Golf Course Architecture: Issue 55 - January 2019

41 of puzzles for players to solve. You’d never lose a ball, unless stolen by some passing rodent. But would there be the essential aspect of challenge? Golf is, inherently, a hard game, and people grow to love it because (at least in part) of its challenge. Surely such a course would be lacking in challenge? Having established then that width is good, but there must be a point at which more width stops being better, we are in a position to analyse the question in more detail, and perhaps come to some conclusions about how much width is needed. This, essentially, is the process which golf architect David McLay Kidd has famously been through in recent years. Having created a number of extremely difficult, though spectacular, courses, Kidd re-emerged a few years ago as golf’s Apostle of Fun. At Guacalito de la Isla in Nicaragua and Gamble Sands in Washington state in America’s Pacific Northwest, Kidd built courses that were super-wide and designed to ensure that as many golfers as possible came off the eighteenth hole with a smile on their faces and the same ball in their pocket as they started the round with. And then, at the Sand Valley resort in Wisconsin, he built Mammoth Dunes. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s original Sand Valley course was big and wide, to the extent that I have related here before a conversation with Coore in which the architect wondered whether courses were getting too big, and about the message that such courses sent out to the rest of the industry. Gil Hanse’s Streamsong Black, built around the same time, is another simply enormous course, where an architect, given a lot of room, has built on a scale scarcely seen before. But Mammoth Dunes was… well it was bigger. The dunes are pretty mammoth, but so is the scale of the golf course itself. It is also, we should note, a triumph; in holes like the seventh and ninth, Kidd and team built on a vast scale, but created holes that no-one who plays them will ever forget. The golf development trend, dating back to Sand Hills, has been to look ever further from ‘civilisation’ – or perhaps more fundamentally, markets – to find great sites for golf. Through Sand Valley, Bandon, Prairie Club, Sutton Bay, Cape Wickham and their like we have seen today’s architects able to display their talents on sites that offered natural suitability for golf, and, unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a string of very fine courses. Typically, by historical standards, very fine, very wide courses. There are two reasons for this. One is that width, as we already established, is good. Two is even more basic. In these remote locations, land is typically cheap, and therefore width is affordable. It would take a deep pocketed developer to ask David McLay Kidd to build a second Gamble Sands in the Hamptons. But, of course, what is successful and cool inevitably has an influence. It is abundantly true that for most golf architects, on most pieces of Harry Colt’s first design, Rye, has been much changed but little extended over the years. Its main defences are the wind and its difficult greens Photo: David Cannon

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