What makes certain architecture bad?

I’m not talking about cheap ass random munis. Why do people dismiss designs by Greg Norman, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Fazio etc.

Here is my basic understanding:
-Too challenging (forced carries over water on many holes). Course can not be enjoyed across multiple handicaps ranges.
-Too “unnatural”. Decent holes ruined by contrived mounded framing.
-Lacks strategy. Hit the fairway or die.
-Aesthetically boring. Especially in bunker and green design.

I’d like to hear others articulate their thoughts.

I can specifially share one hole- the 18th at Oak Ridge Country Club in Hopkins MN.

There is nowhere to hit the ball except in the middle of a narrow tilted fairway. I think the hole measures like 415-425, but it’s literally 4-iron to keep it dry and out of the trees and 5-iron to get on the green.

Lack of water features


I think the points you listed are very good reasons for “bad architecture” Maybe the biggest one I think being the inability for a course to be enjoyed by varying levels of skill. That’s why I place like St. Andrews is so cool, because a 100 shooter could very realistically go shoot his handicap, or better, if he plays correctly, but in order for a highly skilled player to achieve their goal, they need to take on risks.
One thing that has stuck with me from a Fried Egg podcast with Geoff Ogilvy was a hole surrendering an easy par, but hard birdie that brings in bogey and worse.



i’ve seen this and love it

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I believe this is the number one rant on Nicklaus courses. He designed them for his ability.

Whereas I’ve seen Tom Doak state multiple times he designs courses with his mother (or Alice Dye) in mind.

Not that I’ve played a ton of either (other than CommonGround here in Denver) but I’ve read enough on GolfWRX or GolfClubAtlas to get that sentiment.

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I’m far from an architecture guru, but what I tend to notice the most is how the course uses the available land. My favorite courses are the ones that feel like they’re supposed to be there, allowing the natural movement to dictate holes, not manipulating the land to fit the hole. Like in almost every other aspect of golf, less is more.


Where is the “Can I like This Course” masterpiece by @DeepFriedEgg?

Honestly, @chockfullofthat, bad architecture is up to you. I don’t really think we need to let our every opinion be crafted by the golden age greats.

I’m aware, but I like to try and think about what I’m playing by learning from others. There is a Greg Norman course I plan on playing that looks really decent actually, so I don’t necessarily believe everything the TFE says. I actually came away from Mammoth Dunes with some mixed feelings on it, but after thinking about it more it’s growing on me.

One thing I didn’t like about Mammoth was I felt like 3/4 of my approach shots were blind. I couldn’t really appreciate the greens very much cause I couldn’t see them when I was trying to hit them. Part of it is the fault of my poor tee shots, but I hit terrible shots at Sand Valley course and was just enamored with the place.

I’m also grappling with the question how many plays are needed to give a course a fair review.

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It is a bad course if there isn’t a water jug every 4 holes.


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society if golf course architecture discourse didn’t exist


You anti hydration or something?

The Lion must journey to the oasis before feasting on the flesh of a gazelle. - @Lazstradamus


Literally looked at that more than a dozen times and had not noticed the “REDAN” watermark until now.


If there is a water jug on any holes right now, they aren’t using best practices for public health.

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Listen, for sure. I am speaking in non-COVID times. I need water on the course. I get thirsty. I need hydration. I shouldn’t have to wait for a bev cart that might show up once a round to get my water.


Courses with too much space between holes are bad because they aren’t designed with walking in mind. It’s OK if there are a couple treks (thinking 14-15 at Tobacco Road), but if you have to travel a long ways between more than 5 holes that’s not good architecture.

Also, if every shot has a chance to end up in someone’s backyard, that’s not good architecture, it’s a real estate sales vehicle, not a golf course.


Agreed, I’m just being a smartass.

I want you to go on the record as pro-water.