadium Course at PGA West. It's a great course. But ask yourself, 'How would I like to play the Road Hole [at St. Andrews] 18 times in a round of golf?'" — Brit Clive Clark, amateur golfing great and one-time Architect of the Year in Europe.

• "Anybody can lop off an arm, but these guys [golf course shapers] can do delicate facial stuff." — architect Lester George

• "Playing tournament golf is a wisp-of-the-will existence. When you win a tournament, it is soon forgotten by the general public. Whereas when a golf course is finished and is being played, it is there for a long, long time and is in living memory for a long time." — Tour great and architect Tom Weiskopf

• "Minimalism is a movement in art. Unless it is very strong and well executed, there is a yawning emptiness to a golf course designed with minimalism as a goal—somewhat like a stripped-down Chevrolet. By the same token, I think the excesses of the 1980s, which required 14 men on Flymos to maintain the bunker slopes, are on their way out." — the late Desmond Muirhead

• "I think what happened for awhile was that the frame became more important than the painting. And now we're getting back to making sure the painting is what we're designing." — Rees Jones

• "North American golf tends to be played, like yard darts, through the air. You hit it from spot to spot." — architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan

• "I avoid sharp doglegs in only two situations: where there are trees bordering the fairway, and where there aren't!" — architect Jeff Brauer

• "I could never rate [Donald] Ross and [A.W.] Tillinghast over [Alister] Mackenzie and [C.B.] Macdonald. Can you do a composite?" — Ben Crenshaw, when asked who he would hire to design a course

• "I get a little ornery when people speak of the great work Mackenzie and Ross did. They had the pick of a candy store!" — architect Robert von Hagge

"Pete [Dye's] saddest day is the day he has to grass the golf hole." — Bobby Weed

"Take Cypress Point off that property and put it somewhere else, it's just another golf course." — Jack Nicklaus

Volume Two, The Grooming's the Thing!, will acknowledge the importance of course architects, but addresses the question, Where would they be without the men and women who groom these playing fields?

Leslie will reveal hundreds of insights, tips, buffs and rebuffs from golf course superintendents and other turfgrass experts in all points of the country — from Tim Hiers in Florida to Ted Horton in California, from USGA Green Section National Director Jim Snow and his colleagues to such university luminaries as Drs. Joe Vargas, James Beard and Frank Rossi.

Leslie, a journalist since 1970, has won national awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. He resides in Monmouth, Maine.

Mark Leslie
T. (207) 312-4495