A high percentage of golf clubs across the globe have minimal sums of money to spend on improving their facility. Whilst this is not necessarily ideal, these facilities should take comfort in the fact that spending large sums of money won’t necessarily equate to a considerably better golf course and experience. In my experience, golf clubs that focus their attention on the small detail – making sure they get this right – are more likely to achieve a successful outcome with limited investment. Let me explain this in much more detail highlighting examples from golf courses I have worked on and visited around the globe.
Never Underestimate The Importance Of Arrival
Many golf visitors would have already formulated an opinion of a golf course before they’ve even stepped foot on the first tee. Create a favorable impression at the outset by making sure the arrival experience is second to none and that the journey from the entry gates to the 1st tee is as memorable and seamless an experience as the golf course itself.
For instance, the entrance to the very unique and storied Royal West Norfolk Golf Club (Brancaster) in the United Kingdom requires golfers to enter the course via the beach and through a small entrance gate — an indelible scene and one you won’t quickly forget.
Closer to home, the historic Royal Selangor Golf Club – situated in the middle of the city of Kuala Lumpur – is graced by hundreds of native trees that existed on the property before the construction of the golf course. Thankfully, many of these trees remain and form the focal point as you enter the golf course and wander about the clubhouse. They create a real sense of place and improve the golf course experience immeasurably.
A Sense Of Place In Everything You Do
Create a sense of place by incorporating all the best features on-site into the golf course and use a native
material as much as possible. This will not only ensure a golf course that is unique and distinct but also different from the competition and generally much cheaper to maintain because your forfeit having to build and maintain man-made features at a cost. Of course, where a piece of property might be bland and featureless, create a strong story that is closely linked with the surrounds and this will help improve the experience as well. This is the case at the prestigious Jagorawi Golf & Country Club situated just outside of Jakarta. It features course furniture that is local to the area and is memorable in every way. Such detail adds to the character of the golf course and helps improve a sense of place and experience.
Embrace Unconventional Features
Typically — the more memorable the feature, the more memorable the golf even if some of these features are unconventional and unique! Take the Bagan Golf Club in Myanmar where pagodas – all built between 9 and 12AD – bound many of the play areas and create a remarkable scene. Likewise, the ancient tombs that bound some of the holes at the Delhi GC enhance the experience and help create a real sense of place.
Mowing And Grass Lines
Don’t reduce the impact of the natural terrain or any memorable feature by hiding them in long grass or keeping them out of view. Highlight these features – by taking the fairway lines up to them – and, in so doing, improve the impact they will have on play. In addition to this, make your course more visually strong by ensuring your grassing lines are natural in appearance and mow your fairway with the least amount of striping to reduce maintenance costs. The majority of the best golf course on the globe employ very simple moving lines where golf course striping is limited, and the fairway/rough line are more natural in appearance. The world-renowned Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and Bethpage State Park Black Course – on the outskirts of New York city – are great examples. Also highlight memorable humps, bumps, rolls by mowing these at fairway height and show off your site’s outstanding features by taking the fairway up to them which is the case at the attractive Laguna Phuket Golf Club in Thailand.’
Ground Contours Are Not Taboo
Ground contours are the most underused golf feature today, which is alarming given what they bring to the party at a fraction of the cost of any other feature. Something as simple as a bump or depression can offer as much interest as any other feature. Maintain a firm base and even a ground ripple will add strategic interest and make for fascinating play. Ground Contours are the most sustainable of all golf features.
A high amount of the play strategy and interest when playing golf at St. Andrews (old) course is determined by the myriad of humps, bumps and depressions scattered about the golf course. This is perfectly highlighted by the hump in front on the 4th green or depression in front of the 18th green on the Old Course.
The Land Between Holes
Great golf courses take golfers on a journey of discovery through the property. The way the Architect routes the holes to highlight the best parts of the site is paramount to achieving this. Whilst it’s not advisable to have long distances between greens and tees, particularly if you wish to create a seamless golf experience, at times this may not be possible. In this case, make sure these transition areas or the “other parts of the golf property” compliment the golf course and are memorable in every way
For instance, some of the walkways between certain holes at the Royal Zoute Golf Club in Belgium are memorable and compliment the golf course experience. Closer to home at the Victoria Golf & Country Club in Sri Lanka, golfers are afforded wonderful views at different staging points around the course.
About Paul Jansen
Paul is widely regarded as one of golf’s most talented and well-traveled young Golf Course Architects. After having schooled in South Africa, he began his career in the USA before relocating to Europe where he worked as Lead Golf Architect for Nick Faldo Design on a variety of projects in Europe, Africa and South East Asia. In 2011, Paul established Jansen Golf Design & Construction with a focus on creating highly sustainable golf courses that provide strategic, stimulating and memorable golf that is FUN. Paul is currently improving the storied Royal Colombo Golf Club in Sri Lanka and involved with the R&A and Bangladesh Golf Federation in creating a new 18-hole golf facility near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.