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Golf Course Architecture

Golfers at the nineteenth hole used to chitchat about their round; these days they're at least as likely to critique the playing ground itself. And, inevitably, there will be at least one cliché-spewing blowhard who's a self-anointed authority on course design. (We used to be this person but got the help we needed.) What follows are some snappy rejoinders guaranteed to elicit arched eyebrows and conspiratorial nods—and silence that puffed-up know-it-all right quick.
—Joe Passov

Architect Donald Ross
Top Three Oakland Hills Country Club (South) Bloomfield Hills, MI (1916); Pinehurst (No. 2) Pinehurst, NC (1907); Seminole Golf Club North Palm Beach, FL (1929)
Conventional Wisdom "The ultimate expression of the Ross design philosophy is found in those fiendish crowned greens at Pinehurst No. 2."
Yes, But Pete Dye, for one, says these crowned greens aren't attributable to Ross's style. Rather, excessive top-dressing built them up over time. Of course, you know the greens Ross crafted in 1907 were oiled sand—they were grass-free until 1935.
Oh, By The Way Ross could play the game, too. He finished fifth in the 1903 U.S. Open, tied for eighth at the 1910 British Open and captured three North-South Opens.

Architect Alister MacKenzie
Top Three Augusta National Golf Club Augusta, GA (1932); Cypress Point Club Pebble Beach, CA (1928); Royal Melbourne Golf Club (West) Black Rock, Australia (1931)
Conventional Wisdom "Dr. MacKenzie was a camouflage expert for the British in the Boer War and had no peer when it came to crafting classic courses rife with strategy, deception and subtlety."
Yes, But His many vast, topsy-turvy greens were anything but subtle or deceptive; they were unusual for the era and quite controversial. It pained the good doctor, he said, that for a time "every freak green in Britain [was] termed a 'MacKenzie Green.'"
Oh, By The Way MacKenzie retired to a home in sunny Santa Cruz, California, on Pasatiempo Golf Club's sixth hole, stating, "I have always wanted to live where one could practice shots in one's pajamas before breakfast."

Architect Robert Trent Jones
Top Three Mauna Kea Golf Course Kohala Coast, HI (1964); Peachtree Golf Club Atlanta, GA (1948); Valderrama Golf Club Cadiz, Spain (1975)
Conventional Wisdom "Trent's motto was 'hard par, easy bogey': To blunt the modern in-the-air power game, he built longer courses, fairways squeezed by flanking bunkers and enormous, elevated greens fronted by water and/or sand."
Yes, But Three of the five courses he labeled his favorites—Spyglass Hill, Ballybunion New (Cashen) and Valderrama—were pure finesse layouts with smallish greens that don't fit that profile at all.
Oh, By The Way Trent invented the term "signature course," thanks to trade-publication ads for his design business whose tag line was "Give your course a signature."

Architect Pete Dye
Top Three Harbour Town Golf Links Hilton Head Island, SC (1969); TPC at Sawgrass (Stadium) Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (1980); Whistling Straits Golf Club (Straits) Haven, WI (1997)
Conventional Wisdom "Dye's all about dramatic, brutal target golf with island greens, railroad ties, waste bunkers, pot bunkers and small, wildly undulating greens surrounded by mounds, grass bunkers and other deep trouble."
Yes, But Many Dye designs are ruthless from the tips, but he also pays great attention to making the other tees interesting and playable, thanks to the influence of his wife, Alice. She's both a superb player and a past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
Oh, By The Way Dye qualified for five U.S. Amateurs, three times reaching the third round, including 1959, when the field included eventual winner Jack Nicklaus.

Architect Jack Nicklaus
Top Three Castle Pines Golf Club Castle Rock, CO (1981); The Challenge at Manele Lanai, HI (1993); Shoal Creek Golf Club Shoal Creek, AL (1977)
Conventional Wisdom "Jack builds gorgeous courses that are impossible to play, maintain or afford. They're built for his game: long, with shallow, elevated, fiercely fortified greens that require soaring approaches. They're expensive to upkeep; we pay the price."
Yes, But The Bear's mellowed, no longer peppering his layouts with chocolate-drop mounds or steep contours, which send scores and costs skyrocketing. His designs are now softer and more natural, and they're playable and affordable for the average Joe—witness Tennessee's Bear Trace.
Oh, By The Way For a guy who preached conservative course management, Nicklaus managed to partner with two of the most iconoclastic, flamboyant architects ever, Pete Dye and Desmond Muirhead, prior to starting his own design firm.

Architect Tom Fazio
Top Three The Estancia Club Scottsdale, AZ (1996); Shadow Creek North Las Vegas, NV (1989); Wade Hampton Golf Club Cashiers, NC (1987)
Conventional Wisdom "Fazio builds the most natural-looking courses around, even if he has to move a million cubic yards of dirt to do so. They're pretty, flowing and playable, but sometimes at the expense of strategy, challenge and championship character."
Yes, But Another view is that Fazio listens to clients who ask for beautiful over brutal. He can conjure very strategic holes—consider the superior risk-reward short par fours at Caves Valley, 2002 U.S. Senior Open host—and we know who Augusta National called to toughen its course.
Oh, By The Way Before Augusta, Fazio had practically sworn off high-profile redesign work. He had briefly been the "Open Doctor," but his work at Inverness in 1978 and at Oak Hill the next year proved unpopular with pros and critics.

Architect Rees Jones
Top Three Atlantic Golf Club Bridgehampton, NY (1992); Black Lake Golf Club Onaway, MI (2000); Ocean Forest Golf Club Sea Island, GA (1995)
Conventional Wisdom "While he's famous for his sensitive renovations of classics like Bethpage Black and Pinehurst No. 2, Rees's original designs are fundamentally fair, with target areas and hazards visible and risk-reward options easily identifiable."
Yes, But Jones is an unabashed fan and member of C. B. MacDonald's National Golf Links, an ancient course whose oddball features—blind shots, Punchbowl greens, hazards strewn everywhere—are never found on his own quirk-free designs.
Oh, By The Way The new "Open Doctor" had to be heartbroken when forced to operate on his own Charleston National, which had the potential to be his best. Hurricane Hugo devastated the area and the course the week of its opening.


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