approach to design is land-based.
Land-based design means that the design of each hole is primarily
influenced by our first-hand experiences on the site, rather than relying
solely on ideas conceived while separated from the actual site experience.
The key to building on time and on budget lies in the quality of
preparation during the design process, before construction begins.
is achieved by spending the necessary amount of time on site, and in
consultation with the client and the client’s consultants to resolve
most of the issues related to the design and construction of the course
before construction begins.
characteristics of a property that can give tremendous character to a
course are there to be found, as long as we are receptive to them.
No maps, pictures, videos, or literature of or about the site can
adequately supplant the personal experience on the land.
Our approach is a reversal of a bad trend in design offices.
Many offices have eagerly pursued the marketing and brand name
frenzy to the point that this consumes more than half the office hours.
Left with little time for design, the design work has been passed
down to second and third level designers who do most of their creative
work on a client’s project in the office, rarely, if ever, seeing the
site. Many offices are preoccupied with their own packaging and
marketing, course rankings, and generating fame and notoriety for
themselves. For us,
land-based design allows us to leave behind this mass-market approach, and
open up our minds to the land dedicated for a golf course.
Land-based design begins and ends with a face-to-face encounter
with the land, with nature. In
this way, we are more willing to cooperate with nature, not impose a will
to make it conform.
The window of time for this
process is short because there are hard and fast schedules to meet for
permitting and construction commencement.
Putting aside precious time on the property is absolutely necessary
since we are ultimately the vehicles through which the vision of the
course will emerge. The
routing and design development phase is a bit like the birthing process;
it must have a beginning and evolve along a natural progression that is a
part of the mystery of creativity and creation.
We believe our fine-honed sensitivity and receptiveness to the
natural characteristics of the land best serve this process.
of Land-based Design
There are many practical
considerations that benefit the design of a golf course through our
land-based approach. Briefly
these are as follows:
Considerations of Land-based Design
Working the routing to the
site’s natural features puts much more emphasis on the strategic design,
making the course more challenging, interesting, and pleasurable for a
wide range of golfing abilities. Ideally, as a player improves
their physical and mental playing abilities, they find new ways to play
each hole, and discover new challenges and pleasures in the course.
In this way, a course that captures the organic spirit from deep
inside the land will never become outdated or boring.
The course will remain intriguing, mysterious, and enjoyable as the
player graduates to the next higher level and becomes more familiar with
the natural and manmade features that make the strategy of each hole.
Our design is all about
marrying the natural elements of the land with the strategy of the course.
While beauty is a critical element in a golf course, and manmade elements
detract from the quality of the golfing experience and should be disguised
or eliminated in the golfing experience, strategy is of the highest
concern for our course designs. Many
architects believe they are artists and showmen, and that their primary
goal is to create an artful production on the land.
We believe that the artfulness of art in golf course design is a
wide path that leads no where, that at the end there is no soul or
integrity in the design, and it is more of a general seduction of the
senses, a mass visual media. The
natural elements that make the land beautiful actually play a major role
in the strategy. Therefore, a
course strategy that cooperates with nature, enabling it to release its
power through its own particular beauty, rather than imposing an
artificial idea of beauty on the land will always be a beautiful golf
course. And, the golf course
will only get better as all traces (construction) of our having been there
The golf course must be a
positive use on the land, and it must be an exceptional experience for all
levels of players. There need
not be any compromises to the land or to the strategic experience of
playing the course. Every
course should be designed to challenge the very best players and to
encourage the least gifted or least experienced players.
Most of our courses have six sets of tees for all holes.
For the expert player, the course should provide considerable
distance from the championship and back tees.
Despite traditionalist’s claims, distance matters.
One interesting development in Florida, and it seems to be
spreading, is that players who have played very well over a number of
years are starting to see the effects of age on their game.
They also have developed a tremendous source of pride in their past
combination of these two factors, age and pride in their skills, has
resulted in the renaming of tees, the introduction of the “championship
tee” where it once was called the “back tee”.
