The 5th hole at Crystal Down, a hole only an architect as good as Mackenzie could find
Routing a golf course is a very subjective skill. Most architects have their own preferences to what they think makes a great hole and in turn the composition of holes that make a great routing. No two architects think alike. No two players appreciate the same routing either.
The architect’s job of routing usually revolves around the natural features available on the property. Architects, or at least this architect, are always looking for natural undulation since it produces the best “natural” holes. Great use of undulation has more effect on the quality of a hole than the careful placement of hazards. This is so important I’m going to repeat it; great use of undulation has more effect on the quality of a hole than the careful placement of hazards. The architect’s job is to use all the available topography to get the best collection of holes possible. Occasionally one exceptional hole must be abandoned to get a series of better holes or to find the best flow for the golf course. Why, because one great hole does not make a great golf course.
The wild a short par four 17th.
An architect starts out by identifying the best sites available for “natural” holes. The best sites for greens such as plateaus, natural bowls, or locations natural framed by features found are immediately identified on the site walk. Ideally the architect can find a string of holes that they can follow in a logical sequence, and this usually helps to start the process. The rest is an exercise in laying out holes, testing a sequence and laying out more holes till a natural progression finally appears on the routing plan. The routing plan is massaged through many options which are tested until the architect finds the best routing. Immediately the architect heads out into the field to test the routing and the process begins again. This continues until the architect walks a routing where they know they have the best collection of holes. The next walk is to plan the strategies and feature work to make the best individual holes. The
What many don’t see or understand in the process is the small things that make a big difference. The long vistas off site that can be “borrowed” or a stunning view found right on the property is easily taken for granted by the player. These are identified early and planned for by the architect. Unless the property is exceptional, the architect will have to use connector holes between the natural holes to find the best routing. Almost every course has a connector or series of connectors, even Pacific Dunes and Friar’s Head has them. Anyone can design a hole that sits naturally in the landscape waiting to be discovered, the great architects are the ones that can hide the connectors within the routing so that you can’t find them.
Part 2 Tomorrow – routing to add difficulty or playability