Wednesday 26 June 2013

Appropriating the Scenery

Critics of golf course architecture frequently discount the value of off-site views and judge the merits of a design solely by the finished product found within the golf course property.  While mountain peaks, ocean vistas or a pleasant view into town predate the arrival of golf, the framing of those views are very likely no accident.

Golf architects strive to present a visually appealing landscape and try to incorporate those views into the golf experience.  A clever routing can take advantage of wonderful views by siting greens and tees in specific locations to ensure all golfers can take a moment to enjoy the scene.  Additionally, well thought-out tree clearing can reveal a stunning backdrop to a green site.  Conversely, off-site features that detract from the golf experience are screened by  a combination of earthworks and tree planting or avoided altogether if the land permits.  Whether we like to admit it or not, off-site features play a role in our overall enjoyment of a round of golf.  These features, both positive and negative are not limited to the visual arena.  Busy roads or landfills can respectively, wreck havoc on our auditory and olfactory senses, negatively impacting our perception of a golf course.

Stanley Thompson is rumoured to have cleared trees off-site to ensure players teeing off No. 6 at Capilano could see downtown Vancouver and the Lion's Gate Bridge (picture is of No. 1, showing similar view).
This photo is taken from the back tee at No. 4 at Sand Hills, added years after the golf course was built.  From here, the roof of the maintenance building is visible, detracting, albeit slightly, from the pristine natural surroundings (not even the clubhouse is in sight while on the course!).
It is important to remember that taking advantage of off-site views should not come at the expense of strategically sound golf holes.  Awkward and contrived holes are not salvaged by a spectacular view.  Well crafted holes however, do benefit from positive off-site features, enhancing the design and making the hole more memorable and unique.  Golf architects deserve more credit for appropriating the surrounding landscape into their designs and helping to create a more profound sensory experience.

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