The other option
You can, of course, hire a big-shot name, pay him a big fee, give him a big budget and he will turn your area upside down and give you a nice, good- looking golf course almost like one of his former golf courses. Before opening day, you will probably only see him a few times because he has to divide his time between all the different projects he has committed himself to around the globe. Then you sit down and wait, hope that his name will sell you a lot of greenfees to get you value for your money.
But there is another option to this: You can let me make you a unique golf course, designed according to the classic, minimalistic principles, finished within the agreed timetable and budget. I will, at first, not be able to tell you exactly how your golf course will look like when it is finished, but the course will be yours, taylor made, will be fun to play, not only the first time you play it, but every time you play it.
Probably, you will be my only client during the actual time, because I will, personally, make all the drawings and descriptons in all the different design phases, I will be at the site daily during the construction period because I know that those small ridges, knolls and valleys you see on a classic golf course, that are so important for a fun round of golf, can not being drawn on paper. I have to be there, just beside the man in the excavator or the man with the spade. I will give you a course that fits the surrounding landscape, that looks like it has been there for a hundred years, because I know that most golf players love the classic courses. I have spent years studying the best courses of the world, I know what make them great and I know how to design the features that great golf courses contain.
The right golf course, at the right site, to the right price
“Championship course”. What a misused name. Every golf course can not host championships. And really, what championships are we talking about? Championships for the professionals? Majors? In USA there are three majors each year. One is played on the same course every year, and the two others are played mostly on classic courses from “The Golden Age of Golf Architecture”. Every week during the season, the PGA-tour players go to different courses, courses that are long, difficult and have enormous space around them because of the spectators, the sponsor areas and the car parks.
In Europe, most of the tournaments of the European Tour are played on the Continent or on the British Isles. Sweden hosts the Scandinavian Masters every year and probably they will get another annual tournament in a few years, but Norway and Denmark will hardly get a European Tour tournament.
So, the courses we are talking about, and that, in most cases, are the right courses to build, are the good courses that players of all levels like to play.
It is possible to build good golf courses on different kinds of sites, but it takes a trained architect to make the right course on just that special site. Golf courses shall adjust to the land, not vice versa. My goal is to make the golf experience unique, an adventure in natural surroundings, hand made by devoted craftsmen, without ruining the landscape.
Is there automatically a reference between the size of the construction budget and the quality of the golf course?
The easy way is a big budget that gives the architect freedom to move a lot of earth and make the golf course exactly the way he wants it, but earthmoving is expensive and the golf course has a tendency to look stereotyped.
The other way, and the way that challenges the talented and devoted architect, is to move as little earth as possible. It makes the golf course special, each hole more fun to play and it means millions saved for the client, both in construction and maintenance.
The minimalistic approach
When you make a golf course in the the minimalist style, you respect the imperfect features of nature, the nature itself and the game of golf as it was originally meant to play. You also respect the client because you know that you can make an excellent golf course with less money.
The last thirty years has shown us, with modern equipment, you can move how much earth you want and make the golf course look exactly the way you want it. To me these golf courses look too perfect, too polished and they also demand a big maintenance budget.
The minimalistic approach is to study the site and its history and to study the main structures and incorporate them in the final design. It takes experience to know when to keep a slope as it is or when to reshape or soften it, or when to move some earth to make a flat site interesting. But every time you move earth, you have to do it the correct way not only to keep the local character intact, but to make great contours for the game of golf.
Typically of the minimalist style is that the playing areas have a lot of well thought out details, especially around the greens. The small ridges, slopes and valleys that are so important for the angle of the approach shot, do not always show on the drawings, but is brought to perfection during construction by the architect and the shaper in the excavator.
The classic look
During the first part of the the last century, architects like Alister Mackenzie made Royal Melbourne GC and Cypress Point, George C Thomas made Riviera GC, George Crump made Pine Valley, Donald Ross made Pinehurst and Tillinghast made Winged Foot.
These wellknown and talented architects designed these, and many other courses, according to the principle of avoiding the hardest area and let the land dictate the layout. They were built with the help of horses and hand labor and naturally heavy earth movements were limited.
These classic courses have always been favourites among devoted golf players and golf historians. The layout, the natural look, the detailed green contours and the natural looking shapes of the bunkers are now appreciated by many and are also the inspiration of the growing number of Minimalist Style architects all over the world. Players find these golf courses fun to play, investors see that they are cheaper to build, many of them appear on the Top 100 lists of the golf magazines and even the environmentalists seem to be able to accept them.
To create the classic look, the architect has to be on site almost dayly during construction. The architectual drawings are the basics, but to raise the finished product above average, the architect has to adjust the plans and give instructions to the construction crew to get every small detail right as the course develops.
Fun to play
My intention is to create golf courses that golfers of all levels like to play. The ultimate “fun to play factor” is to be rewarded for starting a shot towards point A in order to get it to wind up at point B either it is a drive, an approach shot or a put.
A course with no or few contours has seldom a high “fun to play factor”. Courses with undulated fairways and creative greens demands more of your skills and plays a bit different from round to round. I try to let the course ask the player to make an interesting shot, and if he executes it as he intended, that is “fun”.
A “fun to play” course has challenging third shots on the par four holes; choosing the right shot trying to get up and down faced with an interesting green.
Variety is essential. To have different options on every hole. One long par four hole followed by a short one, one small and relatively flat green followed by a large and undulated, one high approach shot over bunkers followed by a low punch shot using the formations of the ground.
Anyone can make a golf course impossible. The real art is to make it difficult, but resonable, challenging, but beatable by a smart crafty shotmaker.
Striving to place the ball on the centerline every time you play a shot is not fun, and to get punished every time you do not is not fun either. Playing golf is not a driving contest, a “fun to play” golf course is full of surprises and a round of golf is meant to be an adventurous walk in natural environments.
Naturalness and minimalism
When playing golf, do we want to be in nature or in an outdoors amusement park?
We scandinavians are used to live in harmony with nature. We mean it is a human right to be able to walk and play in untouched wooden and mountain terrain. When creating natural looking and minimalistic golf courses, we architects try to maintain the native looks, and we try to respect the quality of asymmetry, irregularity, roughness and naturalness.
Instead of forcing the manmade landforms into the nature, we try to make the golf course fit seamlessly into the surroundings. We collect native plants and plant them in parts of the golf course that is outside the playing areas,
and instead of a “synthetic” and sterile looking golf course, we get a rustic and varied golf course with natural shapes and colours. If you choose a golf architect who knows how to create the minimalist look, you get a golf course that looks hand made instead of a golf course that seems to have been put together on an assembly line.
Irrugalarly shaped lines and incorporated native plant materials are not considered beautiful by some, yet the most famous courses are beloved for their very use of the materials at hand.