Strolling around Sherwood on a cloudy, cool (gosh it never hit 70!) day, I took in some of the Target World Challenge. This is the first time in six years I've seen tournament play at Sherwood after never missing the 11 Shark Shootouts played there.
The late 80s Nicklaus-designed greens, while generally reflective of the dreadfully overdone stuff he built in that era, feature some interesting backslopes, tiers and other banked features that allow the player to play away from the flag to funnel a shot down to corner hole locations.
While not exactly a stellar example of architecture (and certainly not conditioned like it used to be), Sherwood has always been a fun spectator course thanks to the greens. Players have traditionally used the supporting features to work balls down to the hole, allowing the crowd to root balls down a slope and to see players occasionally show flashes of creativity.
Several hole locations today provided fine opportunities for the creative shotmaker to throw a ball to a safe spot away from the hole, and then let it find it's way toward the cup. And every time a player had the opportunity to use these features, they passed.
The most painful example came when Padraig Harrington missed it right of the par-5 fifth green in two, and then he attempted to lob it next to the hole. He ran his third shot right past the hole and off the green. If he had played ten yards right of the hole, a backstop would have slowed his ball down and then sent it toward the hole, leaving him a 10-footer for birdie.
Afterwords, I asked a veteran writer if the players just weren't as creative as they used to be, or if it's a lack of local knowledge. He believes the players are just used to playing shots straight at holes and having them hold. They don't know any other way of playing anymore.
So there you go architects. Are you hoping to separate shotmakers from the rest? Then create wing and peninsula hole locations that require the placement of a shot landing in a certain spot away from the hole.
Brian Silva suggested that he'd love to see more of this concept on TPC for a Links story, and his observation is looking wiser by the day.