Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called "Outliers". One of his contentions in the book is that to become competent in any given vocation or profession that you must spend 10,000 hours in your chosen field. I must be slower than most people because it took me over 40,000 hours spent on great golf courses before I became comfortable with my own instincts about Golf Course Design.
There are those in the Golf Design business that talk about how they have "studied" and are "students" of the great golf courses. Their studies have consisted of reading about the course, the architect, looking at pictures, possibly plans, and a single or several trips to the hallowed ground to play golf. It has always struck me as sincere although incomplete and naive to assume that one can garner much more than the gross strategy and a general sense of a great course in such a short period of time and course of study.
Consider some additional methods to learn more about golf course architecture from a different angle. It takes time at great courses:
*Spend one week on the same course, a month, a year
*Do golf course setup, you may call it changing cups but when done well, its daily design
*Watch thousands of variously skilled golfers play the same course and holes
*Look at the golf course forward and backward day after day
*Look across golf holes and at areas between and around holes and how they relate
*See the course before the sun comes up, at sunrise, sunset, or after dark, in the moonlight
*Look at contours from shadows created by headlights, you won't believe what's there
*Watch a downpour, where the water flows, and how fast
*See how the snow settles on the course and melts
*Watch the golf course during a wind storm, see what blows where
*See shadows at different times of the day and year
*Look at the golf course as the leaves fall from the trees and the how the shade changes
*Smell the dirt, good soils smell better than bad soils
*Look at the course when its completely dormant or browned off for over-seeding
*Shovel up bunker washouts, fix bunkers on the spot with hand tools and without a master-plan
*Watch tens of thousands of golf shots hit, land, and roll on every part of the course
*Roll balls on every green repeatedly every day and watch the ball roll, exposing all of the contours
*Learn from the people that were responsible for protecting the integrity of these courses, if any are left
*Playing shouldn't be ignored but if you are a skilled player try some shots from where less skilled players may have to play from
Hopefully, it won't take others the 40,000 hours at great golf courses that it took me to feel comfortable with golf course design. But surely, it takes more than a few rounds to learn about a great golf course. Spending significant time on great golf courses has exposed me to many of their subtleties and nuances, while developing a very different and varied perspective on golf course architecture.