Golf is unlike any other sport; played on an inconsistent surface, with all sorts of vagaries and ‘luck,’ involved together with the premise that all players will play fair and hold themselves accountable to the rules of the sport. Golf has amused man for over half a millennia. Much has been written about the philosophy of the game, its players and the courses it is played over.
Our philosophy as Golf Designers subtly shifts; it is never completely static, always adjusting to our current thinking and continued understanding of the game and what makes it popular. The foundation of our philosophy however, has never changed. How can we create a course to be as natural as possible, as seamless as possible, as sustainable as possible? In a recent article, David McLay Kidd likened it to birthing a child for adoption. When we give birth, but Mother Nature adopts, how can we make sure the new mother accepts the child and raises it as her own? It cannot be done when the course starts off at odds with nature herself!
A golf course offers modern man the opportunity to explore his environment, experience nature first hand and interact with friends in a pursuit where competitors congratulate rather than berate one another. How can we, as golf designers, do all we can to promote these interactions?
There is an overarching philosophy, but also a project specific philosophy that develops into the unique identity of each course. We work hard to develop the philosophy or style unique to each project. We suggest that it is hard to look at our projects one against another and easily identify similarity, just as it would be difficult to see similarity in two differing landscape types.
Where the similarity in golf design might show itself to the aficionado may be in the strategic philosophy we favor. Fun golf exists for the average golfer where choices exist. A narrow fairway littered with hazards, offering a single strategy of play might be thrilling for the low handicapper, but not so appealing for everyone else. To go yet further, the hazards on a golf hole should not punish the average golfer trying to make his par or bogey, but in fact, guard the hole from the attacking golfer attempting to make birdie or better. Many years ago a golf professional complained to David that when playing with an amateur, he was frustrated that his ‘good shots’ kept finding bunkers, while his playing partner kept hitting fairways. It was lost on this golf pro that Bandon Dunes allows bogey play, but defends with deep pot bunkers close to where the attacking player wants to be.
It seems to us that through the creation of courses during the past 20 years, a great course is defined by creative strategy and designed tight lines of attack, juxtaposed with generous fairways and green surrounds. Finding a wayward ball should be probable. This is often how golf courses present themselves in Scotland. The great Links have benign rough (most of the time) and a lot of space to miss, but not much to make birdies.