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Ron W, of Topeka, Kansas, writes, ‘Do architects read their magazine course reviews?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


Most architects will tell you that reviews don't affect their designs, because:

• Design is site-specific, so if your design is what's best for a site, it will be good. What you did on the last course doesn't matter.

• Combating past criticisms is akin to generals "fighting the last war."

• Critics really don't know what goes into design, or what the owner wanted.

• Critics are out there to, well, criticize, so you can't let it bother you.

• Critics have a point of view, so you must take the review in context.*

They would say that, but they would also be lying! We all live and die with reviews. Good reviews please us. Bad ones infuriate us. Actually, few reviews are totally negative. Reviewers have ways to subtly pan a course** with double-entendre phrases, including:

• "You'll be lucky to enjoy this course." (It would depend on something besides design.)

• "I would like to enthusiastically recommend this course to you." (But I can't.)

• "Best of its kind." (The bad kind.)

• "Never seen anything like it." (And hope not to again.)

• "He designed a course like he's never designed before." (How do you mean that?)

• "Now, that's a golf course." (What kind?)

• "I had a hard time believing what I saw."

• "It redefines the meaning of a place to play golf."

• "It had it all" (tee markers, flags, ball washers, the works).

• "I don't usually write about clubhouses, but this one is the club's focal point."

• "It's always interesting to see a designer take chances."

• "I understand the architect turned over all responsibility on this job to an associate."

• "It proves you can build a golf course just about anywhere."

• "Years from now, golf course architecture students will visit this course just to study it."

Reviews do serve a purpose, and can affect both general design trends and specific architects. Golf design isn't immune from the popular culture mentality of looking for the "next big thing," and reviews can spur that.

One review affected my general design theory. TangleRidge in Grand Prairie, Texas, got favorable press, but one reviewer noted that all its par-3s were of medium length. I purposely did that, feeling that public players liked such holes. But that comment made me think about creating different length par-3 holes for variety. In newer designs, like my current renovation of Indian Creek in Carrolton, Texas, a similar public course, I have par-3 holes of 130, 180, 205 and 270 yards, which provide great variety.

The "illegal" full-driver 270-yard hole and the partial-wedge 130-yard hole, with a deep swale in the green, are memorable and different. Since these sit just two holes apart on the back nine, I doubt any golfer will forget them as they review their round.

So, I will live with reviews good and bad, and use them as one source to further my personal education in golf course design.***

* Some magazines exist to promote, others to create controversy, etc. Few have in-depth golf course design reviews.

** That's what I understand from other architects. Naturally, I’ve never had a bad review!

*** All I ask is they spell my name right, something a recent GOLF magazine review couldn't do. Who would name their kid "Keffrey"?