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Design Thy Course for Good Amateurs, Equally Rewarding Different Skills

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


A few clients want tournament venues, some want fast play i.e. "Golf Factories." Most designs target talented amateurs playing in friendly or formal competition. In this group, there are many routes to success, shamelessly stereotyped as:

Long/Strong players who are wild and finesse-challenged*, but overpowering in length, and hazard-recovery strength.

Finesse players who possess moderate length and accuracy, who shape full shots and create recovery shots.

Consistent/Accurate players who avoid trouble and are without and don't need much length or finesse!

Some players possess all attributes, and there are more blends than at a trendy coffeehouse.* I strive to reward each trait, slightly favoring finesse because it's fun to watch** and accuracy, while de-emphasizing length, because it creates its own rewards.

I have intuitively estimated how different design features help or hinder the relative ability of each type of player to attack aggressively, avoid problems, and/or recover when finding trouble.

To achieve our basic goals, we simply include as many features as possible (given site conditions) that favor finesse and/or accuracy more often than those favoring length. As a result, a good design includes:

Length Variety, somewhat limiting truly long holes.

Strategic Emphasis, but including some heroic and precision holes.

Varying Shot Requirements, using:

Fairways varying in width, angle and contour.

Hazards guarding most target areas in a variety of ways and sides.

Predominantly flanking and pinching hazards, with fewer carry hazards.

Moderate and recoverable hazards, emphasizing creativity (like fairway-height chipping areas) and some non-recoverable hazards.

Greens with varying size, favoring small- and medium-size greens.

Greens with frontal openings.

Greens with moderate to prominent contouring.

*To my 2050 readers, I presume that coffee will be as necessary to daily life as you read this and perhaps BECAUSE you are reading this, but that paying $5.00 for cafe mocha instead of just adding hot chocolate for a fraction of the price has died mercifully. To clarify further, assuming 2% inflation, your trendy coffee would cost about $10.

** If I can't inject my own preferences, why be a golf course architect? For the record, my profession prevents me from playing enough golf to be a finesse player, so no one can claim I design for my own game!