Course Architecture Frustration and Discussion


At 6600 yards, my home course in Oklahoma is in the best shape of almost any course I’ve ever played, all thanks to Toby Keith who owns and spends all the money on the course. Absolutely perfect bent greens and bermuda fairways/rough. The condition is absolutely ruined by terrible design, which in my opinion, also leads back to Toby, who is simply trying to enjoy a cigar and a beer outside and golf happens to get in the way. Rounded edges on bunkers might be my biggest pet peeve of any good course, and every single bunker is rounded. The green surfaces themselves are perfect, but their design is subpar at best. Where the natural rolling hills of Oklahoma would fit perfectly into some greens, they’ve been flattened to accommodate what the members want. What is meant to be a links course is always presented green as can be and moderate speed greens. Tired of the courses who accommodate the members who are already there. Who cares if those members leave, re-design the course and a whole new flock of people will join. Build it and they will come!


I think this is what Zac Blair is going for at The Buck Club. I’m really tempted to join the greens committee at my club and try to advocate for making bunkers actual hazards and getting the course back closer to the original design (for one the greens have shrunk almost 20%), but I know most of the members wouldn’t tolerate a bunker that was a challenge.


@malloymeister Believe that is part of the Redan template being dead long. It’s dead long as you are below the level of the green (sometimes in a bunker) and chipping back up to the green sloping away from you. Don’t go long!


I’m getting into golf course architecture a bit, but it never ruins or taints golf for me. I enjoy playing the game much more than the architecture.


He’s infected many of us…


I learned the game at Bethpage and love all the courses for different reasons. The yellow is easy but has some fantastic holes. @WillMK5 which ones were original Tillie holes? 12-14? That’s my fave stretch on that course


@HibernatingBear I believe its 10-14, including that great par 3 and the reef hole.


Now that everyone is getting into design, who are some of your favorite architects? And examples of their work?

Tom Doak has built some amazing tracks lately. He’s currently my design leader.

It might be a better suited question for this topic forum but oh well…


Grew up playing on a Ross and our sister course which was also a Ross. Will always be my favourite.

By interested to see some Doak, McAllister and Raynor.


I just texted him a picture of this. I’m sure he will appreciate it!


Like many of the prior posts here, I’ve have done a headfirst dive into architecture and have found myself sketching golf holes from time to time. One negative that I have found is the disdain for some courses historic courses out there. I remember reading a roundtable on the Fried Egg talking about Augusta and a couple architects were trashing the current place. Really? Obviously everyone will hate certain aspects of courses but I found the deeper I go into architecture, the harsher the opinions. I lived in San Diego and played Torrey South every two weeks. I think its a brilliant track but gets trashed constantly for getting the RTJ treatment. I get some of the criticism but why must we trash it to the point that your local muni has a better layout? With the state of the current game, there are certainly a lot of courses that need to be blown up but most should be appreciated for what they are, warts and all.


I have to say I’m my own favorite.


This is a fantastic resource!


the GCA site is a deep rabbit hole

someone there is meticulously re-constructing Lido on The Golf Club from old pictures


I first became fascinated with golf course architecture when I was gifted a copy of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses by Tom Doak. It’s a fascinating read and I have since become a fan of Doak’s work as both a golf course architect and a writer/historian on the topic. Being from Columbus, Ohio I have had the opportunity to play courses in the area from a who’s who of architects … Nicklaus, Palmer, Weiskopf, Pete Dye, P.B. Dye (and also Pink Dye, Pete’s father and P.B.'s grandfather), McKenzie, Ross and of course Hurdzan/Fry, who designed many of the muni’s in this area. I’m truly fortunate to have such variety.

I am often asked to name my favorite course. That’s a tough one to answer, but when pinned down I answer it this way … If I could only play one course the rest of my life, it would be Forest Dunes in Roscommon, Michigan. Designed by Tom Weiskopf it is one of the few courses I have played that checks all the boxes. It is so close to perfect to me that I cannot imagine ever being bored by it. If you ever get a chance to play it, do. They recently added a second course, The Loop, designed by Doak (excited to play it for the first time this summer). There is lodging on the grounds. It truly is an A+ golf destination and just got better with the second course. And there are rumors of a third course coming, a Coore and Crenshaw design.


Most frustrating thing for me is when a hole is clearly designed for the option of a run-up shot, but the fairway short of the green is always so wet (either due to poor drainage/water runoff design or over-watering) that it’s impossible to run the ball up to the green without the ball plugging short. A lot of holes at my home course are like this, and when I’m coming out of the rough or from behind a tree, I’d like the option of landing short and bouncing the ball up, especially to a front pin. With the wetness of the approaches, there’s no option to do that. I understand if it’s rained recently, but it happens during dry spells too. It would be really hard to convince the ‘set-in-their-ways’ members to not water the fairways as much, allowing for some brown, but it would make the course play so much better,


Same, I’ve really been enjoying running the ball up with dry conditions we’ve had in MN recently. The ground game is so much fun and so overlooked in America.


Count me in as another person who stumbled across @thefriedegg in the last year and helped open my eyes on architecture. Really enjoying NLU guys doing more on architecture recently, loved the Bandon pod and deep dives.

Knowing a little more now I feel like I look at courses in a different way for sure. It’s soured me a bit on some holes but I also feel like its making me find new ways to appreciate other holes I’ve maybe under appreciated in the past.

Living on the west coast I do have some envy of all the golden age courses in the Midwest and on the East Coast though.


I can definitely relate. Since diving into the topic I’ve become a bit of a harsh critic of my home course. The course is generally well laid out but has a few 3-4 holes that have been so overgrown with massive trees that all strategic value has been lost. The odd thing is most of the members haven’t even noticed, and generally nobody really cares! I went through a period of anger over a few of the holes but I’ve shifted in the last few months to just embracing it as part of the whole quirky ethos of the place.

Over the winter I read Geoff Shackelford’s “Grounds for Golf” which was a good introduction to the topic. He had a good comment in there about not letting your newfound knowledge get in the way of your enjoyment. Nobody likes playing with the critical guy who is nitpicking the course, the majority of people just don’t care, and that’s ok.

My group of friends have zero interest in the topic and whether we play a thoughtful, interesting well designed course or boring farmland layout has very little impact on their enjoyment. We’re out there having fun and having a few beers. Finding that sweet spot is key.


Is there consensus in the GCA community that short par 5’s with water hazards placed in the typical landing zone area approx. 230-290 yards off the tee, forcing a layup are hot garbage? If so, I’m fully in on GCA.