Wednesday, March 28, 2007

2000 – 2007 Minimalism becomes.......Popular?

Bandon Trails by Crenshaw and Coore

Coore and Crenshaw have established themselves as the best architects in practice – their reputation clearly eclipses former decade leaders Fazio and Dye. Both are still busy, but people have found Fazio too predictable and Dye to…well….to unpredictable. A new crop of designers have also emerged to take over from the previous generation and while a few practice a version of modern design, most practice a style similar to Coore and Crenshaw. This style has been given the name “Minimalism” and this has become the new buzzword in golf design – it’s the name of the movement that defines this decade. The trend appears to be very firmly rooted and will quite likely be the defining trend for the near future.

Old Sandwich by C&C

Minimalism is actually a lousy term for what the movement really is since it was incorrectly named for the assumption of no earth movement in these new “retro” designs. The new movement is more a return to the roots of golf design. The latest crop of architects are choosing to ignore almost anything done recently and instead look all the way back to the work of the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture. They are influenced by Colt and Mackenzie, rather than by Nicklaus or Fazio. They love early Pete Dye but have little regard for his latest work. They all love Bill Coore and want to build courses like he does. He has become the benchmark for this generation, their inspiration and often their mentor too.

Pacific Dunes by Tom Doak

So why is this style better than modern or post modern? It’s the playing experience itself. Golden Age Design is about freedom and discovery. Modernism or Post-Modernism tends to tell you what to do and where to go. Golden Age design invites you to gamble or “to shoot the bones for the whole works,” but also provides you with the freedom to take any route, including a tentative longer route to avoid risk. The great Golden Age layouts always compel you to take on greater risk than you should.

Barndougle Dunes in Tasmania by Tom Doak

While architects like Gil Hanse (Rustic Canyon), Mike DeVries (Kingsley Club), and others have create wonderful and interesting layouts, the architect who has moved to the forefront to take on Coore and Crenshaw is Tom Doak. Doak is to some a controversial figure due to his strong opinions and Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, but without question one very talented designer. Tom made his name initially with his writing and opinions and back them up with a very interesting first course called High Pointe, but his work at Pacific Dunes was his coming out party. The course received immediate comparisons to Cypress Point for its architecture, stetting and unusual hole sequences. The course was shorter than normal, wider than most, but brilliant in the use of the environment and the land to create a series of very compelling holes. Doak followed that up with a series of spectacular sea side courses in Australia, New Zealand and in the US. His work is comparable to the work of Coore and Crenshaw in both playing style and aesthetics – and now in quality too. There is no question he is clearly influenced by the work of Coore and Crenshaw – the question now is can he surpass it.


Cassandra said...

I agree, I don't like the term "minimalism" to describe the new renaissance of golf architecture. What about "strategic naturalism"? That might better capture the return to strategic play, plus the emphasis on making the course as "natural" looking as possible, both in term of mimizing the amount of earthmoving involved as well as keeping the course integrated with its environment.

Guy said...

My question, Ian, is where golf architecture goes from here. It's always easy to see current trends as a maturation of thought, the end of the horizon, but it seems unlikely to me that design won't take another direction that seems like a brave new frontier. Any predictions on when and what that will be?

Ian Andrew said...


That's tomorrow's big finish....well next post anyway.

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