The “back tee” is now designated where it once was the
“regular or member’s tee”. Now
the aging and gifted players who may be losing a little distance can make
up for this by moving up to the former regular tees, yet save some pride
by calling them the back tees. This
has compelled us to actually add an extra tee between what was once the
regular tee and the back tee. Excellent
players are getting away with playing from the former regular tees because
now they are designated the back tees, and this has a tremendous affect on
the design strategy for the course.
Ladies can play from any tees that match their skill level.
Two sets of tees have been specifically located for ladies based
upon research provided by Alice Dye, one of the preeminent designers and
players in the country. The
lesser-accomplished players will find a variety of teeing areas that make
the course play at a reasonable distance for their skill level.
At appropriate facilities, we include a set of junior tees that
play approximately 2,800 yards for the 18 holes, so that junior golfers
who have a minimum level of skill, at appropriate times during the day,
can enjoy the big course at a reasonable distance.
As their skills improve, as well as their understanding of the
game’s traditional etiquette, they can graduate to the next set of tees.
We survey the natural
elements and think how can an interesting hole be played over this
terrain, and how can the natural elements be incorporated into its
strategy. We survey the
land along the direct route between tee and green, not just along the
designated centerline of the doglegged hole.
This direct route has been referred to as the “line of charm”. Good players always check this route because it is the
shortest distance to the pin. Therefore,
on our courses we make most par fours and fives doglegged holes because
this allows for different avenues through which to play the hole depending
upon the amount of risk one is willingly to assume in hopes of achieving a
big reward. Doglegged holes
make for exciting strategy: a good player can chose different routes to
play a hole depending on whether they need to be conservative or
aggressive because of the circumstances of their match.
In addition to many doglegged holes, we try to make a routing plan
play different directions, and to have great variety in distances for all
par categories, meaning that there are short par 3, 4, and 5 holes,
ranging up to very long par 3, 4, and 5 holes.
All courses should give the
greatest amount of pleasure to the greatest number of players.
It can be said with great confidence that a course can provide a
strategic design of the highest order, can provide for the lesser player
to enjoy the course, and can respect the exceptional value of the natural
features of the land, and incorporate these features into the experience
of the course. We have
discovered that what is basic about the goodness of any course is its
strategy. Land-based design,
with a strong emphasis on the course strategy is a specific engagement
with the land that can produce a highly imaginative design.
Land based design has mass appeal.
It has been employed at all our courses that are open for play, and
people are having strong, positive reactions to the look and the strategy.
Considerations of Land-based Design
For our use in
creating a golf course, modern culture has equipped us with computer
software, large earthmoving equipment, and the opinions of golfers and
writers. Yet, the past
resource, nature, has been redefined by packaging and marketing, and
replaced by the term environmentally friendly, meaning that when making
something with mass appeal we downplay how we imposed our will on the
land. Land-based design
reestablishes nature as the primary resource in the creative design
The creative process
employed in designing a golf course should begin with a face-to-face
encounter with the land, with nature.
In this way, the architect is more willing to cooperate with
nature, not impose a will to make it conform.
This is a land-based architect.
Every project seems
vast or difficult in the beginning. Technology
makes almost anything possible; problems can be solved on paper, and with
money. Hard work on the land
and confronting the realities of these difficult problems are not
necessary because the architect can work a solution on paper without
leaving the office, and technology and money can implement the solution. This can make the land-based architect anxious when
confronted with difficult problems caused by wetlands, steep slopes,
contiguous forests, and awkward parcels caused by property lines. Given these difficult constraints can we find a
golf course on this land, or must we leave it to the big machines to
rearrange the land to make a golf course?
Why try too hard if we have the modern technology and wealth to
impose the kind of beauty that has mass appeal?
requires a specific engagement with Nature.
This engagement is a satisfying creative process.
All of the cultural pressures- technology, marketing, mass media,
public expectations- are suspended when the land-based architect straps on
the boots and goes on the land to become immersed in discovery and
land-based architect walks the land over and over.
The feeling of anxiety is replaced by exhilaration that comes from
the awareness of the subtle qualities of the land.
