Monday, July 11, 2011

Libertarian Philosophies in Golf Course Architecture

I want to propose and coin a "new" concept in golf course design...Libertarian Golf Course Architecture. Libertarian Golf Course Architecture encourages or possibly even demands that golfers make a choice and generally have choices and options in how they can play holes and golf shots. This design philosophy may be much closer to the origins of golf than any other philosophy presently in play. The Libertarian Golf Course Architecture philosophy allows golfers to have free will and play the golf hole with varying strategies and the golf shots that can be played in different fashions. Golfers should be allowed to play as bravely, aggressively, safely, smartly, or for that matter, idiotically as they choose to. It isn't our job as designers to deprive the golfer of his choices or options, only to present them as an organic puzzle for the golfer to solve.

Too often in golf, the golfer is forced to play the hole and entire golf courses in a certain manner. Could that be Totalitarian Golf Course Architecture? Perhaps Pete Dye could be likened to the Mussolini of golf course designers based upon his propensity to impose his will on the golfers...kind of like being the benevolent dictator of golf course design. He is going to tell you exactly where to hit the ball and what shots you must hit to have a chance at success on his courses. Shot after shot, your options are very limited.

And while some might not unreasonably suggest that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are more like, well, Haight-Ashbury in the 60s with a little Ken Kesey thrown in for good measure. We could view them as the flower children or the counter culture of golf course design but I think that they are that and just so much more than that. What Bill and Ben are, is perhaps the first modern designers to embrace Libertarian Golf Course Architecture coupled with an organic process and understanding of golf. They just understand earth forms and their relationship to nature and how that interacts with golf and the golf experience.

On the positive side of Golf Architecture, there are a growing number of golf course architects that trend towards these Libertarian Golf Design Philosophies. They encourage you to have strategic options and the ability to play a hole differently based upon your own assessment of the conditions, course and your game at the moment. Coore and Crenshaw, Doak et al. Gil Hanse, and a few of the lesser knowns, including Zokol and me (Suny, Zokol Golf Design) all like to give golfers options, even if the golfer doesn't initially realize it.

Zokol and I believe that in order for a golf course to be compelling, that a more libertarian philosophy of golf course architecture must be employed with just a touch of a laissez-faire approach to strategy. Call it freedom of choice in strategy and shot selection or Libertarian Golf Course Architecture.