Finding the balance between a golf course and a golf community

Golf may be one of Scotland’s gifts to the world, but the golf community – a course surrounded by real estate – is almost purely an American idea. A flyby of the American Sun Belt will show you houses tightly packed together with streaks of green fairways crossing their mostly parallel lines.

Early in his career, golf course architect Tom Doak pursued community golf projects while looking for work, but “I quickly realized I didn’t have the kind of name that would be appealing. for someone who wants to buy land from their home,” he said. This lack of brand value may not be as apparent today since Mr. Doak has seven of his courses in the World Top 100, according to Golf Magazine. In Golf Digest, Doak has four Top 100 designs and seven others he helped remodel.

Although Mr. Doak does not do much development, he is acutely aware of how to integrate housing, accommodation, a clubhouse and other infrastructure into a world-class design without ever diverting the attention to the golf experience. The following interview has been edited and condensed.

What are the challenges of designing a course when you know houses will be present? What are the things you consider?

The biggest challenge is whether or not you will be allowed to place the golf holes where they match the topography, or whether you will have to rebuild the topography around where the houses need to go.

Each developer says they have given free rein to the golf course architect on where to put golf holes, but this is actually quite rare, as it is not efficient in terms of using space. Developers don’t want to build a road with houses on one side only; it is much more expensive. So often, if the property is going to be densely developed, you start with land and roads from the outer boundary, and that width has a lot to do with determining where the golf holes go.

Your new project, Te Arai Links in New Zealand, includes houses along the 18th fairway. This type of housing layout seems to be designed so that the course is enhanced when looking out. Does it affect the appearance of the hole? Or are you thinking more about how you could make the environment look like the golfer is playing the hole?

Well like at Pebble Beach the 18 homes at Te Arai look across the fairway towards the beach and ocean so I don’t know if it matters if the golf hole features stand out for owners. You probably want the fairway to look like your garden. There may be instances where I think about how a hole looks from the lots, but for the most part I focus on what the golfer will see.

Houses a reasonable distance from the edge of the fairway aren’t that intrusive, but if houses start to slip into the line of sight of the golfer playing the hole, it starts to detract from the golfer’s feeling of playing “out in the wild.” “. ”

The American model of a golf community is not very often replicated internationally. Often houses get the best land at the expense of the course. Can you speak to the American or international communities that you believe have achieved balance?

Many famous older courses have homes around the perimeter of the course – Merion, Winged Foot, Pebble Beach. Others, like Yeamans Hall or Fishers Island, had planned to marry golf and real estate like we do today, but they were only trying to get 50 lots around the golf course, not 250.

It’s when you’re building houses between golf holes that the priorities are really reversed. There were tons of these kinds of golf developments built across America over the past 50 years. The grounds were sold and the developer was happy, but in the long run many owners decided they didn’t really like having the course in their backyard, where the maintenance crew mowed a green at 6.30am , and where a stray shot in the backyard happens every other day.

How can good course design contribute to the development of not only accommodation, but also other essential golf infrastructure such as a clubhouse, maintenance buildings and even restrooms and catering facilities?

If we think about the community as a whole while designing the course, we can integrate things together much better. I’m currently working on a plan where the course’s halfway house will be right next to a community park, so it can be used not just by golfers, but by anyone who lives there as a great picnic spot. fuck.

If we understand the plan of the land, we may be able to incorporate walking paths throughout the course, so that residents can truly enjoy the open space value the course provides. It’s harder to do in America because everything is so contentious, and the safety of non-golfers is a concern, as is potential vandalism on the course. But my experience overseas is that when the two are integrated, residents come to understand the rhythms of golf and when it’s safe to continue – even if they don’t know anything about golf at all – and golfers respect the safety of their neighbours.

One of the first projects you worked on was the Long Cove Club in Hilton Head, SC, built by your mentor, Pete Dye. Many houses on this course are hidden from golfers, although they are not far from the course. What did you learn about routing a course on this project that you’re taking with you today?

Almost every hole in Long Cove is surrounded by houses on both sides, but the golf hole corridor is wider than normal – 400 feet instead of 300 – and there were lots of trees on the site. We only clear about 150 to 200 feet of trees for our fairways, so there are 100 feet of trees on each side of the hole before you get to the owner whether he cuts all of his trees or not. That’s enough to make it look like you’re playing through trees, not houses.

Pete’s only rule was that he never wanted to see a house behind a green, where golfers were aiming for it. The lots are still on the sides of the holes, but they don’t surround them.

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