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Florida Flat?Not So Fast . . .

The presence of housing does not affect the actual playability of a golf course. In Florida, for instance, the wind is the architect's best friend, and housing does little to diminish the wind. But it's unfortunate that a lot of great courses have been surrounded by developments. Dubsdread

Golf Club, designed in 1923 by Tom Bendelow, is an excellent course that has hosted the Orlando Open since the 1930s. I played Dubsdread scores of times in the late 1940s when my wife, Alice, and I were at Rollins College, and it was basically out in the country. One of my frequent playing companions was a colorful Tour pro named Ky Lafoon, and he usually brought along a rifle to do a little possum hunting on the seventh and eighth holes. For old time's sake, I played Dubsdread again this year, and it's now tightly bordered by housing on all sides. It's still a fine course, but completely different in character and not as much fun.

However, there are things we can do to minimize the aesthetic impact of adjacent housing. The long views of nearby marshlands at Old Marsh Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, for instance, create a pleasing ambience even though housing borders at least one side of many holes. And on the holes where there are houses at Old Marsh, we were usually able to soften their appearance. As soon as the lot lines were laid out, we planted trees as close as possible to the border where the future houses would go. You cannot block the homeowners' views of the fairways with plantings because that view is part of what they pay for, but you can obscure the golfers' views of the houses. Fifteen years later, those trees have grown in nicely at Old Marsh, and golfers are hardly aware of the homes. We used trees in a similar way at the PGA Golf Club at Port St. Lucie, but even more dramatically we planted 50,000 pine seedlings to create a substantial visual and aural buffer between the course and the nearby interstate highway.

I'm not alone, of course, in using such architectural features to create fun, playable and varied golf courses in Florida. Any new course in the state with a reasonable budget behind it will have subtle elevations changes, moundings, vegetative buffer zones and other attractive environmental elements woven into the design. So it's probably only a matter of time before the old "flat and boring" knock on Florida golf becomes a thing of the past.

AGE: 76
RESIDENCE: Delray Beach, Florida
COLLEGE: Rollins College, Florida
COURSES DESIGNED: 120 (approx.)
NOTABLE COURSES: Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel, Indiana (1964); The Golf Club, New Albany, Ohio (1967); Teeth of the Dog, Dominican Republic (1971); TPC at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida (1980); The Honors Course, Ooltewah, Tennessee (1983); PGA West TPC Stadium course, La Quinta, California (1986); Old Marsh Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (1988); Whistling Straits Golf Club, Haven, Wisconsin (1998)
SIGNIFICANT STATS: Winner of the 1958 Indiana Amateur; president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (1989-90)


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