Golf Course Architecture
January 25, 2009 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Golf course architecture goes back more than 100 years. Golf courses can be incredibly beautiful, very tough, or extreme. Which are the best golf courses? Of course, the golf course critics over at Golf Club Atlas might not agree.

Want more? How about designing your own golf course? The American Society of Golf Course Architects has a practical guide for you. Or you could travel the world to play the top 100 golf courses. Also, don't miss Golf Club Atlas' interviews with golf course profiles, including one of the most respected golf course critics around, Geoff Shackelford.
posted by Foci for Analysis (32 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Golf courses are a disgusting waste of land.
posted by HotPants at 2:04 PM on January 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Golf courses are a disgusting waste of land."

Not to golfers.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:16 PM on January 25, 2009

That's exactly what I was going to say.

They're also huge polluters: Fertilizers, pesticides, gas for all the lawnmowers...
posted by Sys Rq at 2:17 PM on January 25, 2009

Not to golfers.

Well, you can fill in the blanks regarding what exactly golfers are a waste of.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:20 PM on January 25, 2009

The rich always have beautiful lawns.
posted by plexi at 2:24 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is a recent push toward eco-friendly golf courses, which is incredibly late coming, but needs to be applauded (to a certain extent). I read about one (on an island off the US somewhere, I forget where) and they were discussing the difficulties - including limited water for irrigation. Part of the issue with not using so many chemicals, the groundskeeper opined, was that golfers have become accustomed to flawless, deep green, fairways and greens. His position was that, as expectations became more realistic, then the cost and ease of maintaining a ecologically sensible golf course would become realistic for less well funded than the high level one he worked at (I seem to recall $65,000 a year membership or something).

They do use use a hell of a lot of land, mind you, and the fakeness and lack of respect for local fauna is a bit sad. I'd have thought that local character from that would be good for each gold course, rather than designing an area of transplanted greenery.
posted by Brockles at 2:29 PM on January 25, 2009

"Golf courses are a disgusting waste of land."
"They're also huge polluters: Fertilizers, pesticides, gas for all the lawnmowers..."

Not this one in Lofoten, Northern Norway:

"The result is a nine-hole course of just 2,172 yards - par 31, with four par-4's and five par-3's - incorporating all the natural features of the rocky headland and only rudimentarily manicured. The architect, a Sweden-based Englishman named Jeremy Turner, placed tees on promontories, fairways on narrow isthmuses and postage-stamp greens bare centimeters from sandy beaches. He left thick stands of gorse and clover everywhere. It's the kind of golf course the Scots might have made hundreds of years ago." (...)

"When my grandfather, and his father, used to plow this land," he continued, "they'd sometimes turn up skeletons and some artifacts - a Viking sword, a gold ring, the foundations of a house, the outlines of a Viking ship." Hov, Frode said, comes from an Old Norse word meaning sacred place of offering.

What did he think of people playing golf where Viking bones rest?

"They'd probably think it's fun," he said. "They were Vikings."
posted by iviken at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2009

Oh boy, golf! That's where I'm a Viking!
posted by empath at 3:21 PM on January 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

My favorite course.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 3:23 PM on January 25, 2009

"...Just basically all of the key features from the Golden Age. Subtlety, mystery, natural looking beauty created by man, variety, irregularity, forced carries, decision-making, encouraging recovery play, skillful incorporation of drainage, intelligently-contoured greens, plenty of short holes, prudent routings, etc..."

This is a post about golf course design, not what people think of golf.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 3:24 PM on January 25, 2009

This is a post about golf course design in which people post what they damn well please.

In any case, the negative posts are about golf course design: namely, that far and away the most common kind of design is unbelievably wasteful and environmentally destructive.

Golf is the bloatrd SUV of the sports world.
posted by Rumple at 3:27 PM on January 25, 2009

Thinking of the golf courses around where I live, I don't think they are huge polluters. They tend to occupy land that is no good for farming... and my region is a wheat-growing one, so growing grass isn't a totally outlandish land use as it would be in places like Phoenix.

As for being a land-hog, land isn't in short supply where I live and I can think of two local courses which use the creek where our local sewage is discharged for a water supply and another course a couple of hours away which flanks a garbage dump concealed by trees. Two other courses in my town inhabit properties close to the airport, and deal with airliners and planes landing and taking off.... I think one is on a floodplain. In these instances, I would say the golf courses add value to surrounding properties and improve the area. Some of those golf course chemicals are keeping away West-Nile carrying mosquitoes, so I am not sure I am totally against the pesticide use.

