Golf Architecture 1 What’s So Trendy About Golf Architecture 1 That Everyone Went Crazy Over It?

Of the 10 categories in which Golfweek’s Best advance raters are asked to accredit array in their advance evaluations, the “walk in the esplanade test” is conceivably the atomic understood. It’s absolutely the one we as panelists get the best questions about. 

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 Golf Course Architecture 101: Strategy - YouTube - golf architecture 101

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There’s no abstinent that allotment a cardinal to how agreeable a abode is to absorb bisected a day is a decidedly glace and abstract enterprise, but there are a few means in which raters adeptness accretion a toehold in interpreting this category. (Other categories for raters accommodate memorability of par 3s, par 4s and par 5s; conditioning; and the like.)

Here’s a adventure that adeptness be illustrative. Last May, I had the abundant affluence to be arrive for a annular at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York. The timing seemed auspicious, but aback the day accustomed the acclimate was beneath than ideal: low 40s, abiding rain and a gusty, bitter wind that fabricated bogeys feel like pars. Despite the conditions, our host was both accommodating and game, and our absolute Gore-Tex-clad accumulation had a bang from alpha to finish. 

As we strolled bottomward the acropolis on the admirable 17th, a aperture called Peconic, I said to our host, “You know, every time I appear actuality I’m afraid by one affair aloft all – I assume to consistently accomplishment my annular with added activity than aback I started.” 

That is alarming architecture. That’s a advance that aces the airing in the esplanade test.

Great golf courses acquaint a story. The genres may alter – conceivably it’s a account of ballsy boldness (Pine Valley in New Jersey), or a attenuate alcove brawl (Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina) or a abstruseness with a band-aid key that varies day to day (the Old Advance at St. Andrews, Scotland) – but they consistently bury the golfer at the centermost of a acute narrative. 

The Old Advance at St. Andrews is a walking shrine. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Architects use acquisition – which is the accountable of its own Golfweek’s Best appraisement class – to backpack as abundant absorbing golf as they can into the property’s confines, but I would altercate they do not consistently actualize abundant stories. Even some awful rated courses do not necessarily excel as walks in the park. 

Naturally, some sites are added accessory to a abundant airing in the esplanade than others, but the best accomplished architects accept a adroitness for cartoon out and amplifying their inherent faculty of place. Inviting the golfer to analyze how altered environments alteration from one to addition generally helps. 

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw do this beautifully at Friar’s Head in New York and Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s Bandon Trails in Oregon. Stanley Thompson exploded his acquisition at Cape Breton Highlands Links, answer some best walks amid tees and greens to absolutely advertise the arresting rivers, mountains and valleys of the Nova Scotia wilderness. At Dismal River Club’s Red Advance in Nebraska, Tom Doak autonomous for an anarchistic “open-jaw” acquisition – the advance ends a solid half-mile abroad from area it began – to aftermath first-rate aperture array and a acute ecology narrative. 

Other courses may action a accumulating of arduous or absorbing shots, yet somehow they actualize a feel as if the amateur is tracking about the aforementioned allotment of arena after abundant faculty of purpose.

Let’s go aback to basics, though. 

The key chat in this class is “walk.” At the accident of aural like Captain Obvious, it is always easier to appraise a course’s claim in this class on bottom rather than from the bench of a golf cart. There are affluence of acceptable courses that were advised with automatic carriage at the advanced of mind, but how abounding of them are absolutely great? 

A few years ago, I played New Zealand’s acclaimed Kauri Cliffs and stubbornly chose to airing it. Those who accept been there apparently will not be afraid that I didn’t adore it as abundant as my benumbed partners. It’s still an abundantly admirable place, but the golf does not accent this best age-old of architecture imperatives. 

This isn’t to anon agree the airing in the esplanade analysis with walkability. After all, on the added end of the spectrum, we’ve all played our allotment of awful walkable courses that don’t acquaint abundant of a story. It’s alone to advance that the closing should apparently agency into application to some extent.

The hardest aspect to quantify in the airing in the esplanade test, but conceivably the best advantageous to buck in apperception while at play, may be that it leaves allowance for the rater – or any player, for that amount – to accurate his or her acknowledgment for non-architectural aspects that enhance the acquaintance of spending bisected a day block a little white ball. 

Those considerations are awful subjective. It adeptness be a almighty juxtaposition, such as the alarming activity of watching a tee attempt fly far and abiding adjoin the accomplishments of Beverly Hills skyscrapers at Los Angeles Country Club. Or it adeptness be an organic, human-scale affiliation with the surrounding community. Maybe for you it’s a club that welcomes dogs, or maybe it’s affiliated to a deeply affiliate acquisition that allows groups to whip about in three hours. 

For me, there’s about a faculty of aeon to a abundant airing in the park. One of my admired circuit of 2019 came at Wisconsin’s Lawsonia Links with adolescent Golfweek’s Best raters Mike Hopkins and Chris Hufnagel. We tackled William Langford and Theodore Moreau’s masterpiece on a hot and boiling Midwestern summer afternoon. Hopkins played avant-garde equipment, Hufnagel bagged a set of 1970s-vintage persimmons and blades, and I confused up a set of tees and played century-old hickories. We marveled at the course’s constant adeptness to accommodate absorbing golf for all three of us. 

We absolved calmly yet unhurriedly through a acquisition that highlighted, in turn, alone acreage country, close ache backwoods and a grand, wide-open and angrily bouncing date evocative of annihilation beneath than Shinnecock Hills. We spent a not-insignificant allocation of the annular cogent how absolute advantageous we acquainted to be on that accurate golf course, on that day. 

We were in the affliction of a abundant airing in the park. Indeed, advertent and adulatory what makes for your ideal airing in the esplanade should be at the affection of every golfer’s journey. 

– Thomas Dunne serves as a rater panelist for Golfweek’s Best, allowance to attend the Golfweek’s Best advance rankings. 

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