Course Architecture Frustration and Discussion

So in the past couple months thanks to No Laying Up I’ve done a deep dive into their podcast, @thefriedegg 's podcast and website, and I got the first 2 issues of The Golfer’s Journal. Turns out (for me anyway), that course architecture is a much cooler topic than I previously thought.

My problem is this: now that I know what template holes are, and what “good” holes generally offer in terms of risk/reward, I can’t help but look around my home course and criticize all the bad holes. For instance, there’s a par 3 that fits pretty well into the Redan category: funneling balls from left to right and generally front to back, but missing long is basically dead. Ruins the whole feel of the hole!

Has anyone else delved into this and had similar experience?

I’m also interested in just talking about architecture in general and learning more about it. Let me know if there are any more websites or resources I should check out!


We are working on the same timeline, @malloymeister. I have had very similar experiences but I don’t view it as a negative.

It’s just motivated me to play more courses and see new designs.

Where do you play?

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I hope I didn’t sound too negative. I really enjoy thinking about this now, like what would make a hole better/more strategic/more fun. Just adds a new dimension to my game.

My home club is Wild Quail in Camden DE, but I’m definitely branching out more this year with a trip planned to Streamsong and some other’s I’m thinking about.

What about you?

@malloymeister Nice. I am yet to travel northeast for golf. Need to get up that way soon because I know there are some amazing tracks up there.

My home club is Mira Vista Country Club here in Fort Worth, Texas. I’ve just now started traveling for golf again after a pretty decent little hiatus. Feels good to get back into with with architecture in mind.

If you truly are interested in GCA that link will be the greatest timesuck you will run into. Just remember you asked for it.


Thankfully the two courses I normally play (one Hurdzan/Fry one Coore/Crenshaw) are pretty solid architecturally. On a recent trip to Australia, however, I did have the “frustration with terrible design” experience on a nine hole course in Perth that on one hole featured a 15 yard wide fairway with a huge tree planted right in the middle that blocked all but 2 yards on either side. Thankfully the rest of the golf on the trip was fantastic. As far as looking for other resources goes, Doak’s books and even just these essays are a good read.

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I think the nut of what you are getting to here is good design allows for opportunity for recovery. Recovery shots are fun. Hence, playing well designed golf courses are fun. This is one of the reasons my local rotation of courses has shrunk dramatically in the last few years. I really tend to play the more strategic courses in the area. Its so much more fun to play golf when you have options, and width off the tee. You are asked to give yourself an angle into a pin position, or challenge a hazard for a more advantages approach. Then missed approach shots may be difficult, but not dead.

I recently have also become infatuated with course architecture through the same channels. You mention you now know what template holes and what “good” holes generally offer. Where did you go to learn all the templates among other details or did you just pick up on that here and there via NLU, fried egg, TGJ, etc? I always hear the different templates, green complexes, and so on Andy talks about, and although I do have a general idea, I don’t know which are which for the most part.

That’s the first place I started (and keep going back to). So much good information. Just scroll down a bit and there are pages for each of the template holes.

I think Andy over at the fried egg and the NLU boys got a bunch of us hooked on this topic. Just ordered Doak’s confidential guide! Just think back to all the “hard” courses that were called good just because they were hard. Really getting into this subject more and more. Will look at courses completely different this year.


Also recently been on a GCA kick, and have been planning some summer rounds based on the architects. I’m trying to play some Golden Age architects as well as some modern ones.

I recently purchased Doak’s Anatomy of a Golf Course, which was really insightful.

Also, I’ve been trying to keep a running list of all the different architects whose courses I have played, including original designs and restorations.

Will try to turn this conversation a bit into a discussion of specific features that you like or dislike about golf architecture at either your own course or courses you’ve played. GCA obviously has a ton on this subject but given the relative newness of this group it’d be interesting to hear peoples perspectives on what they consider good and bad on specific features. Could be everythign from template holes to @tommyraynor’s speed slots and trampolines.

I’ll start with my favorite specific feature of a good design is simply the properly angled green that dictates strategy back to the tee. All good design really depends on firm and fast of course but appropriately laid-out greens are the first and easiest feature to spot good design in my opinion.

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This made me think of how Pete Dye likes to reward players for challenging the trouble or taking the line that looks more difficult from the tee. On most of the Dye courses that I have played the “bail out” tee shot reveals a difficult angle into the green and the difficult tee shot reveals the better angle in. Dye gets a lot of flack but his designs are packed with strategy. His designs can be pretty penal for the average player but are very strategic.

Couldn’t agree more with what a lot of you are saying. Andy (Fried Egg) has made this 25 year “veteran” of golf rethink how I look at golf courses. I’ve had the pleasure of playing Bandon, Streamsong, Pebble, Pasatiempo, etc in my lifetime but the appreciation for these courses has increased tenfold the past year bc of Andy and NLU. I’m going back to all of these places in the next couple of years and will have a whole new appreciation for them.

But even more so, Andy has opened up my eyes to the “lesser known” courses and the hidden gems that could very easily be in your backyard.

I literally dream about this stuff now. Andy’s voice is in my dreams on a regular basis (I’m sure he would love to know that)


This thread makes me so happy. I’m gonna jump in with some full takes in the morning when I get in front of the keyboard. You all give me hope. The future is bright.


(Very novice GCA lover speaking) Most architects will say that you should work from the green back so what you’re saying makes sense but I want to speak to my “inner Doak” and say routing is the key. You can have phenomenal green complexes but if a course doesn’t fit the land it can ruin the whole experience. I love the modern day ideas of CC/Doak/Hanse/DeVries where par doesn’t matter. One of my favorite things to show people is the scorecard of Pac Dunes. Doak did what he thought was the perfect routing Which happened to end up with a scorecard of 37-34

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Not sure if it has been mentioned, but I really learned a lot about the template holes from Doak’s Anatomy of a Golf Course book. I know Doak has gotten roasted by some of the inner circle of course architects due to his confidential guides criticizing certain courses, but his “anatomy” book was really insightful.

Also like most the folks on here, NLU and the fried egg really turned me on to course architecture. It’s crazy how much just a little insight into design changes you outlook on courses you’ve played either once or hundreds of times.

I have experienced the EXACT same issue. I’m now in love with the concept and strategy of design but in some ways it has ruined a handful of courses now that Andy has removed my total ignorance to good vs. bad. I actually just wrote about this in a recent blog describing the double edged sword like this “DISCLAIMER: Consumption of fried egg content is opening Pandora’s Box. Courses you used to like may now seem stupid or annoying. Imagine being blind, getting cured, only to realize you have an ugly wife. It’s like sinking a hole-in-one on a provisional.”

Read the whole thing Here


I agree that it can negatively impact the way you look at courses, but I have a good example of how it can make a previously weak course good. I like to play at Bethpage a lot, and stick to the Black and Red courses. The Yellow course is the shortest and largely considered the easiest of the five, and I’ve always avoided it for this reputation. However, after further reading it turns out some of the original Tillinghast holes exist on that course (it was later modified to add a new course) and im excited to play it in the Sprinf just to get to see the 4 holes that Tilly did.

Before my little GCA kick, I would have just dismissed the course as too easy.

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