When you look at Charles Blair MacDonald and Hugh Wilson, you realize that before they created The National Golf Links of America and Merion (East) - their respective masterpieces - they spent a great deal of time looking at other courses and other architects work. Both traveled abroad to look at the best holes on the finest courses, they evaluated the strategies, and they incorporated the best ideas in their own work. In that spirit what I wanted to do was present a list of what influenced me this year.
The Architect Who Sets My Bar
Up until recently I felt that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (C&C) were the benchmark for the best work currently being done. Their work at courses like Sand Hills and Friar’s Head has influenced a countless number of young designers into paying closer attention to the ground. Friar’s Head is a great example of not beginning a course until the right routing is found and not settling for anything less. Sand Hills is simply the landmark course for our generation of designers!
Over the last ten years Tom Doak has paid close attention to what Bill Coore was doing and there is a clear influence in his work. While there were signs of greatness in High Pointe, there is no question that Pacific Dunes marked Tom’s coming out party as a major force in golf architecture. Where he has really begun to shine is with his most recent work where he has shown his willingness to take even more risk than Bill Coore. He has begun to try new styles, has successful dealt with all types of sites and has continued to let his imagination and the imagination of his staff bring more new ideas to the table. I believe Tom just getting started, the 4th course at Bandon will be one to watch, and for that matter so will anything else he does.
The Course That Altered My Thinking
There is no doubt that Mike Strantz’s Tobacco Road was a course cut from a different cloth. I have never seen the combination of intimidation and opportunity so masterfully combined together. The course is maddening, exciting, fun, and frustrating all at the same time; but once you finish you can’t wait to play it again. As an architect you admire his audacity to build something so different and controversial. I admire the man for having a real philosophy. He built his course to look very difficult but actually play a little easier than they appeared so that you had a bigger thrill when you made a great shot. I commend Mike for talking so many chances from intentional blindness to very wild greens he certainly pushed the envelope better than anyone else. I’m sad at his passing for the genius to come and the family left behind.
The Most Interesting Feature I Saw
I still think that Gil Hanse is the wild card to me. There is an immense amount of talent inside Gil, and yet there are things that I occasionally don’t get with his work. He is the one most capable of finding a completely fresh idea that will catch people off guard. I went out to see Castle Stewart near Inverness, Scotland and was blown away by the very unique bunker detailing that he was going to use. The idea was to make bunkering that looked like the famous Hutcheson photos from the turn of the century. Imagine sod walls with broken edges. Castle Stewart is going to be completely shaped like Kingsbarns, and where Kingsbarns occasionally looked too modern (shaped) to be a true links, Gil is going to extremes to make sure he doesn’t have the same issues. This is the single course I most look forward to seeing done. I think it will change his career overnight.