While many people lay claim to the idea that time on site equals quality, I would like to look at a couple of examples for perspective first. I’m not aiming to take sides on this issue, although I will say [for myself] I prefer as much time on site as I can get. For example, I like to edge my own bunkers to get exactly the look I want.
Let us start by looking at the time Alister Mackenzie spent at Royal Melbourne. We know on Oct. 25th he arrived at Melbourne, Australia. We know on Nov. 11th he was still in Australia, consulting at Royal Sydney. We know he was in New Zealand on January 1st. We also know that he consulted with many of the great courses while there, so that his time was well divided between different sites. So how did Mackenzie get everything done so well at Royal Melbourne in that short period of time? The answer is he didn’t, he relied on Vern Morcom and Alex Russel to get the job done while he couldn’t be there and after he had left Australia. I looked all day to find the exact time spent on site but I could not, but I do remember “a few weeks” was the description in one article I found years ago.
At Pacific Dunes Tom Doak’s plan was to visit the site every three weeks or so all the way through construction. He summed up his perspective well with the following two quotes from Dream Golf by Steven Goodwin (out fairly soon and a good read), “I work best when I’m working fast and am excited about what I am doing, but I understand that construction can’t really move that fast. When I was on site every day I would get tied up emotionally on every little detail of our projects….” So instead of being there daily, Tom choose to have Jim Urbina and he would join Jim for four or five days at a time. Each visit he would review the previous holes that were started during the last visit and would set up the next group of holes for Jim to work on. Tom said about this arrangement “I found that being away from the site off and on gives me a better perspective on how we’re doing…”
When Doug and I worked on Muskoka Bay, we went up every Friday for two straight years. I also made some additional trips during golf construction to make sure we kept on schedule. We flagged out all the tree removal, directed all the blasting, organized all the sand capping, placed all the tees and greens according to the space left by the outcrops of rock and trees. We even moved an entire par three during the clearing. We also approved each bunker and I was on site to approve every green contour in the field. Near as I can tell through my notebooks I was on site just over 70 times and I averaged 10 hours on the site (not including traveling time) each visit.
I’m not sure if one continuous period of teaching and planning is any better or worse that a cluster of days every few weeks. Whether a weekly visit is enough or whether daily supervision leads to a better product. I’m still inclined to think that time on the site makes all the difference to the quality of the course, but Tom’s point of being off site some times to avoid over thinking and to recharge the mind is a great idea.