Friday, September 20, 2013

Golf Course Sketching

About a year ago I came across a book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" and found it extremely helpful in developing my sketches.  The ability to produce perspective drawings is an extremely helpful tool when trying to communicate design ideas.  I'd like to share one of my drawings.  Let me know what you think!

10th Hole Trump International Dubai--New Construction

The Modern Golf Course

I was recently involved in a discussion on Golf Club Atlas regarding the balance between subtlety and eye candy on a golf course.  The question asked if a golf course could be overcooked with visual distraction?  I believe this varies greater depending on the architect, character of the site, and time period. The point was also made about a particular golf course feeling highly stylized.  One architect who is most famous (and skilled) for his highly stylized designs in Mike Stranz.  His work at Tobacco Road is so artful, purposed, and screaming with style that it feels artificial despite a beautiful natural setting.

I guess this all comes down to a matter of taste as mine clearly leans toward a seamless natural landscape that happens to have some golf holes draped over the grass.  In the modern day Tom D and Bill Coore do this better than most and have the restraint to let their sites speak for themselves when the opportunity presents itself.

How about C.B. Macdonald, Seth Raynor, Mike Stranz, and even Gil Hanse...?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Keeping up with the World's Busiest Golf Architect

While working in Sorocaba, Brazil this past May, I took the opportunity to go visit the world's busiest golf architect, Gil Hanse, in Rio de Janeiro.  Over the last 5 years I have been in the habit of showing up in the most unlikely locations to find work and I have been successful in my searches.  I believe the saying goes, "the harder I work the luckier I get."  In this case my luck landed me a job in Dubai and not in Rio as I was hoping!  Nonetheless I have been offered a tremendous opportunity to work alongside Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner, of Hanse Golf Design, in the construction of their latest project in Dubai.  The golf course will be part of a large luxury housing development in Dubai City.  I'll be doing my best to deliver a look to the bunkering scheme which reflects the overall concept of the project.  I have also been given the latitude to add value to the design in other facets of the golf course, from tee to green.

It is my first week on the job and we are in the bulk earthmoving stage of the project which begins with the construction of a driving range and two golf holes.  This is a golf course which will be totally manufactured as there is absolutely no contour to build from, only our own imaginations.  Mr. Hanse has given us a framework to create within and in effect encouraged critical input from the construction team.

The first hole is coming to life and should be ready for fine shaping by the end of our work week.

Updates to come...

The Meaning of Life

People who use golf as some sort of status symbol are destined to go unfulfilled. Golf is only meant to be a small part of one’s life, centering around health, relaxation and having fun with friends/family.

-Ran Morrisett-

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Construction--Fazenda Boa Vista, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil
I've recently returned from a 5 week work trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, designing and building sand traps on a brand new golf course in Brazil.  The golf course is being built for the residents of a large upscale housing development just over an hour outside of Sao Paulo.  Thad Layton, Senior architect at Arnold Palmer Golf Design is leading the project with contracting services provided by Pro Golf Brasil and a small team of American shapers.  As of today the first 11 holes are shaped and ready to be capped with sand in preparation for seeding and grow-in.
Sorocaba River

The front nine, built on a nearly flat field of sugar cane, hugs the serpentine curves of the Sorocaba River.  Architect Thad Layton executed a thoughtful plan to shape this area of the golf course with fill taken from the irrigation reservoir created on site.  Although some of the soils were heavy with clay, many areas of the golf course were built on pure sand, no doubt left by the river over thousands of years.  The final product on the front nine is a broadly rolling landscape which takes the golfer for a wander through wetlands, rivers and lakes.   There are also many long views of nearby farms and mountains which are framed by the tall palms surrounding the property.
Hole #1

Thanks to the surgical eye of shaper Randy Brown and the attention to detail of Mr. Layton all of the contours appear naturally formed, hiding the intention of each roll and swale.  All but two greens on the front nine sit at grade with the fairway, connecting seamlessly to the edge of the putting surface.  My job as a bunker specialist was to highlight , embellish, or even hide the nearby contours of fairways and greens while defining a look for the golf course.

The back nine begins to climb gradually to a high point on the 12th tee, then spills down to a broad fairway where the golf course really begins to shine. From the 12th hole to the 18th green the golf course reveals itself quite easily over some not so subtle contours.

