Golf Course Architects are missing the single-most important facet of golf course design- golfers. Golf Course Architects have typically had a defined course of study that includes studying landscape architecture, reading books by and about golf architects and golf course architecture, along with playing and or studying great golf courses. And we can all talk about strategy, angles, length, and all of the other aspects of design that people tend to focus on but what they are missing and why they often struggle to create golf courses that are immensely interesting and playable for golfers of all skill levels is that they have not studied golfers and how they play golf. Since we are designing courses for all golfers, wouldn't it make sense to study how golfers of varying skill levels play the game? Shouldn't this be the first thing that we study as opposed to being the last, if at all?
In the past I have written about the 40,000+ Hours on Great Golf Courses, which is about how much time I've spent on great golf courses. During those 40,000 or so hours, I suspect that I have seen more golf shots played by more types of golfers than the vast majority of Golf Course Architects. Studying how golfers play the game, may be more important than any other single course of study in Golf Course Architecture and yet, it has been virtually ignored by most students of golf course architecture. Can you imagine a traffic engineer designing roads without studying how people drive cars? It seems unlikely, although I think that we have all been in traffic jams where it seems as if the traffic engineer hadn't studied how people drive. And for that matter, we've probably all played too many golf courses where it seemed as if the Golf Course Architect hadn't studied how golfers play the game. Quite often, Architects have to come back and "fix" their golf courses within a year or two of the course opening. I wrote about that in Golf Architecture's Definition of Insanity. Perhaps if those Architects studied golfers and how they play the game of golf, they wouldn't have to "fix" their newly built courses.
In my Anarchist's Philosophy of Golf Course Architecture, I have been critical of modern golf course architecture as being formulaic, stuck in convention, and flawed based on being significantly or primarily based on the study of the great golf courses and golden era architects. It is one of my contentions that golf course architects should study nature first, golf course architecture second and lastly and perhaps most importantly, how people of all skill levels play golf.