GET INTO GOLF: No two courses are the same
March 15, 2019
All Regulation golf courses have 18 holes. They all have fairways and greens. In these United States, you will also see trees and most likely ponds or lakes or streams.
Although, no two courses are the same.
Some are very plain, with no sense of creativity. Others are very unique, with some type of "signature" that sets them apart from the rest.
Similar to the clothes that we wear, certain types of apparel are simple and others are fashionable. We even give credit to those who inspire the creations. Names such as Ralph Lauren, Versace, and Armani are known by folks that prefer a T-shirt and a pair of 501s.
Virtually all new golf courses since the 1960's are looking for this marketability or "branding."
With tens of millions of golfers and thousands of golf courses, many properties desire to be different. They want to attract players and justify the amount charged to play.
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A lot of that comes down to the popularity, and in turn revenue, of golf over the last fifty years or so. For centuries it was the lie of the land that dictated course layouts. Without modern machines, irrigation, and incentive for land owners, you took what the topography gave you. In fact, it was sheep that developed the first bunkers.
The oldest existing golf course in the world did not have a designer or architect. A collection of avid players in Scotland decided on a starting location, played up the coast, turned around and played back to the original spot. The site is St. Andrews.
To name the first golf course in the United States is open for debate. It seems a few holes were played in a public park setting around 1793. The first 18-hole course, Chicago Golf Club, opened 1893 and is still open today under a different name. Odds are these were very simple layouts.
Today, not a golf course is built without a paid designer and if the project has the funds it will be a big name. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw will design your new track for a handsome fee.
Interesting, however, that within the industry, those big names are generally not behind the most popular or intriguing designs. Trent Jones, McKenzie, Doak, and Morrish are not household names, but they each have an special art in creating a popular layout.
One very clever guy is Pete Dye. Dye uses water (ponds and waterways) and undulating fairways to caution players. Yet his use of definitions makes for a clean, crisp, beautiful display that is entertaining for all skill levels.
His signature is railroad ties. Yes, those big, brown units of wood are placed strategically throughout to border bunkers or water.
The most famous of these is being played on Tour this weekend. It's the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedre, Florida.
Almost completely surrounded by water (there is a narrow walkway for the players) this relatively short Par-3 will put some fear into every player who tees it up.
So, take a few minutes or a few hours this weekend and watch The Players Championship. A stadium type background allows thousands of fans to see every shot. You can rest comfortably with a beverage of your choice and impress your friends by identifying this design as a Pete Dye course.
John Renslow is a PGA Professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses.
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