Finding an easily walked golf course over hilly terrain is no easy task and is as much of a compliment to the routing as it is to Thad's appreciation for the history of the game.  Following one of the most revered tenants of great golf architecture, a walking golf course was found.  Among other elements there is a classic feel here with no great gaps between holes, many greens appear to simply extend from the fairway, there is width and strategy off the tee, as well as open approaches to the greens.  The Boa Vista golf course is unlike any other design that Arnold Palmer Golf Design has put forth and is a good sign for where the design group would like to go with their work.  There are not many noteworthy golf courses in Brazil to compete with, however the Boa Vista golf course sets a high standard in the quality of its design and should be regarded as one of the best golf courses in Brazil.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Popping the Cork at Bunham and Berrow

It felt like a celebration of golf while I walked the links at Burnham on the Sea, of England's West coast.  I believe those who are fans of the course will be able to re-live my first timers excitement and I hope those who have not seen this great links will be able to go there someday!

I had a day off and the sun decided to shine, it was a glorious Winter day in England.  I swallowed a quick breakfast and began a two hour drive from Poole on the South coast.  I arrived in plenty of time to smack some practice balls, enjoy this sign, 
A good omen for practice before any round on the links!

slap some putts, and have a brew (coffee, although I have seen many a pint consumed in English clubhouses before noon on any day of the week!).  Is it time to tee off yet?!  I get paired with three young lads who tell me they are posting scores today and I propose we played a match as well.  Stabelford it is, how delightfully English and confusing for me!

1st Tee
Notice the large dunes on the horizon.

My broad impressions for the day included:
Blustery and Sunny, "out and in" routing, marching into the wind back nine, a difficult test.  I obviously want to play the opposite wind, it will be like unwrapping the gift of great links golf all over again.
Notice my playing partners climbing the massive dunes on the right of the photo.

The opening holes are a tough and captivating start to get the juices flowing.  The golf leads you through large and irregular dunes, leaving uncertainty about what shot will be required around the corner.  The following holes 4-8 scale down a bit, but not in strategy, while skirting around the wild dunes in the heart of the golf course.  The middle part of the round  9,10,11 exhibit a brilliant use of subtle and “flatter” terrain as a link back to the commotion within…
Blind Tee Shot #10
Flat but not without golfing interest.

Holes 12-18 continue to build the crescendo as you move back through the dunes.  Getting to the 18th green is a relief, with a chance to make a flat putt.

#18 The Home Green

Burnham and Berrow reminded me in many ways of North Berwick in Edinburgh.  Both have a funky start in irregular terrain and exhibit a brilliant use of the subtle ground to link up with the more dramatic holes later in the round.  Both golf courses also use this dramatic terrain late in the round to build to a terrific climax.

#16 Green
A wonderful spot to end a golf hole.
B&B has many unique green sites and approaches to the par 4’s and 5’s.  Two punch bowls (3&15), a couple of “turtle backs”, a few shoulders on the side of dunes and others on dune tops.   The 16th green is possibly the best greens I have ever seen.  It’s a miniature and twisted version of the crazy green at Sitwell Park or any other such inspiration.  Its in a league of its own.
#16 Green Surface

A pint of bitter helped me soak in the experience of the day.  I’m glad I played with the locals as well or I surely would have scored even worse.

I can't wait to go back already!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Self Qualification in Golf Architecture

Cal Club
Broadstone Golf Club

In the last year I have accumulated an extraordinary amount of frequent flier miles in pursuit of even more experience around the world of golf.

From the start of 2012 I have been to exactly 60 golf courses on 3 continents, in 8 different countries.  I'd also like to highlight my work experience on exciting and ambitious projects in Uruguay, England, Nebraska, and New York.  This work has allowed me to study and test out the essentials of the worlds best golf courses, in many different cultures.  It is the beginning of my 5th year as a golf design professional and I am prepared to take on the responsibilities of a golf architect in addition to my playing and construction expertise.

Technically I can't be a golf architect without clients.  In 2013 it is my goal to retain at least one client and help them express the best qualities of their golf course in a matrix of design, construction, and maintenance.


Jeff Stein