26 | By Design THE SANDHILLS CLUB The art of routing Golf course architect Richard Mandell, ASGCA, talks to By Design about a concept course project M ost golf enthusiasts will have found themselves, at some point, staring from their car window at a stretch of land by the roadside, and imagining the holes that could be laid out there. Richard Mandell, ASGCA, was so intrigued by the possibilities of one such site, that he went a big step further: exploring the land, getting full topographical data, conceiving a full design and creating a routing map and hole visualizations. Since the start of 2020, he has been releasing details of each hole of this concept course, The Sandhills Club, on social media. We spoke with him to find out more. What prompted you to develop this concept course? I think many people take for granted the art of the golf course routing and how the best golf holes are the ones whose inherent strategy comes out of the ground itself. The topography of a hole should be the determining factor in how the hole should be approached. Routing from high point-to-high point, utilizing angles of attack, usually reveals natural hazards along the ground to challenge the golfer. I don’t want to dictate ‘how it should be played’ because I don’t really believe the architect should dictate specific paths from tee-to- green. Rather, I prefer to lay things out and let the golfer figure it out. The strategy should be there and, if done well, there is more than one answer from tee-to-green. That is what strategy is all about. I came across some ground a few miles outside of Pinehurst that seemed interesting. One day I decided to walk the site and was intrigued by the variety of the ground. I asked Jim Ryan in my office to find the topo of the site so I could take a closer look. Once I did, I started routing golf holes. Each hole begat the following hole, all of which were determined based solely on the topography. It was a very organic, fast-moving, and free-flowing process for me, and I was amazed at how each hole fit so perfectly in the ground. Tell us more about that site The routing is based on an actual piece of property not far from the office. I walked the property and we covered the whole place. It never stood out with dramatic views or anything like that, but it did have some great roll to it. As much as we all love the mythology of walking a site and ‘seeing the holes unfold before our eyes,’ it really doesn’t happen like that. What really happens is you walk a site, become giddy about some very interesting landforms, visualize a bunch of golf holes that may or may not work together, and then find the need to process it from overhead, unless you have the topo map with you. On our first visit over the fence, we did not have any topo. I had a good grip on the property from our visit and how it looked on paper, so the routing just flowed from there. Upon my return visit with a routing in hand, I fell in love with what I routed. What has it been like to prepare a design without usual constraints, like land ownership, budget, environmental and client demands? The actual constraints of the site are what makes this exercise a challenge.