I don't think of this is a rich man's game either. A twilight round is under 20 bucks where I live, and it gives me some outdoor enjoyment which might otherwise be fulfilled through drives to the beach, visits to a cottage, or a boat. All the criticisms of golf in this thread can be true, but I believe there is sustainable golf... and where I play, it is not far off and a good golf course designer can take these issues into account.
posted by Deep Dish at 3:31 PM on January 25, 2009

I think I've golfed about twice in my life, but I used to cross country ski with some regularity when I lived in Montana. The golf course next to the University of Montana allowed cross country skiing on its property when it was snow-covered.

Is this a common practice on other golf courses?

But more importantly, I wish I knew what Obama's thoughts on golf course design were...
posted by Tube at 4:28 PM on January 25, 2009

Here is a discussion from MeFi last year about the environmental impact of golf.
posted by netbros at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2009

Oh boy, golf! That's where I'm a Viking!

somewhere in there there's a Monte Python sketch
posted by mannequito at 5:06 PM on January 25, 2009

Golf courses use a lot of water, and, considering building golf courses is an integral part of real estate speculation, there is no place in North America that can afford to waste water like that.

Golf is the bloatrd SUV of the sports world.

Hockey arenas in Florida and Phoenix have already snagged that title.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:54 PM on January 25, 2009

Hockey arenas in Florida and Phoenix have already snagged that title.

Really? There isn't insulation effective enough to make them much more efficient than golf courses? That surprises me. Or are you making a hypothetical point of the ludicrous nature of ice rinks in the desert that I am missing?
posted by Brockles at 6:13 PM on January 25, 2009

The BEST disc golf courses are DISC Golf Courses. Anyone can play with the purchase of a $7 disc. Plus, they usually exist on abandoned parkland that needed to be cleaned up, and IMHO the company is infinitely superior to any country club.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:17 PM on January 25, 2009

I've worked at a few golf courses over the years and even though I'm not the best golfer, it's been a blast.

They may be a huge waste of land, to some, but they employ lots of people. They generate tons of income for the towns they are in, and local business in the area like hotels and restaurants. I feel like other businesses that are space wasters (shopping malls, amusement parks) should be equally footed, but people seem to get riled up over golf.

It's not going to go away. And all of the greenskeepers I've known have agreed that ecological methods are taking over.
posted by riane at 6:21 PM on January 25, 2009

Darn lack of proofing. The Best disc golf courses...
posted by JimmyJames at 6:24 PM on January 25, 2009

It's not going to go away.

Time will tell about that, I imagine.
posted by Rumple at 7:11 PM on January 25, 2009

Golf courses strike me as a way for people to get outside and feel like they're in nature without getting their hands dirty. That said, I've enjoyed playing golf during the few times I've done so.
posted by wastelands at 8:17 PM on January 25, 2009

Golfers are a disgusting waste of plaid.
posted by cortex at 9:38 PM on January 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've always considered miniature golf course design to be a much more interesting topic. Mind you, all I know about golf course theory I learned from playing Sid Meier's SimGolf but I owe my knowledge of miniature golf course theory to extensive field research at Cape Cod, Myrtle Beach and the Dells.

Do you reward your players by putting the windmill after the loop-the-loop as a breather, or do you place it between the barn and the pinball machine as a way of gently ramping up the difficulty? Which works better as the free game target on the 18th hole: the clown's nose, or its mouth? Should your waterfalls be artificially colored blue, or is it better to go for the natural look? And will you risk lawsuits by including the one hole with split paths marked "MEN" and "WOMEN" just because it's fun to watch a teenage boy get razzed by his siblings for accidentally hitting it down the women's path?

Questions, questions, questions...
posted by Spatch at 5:56 AM on January 26, 2009

A nice post, foci, wasted by the fact it was made to MetaFilter.
posted by rocket88 at 7:27 AM on January 26, 2009

rocket88, thanks. I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised by all of the knee-jerk reactions. I haven't played golf a single time in my life but I appreciate the dedication, passion and beauty that comes with the sport.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:27 PM on January 26, 2009

Golf, like most useless pursuits, looks a lot different from the inside. Nice post, Foci.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 4:47 PM on January 26, 2009

Amazing how so many non-golfers assume they know who plays golf. Great post, btw.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:15 PM on January 26, 2009

Amazing how so many non-golfers assume they know who plays golf.

Only one person in this thread has explicitly admitted non-golf status, and I don't detect in that single user's comment, or in the FPP that same single user posted, any such assumptions.

You smelt it, Mojojojo, you dealt it.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:05 AM on January 27, 2009

Ummm, I was actually referring to you. Dealt it, now smell...what are you? 12?
posted by Mojojojo at 4:10 PM on January 27, 2009

As long as we're going to get into this perception vs. fact thing, it's probably not a great idea to assume that someone who enjoys an off-the-cuff snark at golf's expense is ipso facto not someone who golfs.
posted by cortex at 5:08 PM on January 27, 2009

Precisely. FWIW, I grew up golfing.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:11 PM on January 28, 2009

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