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50

  Golf Course Architecture

OPINION

Innovation is the

name of the game

Shannon Fisher takes a look at how one golf architect is finding

new solutions to golf clubs’ problems

W

hen contemplating ‘innovation’

in golf, we often picture high-

tech golf club technology or

new golf balls created for longer

flight. From computer analysis of a basic swing

to a fully-simulated digital golf experience,

there are many state-of-the-art options for

players – but there are also many types of

innovation that frequently go unnoticed. These

technological advances are implemented well

before a player reaches the course, sometimes

as early as the design development and design

phases used by the golf architect.

ASGCA Board of Governors member

Lester George is well-known for creative

design solutions in his renovations and new

course designs. Throughout his 27 years as

a golf course architect, he has encountered

– and conquered – challenging conditions

on a wide range of sites. From adverse site

conditions to seemingly impossible design

requirements to political battles, monetary

limitations, and environmental regulations,

George has faced nearly any design test

imaginable. Perhaps the most dramatic

challenge presented to him was the discovery

of unexploded bombs buried under a golf

course. Each unique challenge requires the

resourceful, imaginative approach to design

that has proven invaluable to his clients.

“Lester sees things differently,” says Alan

Coshatt, long range planning chairman at

Vestavia Country Club in Birmingham,

Alabama. “Of all the course architects we

interviewed for our redesign, he was the only

one who looked beyond the obvious. The

first time he came here, he saw things no

one else had ever considered. Once Lester

developed the master plan for the course,

he used innovative visualisation tools to

help our membership understand what they

would see when the project was finished.”

An unsightly and ill-placed cart storage

building at Vestavia would have corrupted

George’s proposed golf course if left

standing. Rather than simply moving

the building, George got creative. “Lester

decided to move the cart storage facility

closer to the clubhouse, and he came up

with the idea of building it below ground,”

Coshatt adds. “This allows us to use the

roof of the building as a much-needed

outdoor hospitality venue. This both

streamlines golf operations and gives us the

opportunity for more revenue from events

at the outdoor venue!”

To help members envision what the new

facility would look like, George enlisted Scott

Malerbi of The Digital Realm, a Santa Rosa,

California-based 3D visualisation firm, to

convert his plans into a virtual reality video

model clearly demonstrating how the cart

storage facility and outdoor venue would

appear when complete.

“Scott took my drawings and created

a dramatic representation of them,” said

George. “The ability to visualizse the final

product was instrumental in helping the

membership understand my plans.” (That

video can be seen at

https://www.youtube

.

com/watch?v=c_vqOSReRf4.

)

Creating, redesigning, and expanding golf

practice facilities is a niche of George’s. For

the past four years, George has traveled the

country to conduct regional Boot Camps

for the Golf Range Association of America

(GRAA), an affiliate of

PGA Magazine

,

offering advice on short game loops, driving

ranges, short-game areas, chipping areas,

practice greens, computer modelling and

simulation, clinics, and nearly every aspect

of the game that can be addressed without

playing a full round of golf. His advice

to golf professionals in all areas of the

industry about ways to incorporate better

practice options into their facilities has

earned George the moniker ‘The Practice

Guru.’ Many consider his practice facility at

Kinloch Golf Club, which opened in 2001,

to be the best in the United States.

“Vision is

everything – both

in the imagination

and to the eye”