I’ve often wondered what the magic behind the world’s most successful golf courses really is. Is it one thing in particular, or a combination of things? How much influence does the quality of the golf course have as part of the overall development? What is it that players rate highly and why are some courses just so far ahead in players perceptions when they’re fundamentally offering the same experience?
Over the years, I’ve come to know and understand that it’s the site itself that gives the course it’s personality and so much of the whole golf operation hangs off the merits of the site itself. Of course, there are great golf architects out there who would be able to take a boring site and turn it into something great. However, only the best golf architects have the ability to utilise every bit of personality in the site to weave the golf course into the existing character of the land. A little help from a specialist contractor goes a long way too – take a look at the rock work on our South Korean beauty, Centerium Country Club.
The landscape and its features are a vital component of a golf course as it shapes how the course looks and plays. Retaining existing landscape features from craggy rocks to natural areas of scrub are critical in creating a character that is both sympathetic to its surroundings as well as helping to maximise the visual impact needed for that arrival experience for the golfer. Creating a sense of place is essential for the playing experience otherwise the whole thing feels contrived, as though it’s been stuck onto the land like a band-aid.
Take one of our projects in Mauritius for example, the picture shows a seriously interesting coastline with black volcanic rocks, mangrove swamps and shallow lagoons. Whilst it may be tempting to try to change the coastline to make a perfect golfing strategy, we wouldn’t even think about actually doing it. Instead, treating the site with the appropriate respect, we utilise the natural features of the site to create a unique aesthetic only seen on this golf course. This is the sort of landscape feature that will be remembered and discussed many times over, creating that perfect photo opportunity that brings people back to the course over and over. You’ll have to wait to see the finished product in a few years’ time!
The best thing about this design methodology is that it’s actually easier than taking a “blank slate” approach. When viewing a site from the air with existing trees, rocks and other vegetation winding through, often natural clearings are apparent which lend themselves to bunker locations, green locations or even fairway landing zones. These locations, combined with the topography, start to stand out and almost naturally make a golf hole/course on their own, it is this vision that golf course architects need in order to design beautiful and challenging yet fun golf courses.
So, if we start with a great site, I believe the whole operation starts to make so much more sense. After all, one of the greatest elements of golf is to be out in the open air, appreciating the surrounding environment whether on the Atlantic coast, in the deserts of the GCC of in classic UK parkland. Let’s try to retain as much of that character as possible and the result will be better, more interesting golf facilities that will perform better in the long run.