Through a slow process, slow when comparing three days walking the
land as compared to four hours in the office scratching on a base map, the
land-based architect discovers how the course strategy connects with the
physicality’s of nature, the terrain, plants, soil, drainage, wind and
Trusting the discovery
period, the period of walking the land looking for the natural golf holes,
is humbling and gratifying. Will
this approach yield a good golf course?
Where’s the give; where’s the take?
Is this approach relevant to the game?
With a kind of blind faith, the land-based architect ventures out
to find the energy in the land. Incredibly,
a day spent on the land seems like an hour.
Egotism, arrogance and desire for recognition give way to a wild
delight in the beauty and infinite space of the landscape.
The routing begins to work with the land.
It takes experience to
recognize the natural features of the land, and skill to use them in the
right way for the play of the game. More
importantly, it takes a willingness on the part of the designer to venture
out onto the land to meet nature face to face.
We spend several days walking the land in search of the best
routing plan for the golf course, and the best locations for the clubhouse
site, maintenance site, and practice facility.
The best routing for the course is judged by how well we implement
the following techniques in order to maintain the land’s integrity:
each golf hole design should require little earthmoving;
each hole should not adversely affect woodland connections;
each hole should accommodate the land’s natural drainage
- and each hole should incorporate the
land’s natural resources into the strategy and beauty of the hole;
The only way to meet these
criteria is through the first-hand experience gained by being on the land.
Meeting these criteria can have a major impact on the environment.
First, earth moving has the greatest impact on the natural
environment. A routing plan
developed through our land-based design will result in a magnificent
course requiring the least amount of earth disturbance.
If earth movement is confined to softening slopes in the playing
areas and enhancing the natural terrain then many environmental benefits
are gained. While we like to
keep the golf course mostly in the open parts of the land, holes that must
enter wooded areas will require removal of
fewer trees if there is little earth movement. This
means we have a greater opportunity to maintain large wooded areas, which
are more likely to provide core habitats for a greater number of species,
and large wooded areas protect aquifers and interconnected drainage
networks. Minimum earth
movement allows us to maintain, and use the land’s natural drainage
patterns. The natural
drainage patterns can be an important part of the strategic design and
beauty of the course, and can be incorporated into our large network of
drainage infrastructure. Good
drainage will reduce disease pressures by removing surface water from
fairways and greens. Reducing disease pressures reduces the need to use chemicals.
connections are critical to wildlife movement.
Disturbing these connections has a major impact on the environment.
A land-based routing plan attempts to preserve the existing
woodlands. Where disturbances
must occur, a land-based routing plan avoids splitting wooded areas into
smaller patches. Furthermore,
a land-based routing plan can incorporate existing patches of woodlands
into the golf course property, and over time these smaller patches can be
connected through the implementation of our landscape plans.
These connections can be made in part by using native trees
transplanted from the site.
Third, as mentioned,
reducing earth movement preserves the land’s natural drainage patterns.
A land-based routing plan also preserves the integrity of larger
drainage ways through the land like stream and river corridors.
Golf holes are setback from these corridors, and native buffers are
maintained between the primary
play areas of the course (tees, fairways, roughs, and greens), and stream
corridors. Substances such as
chemicals and fertilizers used for the proper maintenance of the primary
play areas can be diverted from entering a stream by proper grading, and
more effectively, by maintaining or enhancing a wide vegetated buffer that
consists of native materials in the form of grasses, shrubs and trees.
The vegetation provides a buffer against these substances entering
the stream by providing friction in the form of plant stems and litter,
root absorption, and an organic soil that absorbs dissolved substances.
Finally, by respecting the
natural elements such as terrain, drainage patterns, and woodlands, these
elements can become a part of the strategic design, and the beauty of the
course. A common thread
through all great golf courses is the exceptional qualities of the land on
which they lay. The land at
Pine Valley, Merion, Shinnecock, National, Cypress Point, Seminole and
many others is exceptional land. But
it does not always have to be land that is so dramatic to make a great
course. At our course,
HideOut Golf Club, in Naples, Florida, chief among the exceptional
qualities are the native sand, and the trees.
