Recently there was a ranking of golf courses in the Twin City metro area by Jerry Zgoda in the Star Tribune. The rankings, as rankings do, raise questions as to what are the key elements of a great golf course?
With that in mind I would offer this golf course architect’s perspective:
A great golf course has a wide variety of challenging golf holes and a harmonious rotation of par threes, fours and fives. Variety is the number one ingredient in a successful golf course layout.
The way the golf course plays is dictated by the sequence of the golf holes. Back to back par threes, for example, play slowly and potentially put the brakes on the flow of your round of golf because of the way we are used to playing. Think of starting your round on a par three and then think about how much expectations and routine are part of our mindset when we start and play our round of golf.
A golf course architect has hazards, topography and trees as the tools of the trade to establish the rub of the green on a given golf hole. Bunkers are the key feature used to establish the flow of the golf hole. Well-positioned bunkers define the most advantageous route to the green. On a good golf hole there is a strategic route that increases your likelihood for success.
The topography needs to complement the hazards so that the risk of going directly at a hazard provides the reward that the hazard is guarding. If a hazard isn’t protecting or defining something then it shouldn’t be there.
Trees should be incorporated strategically so that they play as three-dimensional bunkers. A key tree can block off the direct approach to a green for a drive that is not hit far enough in the fairway.
Next week: Highland National
Paul Miller can be reached at: