European Golf Design - Vision E-Magazine Issue 2 - Spring 2018 - Page 32

Final Thoughts

Disclaimer: The following is a personal opinion. It is not meant to be critical of anyone, or any particular course. It is just thoughts.

Over the Christmas break, I read a very interesting article in Links Magazine by James Frank (if you would like to read it, here’s the link: In it, Frank asks whether courses are becoming too natural. It brought to mind a comment made by a client last summer when we were looking through a coffee table book of ‘modern classics’ and he said that the courses in the book, regardless of the designer, all looked the same. While that was, perhaps, a little strong, it did make me think a bit deeper about this. Similarly, our colleague, Dave Sampson, wrote a blog for our web site ( about bunkering and whether these too were all becoming rather similar.

It also reminded me of a visit to a new course prior to its opening last summer – let me be clear: I thought the course was visually absolutely stunning but, as I explained to a client, as a result of trying to keep things 'natural', it was going to be way too difficult for all but the very best players and, as a result, I really questioned the design intent and the long term viability of the project. Yes, it was natural, yes it was beautiful, but was it really going to be fun to play?

The objective of design is to create something appropriate and fit for purpose – something that works. If one has the ideal site, one can afford to do nothing. However, as much as some of us might want to tell clients that they’ve the perfect site for golf, in reality these are few and far between; so there is a need for design; there is a need for intervention. Golf courses are an ever-changing and artificial use of land - the courses of today would be unrecognisable to the players of the 19th century…I suspect they would be largely unrecognisable to players from the mid-20th century. The reality is that the best design provides a golf course that is sustainable (in all its forms), authentic and, above all, enjoyable – somewhere people will come back to time and time again. I wonder how many of the new ‘natural’ designs meet that criteria and what that means for the future.

Credits: All images, unless otherwise stated, courtesy of Kevin Murray

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