Golf Course Architecture - Issue 58 October 2019

59 rolling, architecture really comes to the fore, which is why the imaginative design of green surfaces and surrounds will become ever more important. Technology rules the skies, but architecture rules the earth. Intricately contoured putting greens and closely mown chipping areas working in tandem will always provide a fun and invigorating challenge.” American designer Jeff Brauer suggets a radical approach: just ignore the pros. “The tools to use? Feigning ignorance and ignoring that one per cent of golfers in favour of designing for the real golfers of the world. There are enough courses out there for those big guys. Give them a map to find them,” he says, at least semi-seriously. His compatriot Rick Phelps concurs. “Brauer has it right that we can basically ignore the one per cent because there are enough golf courses for them to seek the level of difficulty that suits them,” he says. “Part of the challenge is the difference between high swing speed, long hitters, and low handicap (highly skilled) players. If you include all of the ‘long-hitting’ group, you are probably talking about closer to 10 per cent of the male golfing population. I’ve seen plenty of guys who can hit the ball 300 yards regularly, but they can’t control it, so they are stuck in the 8-15 handicap zone. Still better than average, but far from the one per cent. “In any case, the other conundrum that has been around since before my time, is the theory that the ‘10 per cent’ group does at least 60 per cent of the word of mouth advertising for a given course. The 10 per centers are Throughout the history of golf architecture, the supreme challenge for any designer has been to produce a course that is an interesting challenge for a high-quality player, while still being fun and playable for a weak golfer. But unless you are designing a wow-factor course on a site like Cypress Point, the idea of a catering to both the top golfer and the beginner is pure myth. Please, ignore the marketing hype that says the course is easy for the high handicap golfer and challenging for low. It’s either or, which is it? I would prefer to describe the wow-factor course by saying: “For the skilled player, it’s challenging. For the average golfer, it’s a great place to lose balls and take loads of pictures of the amazing views.” I don’t care how far back you bring the tees, real scoring begins from the second shot onwards. If you are creating a golf course that is a complete challenge to a top golfer, honour it and create tight lies, fast and undulating greens, thick rough, tricky approaches and runoffs and deep bunkers with a distinct challenge – like a downslope to a green that slopes towards another bunker or a water hazard. But designing for the one per cent is the worst thing you can do for a successful business model. The one per cent usually play for free! In my neck of the woods, which is probably yours too, the course needs to create revenue and our designs need to cater to the average 24-handicap golfer who travels and pays for golf, hotels, shirts, drinks and eats. The one that at the end of the day leaves behind 1,000 buckaroos per round. I learned this from two of my mentors, Robert von Hagge and Gary Player, and since 2006 I have designed my courses with 210 metres from tee to first landing area, then I add back tees. This results in very happy members/resort players. Top players still enjoy it, but it’s not catered for them and we don’t pretend it is. We don’t need to challenge the high handicapper, they will challenge themselves. The majority of golfers in the world just want to break 100 on a Saturday morning and go for dinner with a smile on their face. There are three factors that create difficulty on the course: the nature of the site, the architecture and the maintenance setup. If your course is not managed to tour conditions 24/7 then it’s not catered to the championship golfer experience and if it is, then it doesn’t cater to high handicap. I prefer a little honesty and believe in defining the objectives from the start in order to hit the market right at the bullseye. The rest will be like the old saying: “If you’re friends with everyone, you’re doing something wrong”. “If you’re friends with everyone, you’re doing something wrong” Mexican architect Agustín Pizá says we are all missing the point