This seemed obvious to us and these elements were a major theme in
the design. These elements were carefully incorporated into the aesthetic
and strategic experience of the course.
Oddly, a consistent compliment of the course is that it is unlike
any other in Southwest Florida, that the whole presentation is unique.
The heavy handed approach that comes with trying to manufacturer a
look and a style, by moving massive amounts of earth makes a major
negative impact on the environment. At
HideOut, we successfully got back to something that was more truthful,
simple and straightforward, something you can get close to. This confirms that a land-based design approach of meeting
nature face to face, understanding what are the inherent, basic qualities
that make the land beautiful, then building a design around it, can strike
a chord in people’s soul. The
obvious is not always so obvious, it has to be pulled out and shown in a
way that people can appreciate. The
land-based architect discovers how the course strategy connects with the
physicality’s of nature, the terrain, plants, soil, drainage, wind and
light. As a result, the land is spared degradation, while much of
the area covered by our golf courses can be unmaintained, other than
periodic mowing of native grass areas that are in play to avoid players
repeatedly losing balls. Typically,
a golf course will preserve over 200 acres in open space, of which only 70
acres is actually under maintenance and irrigation for the play of the
Land-based Design and
the Neo-Classic Architecture Advocacy Group
thoughtful analysis has been made of the "classic" courses and
their architects. Sometimes, the analysis includes derogatory
comments such as today's architects not being able to shine the shoes of
the "old masters". This type of analysis over time has
actually created an us versus them mentality, causing advocates of the old
masters to gather into a loosely organized lobby group.
Rather than this group shining a light on the subject of classic
design, giving thought to the good and the bad, all toward the goal of
educating, they have fallen into the worst habits of an advocacy group
that sees only the good in their way of thinking, and only evil in others
that do not fall in line.
The oldest courses in the
British Isles were a response to the site's conditions. In, A
History of Golf, The Royal and Ancient Game, Robert Browning writes
that the early courses where “left much as nature made them”.
He goes on to write, “ The courses on the commons as a rule did
not call for the creation of any artificial hazards, because they offered
an ample variety of natural difficulties of their own.”
Later, some of the “old masters” copied holes from these
courses when designing their courses.
These copied courses have now become the sources for designing
stylish courses by the neo-classic advocates.
A style that is a few steps removed from the purest form of
land-based design employed at the oldest courses in the world, the
originals. Our land-based
design is primarily focused on the natural elements as well, but we do not
stop there, rather we use those elements as a means by which to improvise
a suitable design on the land. Our land-based design is not an impersonation of someone
else’s style, rather when practiced faithfully it is a singular organic
style, true to us. Our
design becomes our own improvisation with the land.
Improvisation comes from a process developed through lots of
practice being on the land and seeing.
Improvisation requires letting preconceived ideas, paradigms, and
the forces of our thought take a rest while we glide over the property,
and let the land tell its story. This
leads to a sort of detachment where the architect is the observer of the
action, and the action is greater than architect, that is the improvising
that goes on between the land and the architect.
The land-based architect must learn the melody of the place they
are walking, and how best to improvise on that melody.
The land-based architect must use their eyes to find what the land
demands, not what the fashion of the day or an “old master” demands.
Land-based design requires heavy thinking and concentration on what
is being observed when on the land. In
that way each part of the land can tell its unique story so that there is
never repetition in the design. Concentration
on what is at hand determines an architect’s ability to make a good hole
or a great hole.
Land-based design is
dynamic because it confronts reality in its specific engagement with the
land, making it a power to translate the design into some particular
language of its own that is modern, and it is a throw back to a time when
nature was a refuge, and links between the human and natural worlds would
spring from the land. Rather
than imposing on the land a copy of existing work, land-based design
generates ideas that spring from the natural land.
The golf holes emerge from the land rather than being forced on it. Land-based
design embodies the course with a majestic decorum that we never tire of
seeing. Land-based design
reinstalls reason and faith into the creative design process.