Tis the Season to be an Armchair Quarterback – How about for Golf Course Design
One of my favorite times of year is the fall season. When football season starts up, baseball playoffs are in full swing, and armchair quarterbacks come out in full force second-guessing every play and call.
Living among one of the prettiest fall golf areas in the country, Gaylord, Michigan, I am around some of the best golf course designs in the country, which got me thinking. What if I could call the plays on designing a golf course and what would that look like?
Having been a certified golf course architecture nut for over 20 years and playing many of the Top 100 courses, I have played my share of armchair quarterbacking with golf course designs always wondering what I would have done there.
When I get the call to design my first course, I am going full throwback to the old classics with some modern enhancements that incorporates fun for all levels while still making it challenging for the better players.
The days of 7,500 – 8,000 yard courses need to go away if we are ever going to attract future players in this game. My design will reflect just that.
The first thing I would do in my design is make sure the course is only on 150-200 acres at most making it very walk-able with low maintenance costs. My course would probably not have golf carts either. Get the caddie shack ready!
The length and par of the course would not stretch beyond 6,800 yards and a par 70/71. In case you did not know some of our greatest courses in the world (Crystal Downs, Cypress Point, Merion) do not play beyond 6,600 yards.
Other tee-box areas, which would not be defined, but rather mowed into the existing fairways, would include (6400-6500), (6000-6200) (5400-5600) (3600). Yes a set of Super Forward tees for first timers and kids who just want to enjoy the game.
The grass would be fescue throughout or a combination of fescue on tees and fairways with bent grass greens. If I don’t ever see another bent grass fairway where the ball just plugs and doesn’t roll, except on a few occasions where courses maintain it properly, I will be a happy golfer. Golf is designed to be played on the ground and fescue allows for fun and creative shots and making it easier for new players to enjoy the experience.
Hazards would be minimal with no water or forced carries. Bunkers would be few, maybe 50, but with cool looking ragged edges that look visually stunning. My fairways will be wide and bordered by tall wispy fescue, but where you would be able to find your ball and play from it. The fairways would also become narrower, as you get closer to the green placing a premium on approach shots. Greens will also be fun to putt with no Pintos or Elephants buried in them. Old school classic greens with subtle slopes and fall offs.
I also feel like architects don’t always pay attention to the sequence of holes and creating a variety of different shots when designing the par 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s. Often times, especially on modern courses you will find yourself hitting the same iron shot on 2 or 3 of the par 3’s, or same approaches into par 4’s, and par 5’s playing the same boring 3-shotters. If golf was meant to be played like that, then we would only need to carry 8 clubs versus 14.
On my course, players will use every club in the bag, regardless of how good you are. Below is a breakdown of how I would design each of the 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s.
Four par 3’s that include really long one requiring driver or 3-wood and one very short wedge hole. Every course should have a great short par 3: (170, 240, 130, 195).
Three par 5’s would offer a variety of shot options including one that is easily reachable in two by most and one that is not reachable by even the longest hitters: (610, 550, 505), where the 505 Par 5 could be switched to a Par 4 for a major golf event.
The par 4’s will offer a variety of lengths and include some great short holes: (378, 420, 455, 378, 405, 340, 465, 438, 485, 325, 448).
I am not suggesting that my course will be a Top 100 contender, but I can say that with the changing trends in golf course design today, it would get consideration, and be fun to play along the way. Now lets hope I get the phone call someday or win the Powerball.