Ernie Els, a four-time main champion, gained the 2007 HSBC World Match Play Championship on the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England, host of this week’s BMW PGA Championship.
The membership, a sprawling advanced of three 18-hole golf programs and a plenitude of facilities, was working to refresh the West Course, which hosted championship golf. Els was the architect in control of the work.
Wentworth is the house of the European Tour, which runs the DP World Tour, and has hosted this week’s flagship occasion for the reason that Eighties. (Three instances, Els completed as runner-up within the occasion.)
The West Course was initially designed by Harry Colt almost 100 years earlier. Colt was one of many early Twentieth century’s nice golf course architects. He labored on some 300 programs, together with the unique routing of Pine Valley, typically the top-ranked course on this planet.
But the sport had modified, and Els, who was recognized for his easy swing, was introduced in to revive a few of the unique challenges that Colt had created — however that longer-hitting professionals had rendered out of date. One of the important thing fixes was rebuilding all of the greens so they might have the agency bounce and quick pace that professionals are used to.
Ten years after that victory at Wentworth, Els completed the renovation. “There’s certainly no other golf course in the world that I know as well as Wentworth’s West Course, so you could say we were the logical choice,” Els mentioned. “Obviously to have that opportunity was an honor, not just professionally but personally, too. I’d say I fell in love with the West Course before I’d even played it, seeing the World Matchplay on television, watching some of my heroes.”
What Els had been requested to do, although, was one thing that has pale from recognition: be a tour professional who renovated a course.
Pros as soon as lent their huge taking part in information to golf course design tasks — typically with an unlimited actual property improvement connected — however when the financial system cooled in 2008 and new golf course development dried up, so, too, did professionals’ involvement.
Golf course design is now in an period of star architects, akin to Tom Doak and Gil Hanse, whose imaginative and prescient for the sport focuses extra on purity and pleasure than on creating overly penal programs that may frustrate amateurs and more than likely by no means host an expert event. The unique golf course increase within the late-Nineteenth and early-Twentieth centuries, nonetheless, was fueled by nice golfers like Willie Park Jr., who gained the British Open twice, and Donald Ross, a professional from Scotland.
Despite the latest pattern, professionals nonetheless keep a task in course design, even when it’s a very totally different one from many years previous. It’s extra within the collaborative mode of Els at Wentworth than the splashy one which noticed golf stars of the Seventies and Eighties like Lee Trevino, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Don January and Billy Casper lend their names to developments.
“If someone’s been a good golfer, people believe they probably know everything about golf,” mentioned Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion and a director on the design agency OCM Golf. “Some do; some don’t. But when I’m meeting members, I think it helps when I can wax on the virtues of the 13th hole at Augusta National because I’ve played there. It makes it easier.”
His agency has labored on main restorations of programs in Australia and is presently engaged on Medinah Country Club’s Course 3, which can host the 2026 Presidents Cup, a collection of matches between the United States and a world squad. (Ogilvy performed thrice on Presidents Cup groups.)
But he has two companions within the design agency who know the intricacies of constructing a course. “It’s better to have three minds in there,” mentioned Ogilvy, who gained 12 instances on the PGA and European Tours. “They’re routing and designing it. I’m working on a lot of the playability stuff. What would tour guys hit from here? Will guys go for that shot or get scared?”
That instinct, significantly on the psychological a part of the sport, is efficacious to designers, mentioned Bobby Weed, an architect who labored with 17 PGA Tour participant consultants when he construct out the Tournament Players Club Network, a bunch of programs designed to host skilled tournaments.
“What I liked was their input into what scared them on a shot,” mentioned Weed, who was mentored by the designer Pete Dye. “I liked to understand how they’re thinking, what their process was. It’s so different from the amateur golfer.”
He mentioned not each professional was as concerned or educated and that some obtained extra credit score after the course opened than they deserved. But most of the professionals who’ve helped design enduring programs relied on a stable group below their model title. Jack Nicklaus had Bob Cupp and Jay Morrish. Greg Norman had Jason McCoy. Ben Crenshaw had Bill Coore.
“The first thing the pros bring is their name. They’re much more famous than any of us who never played professional golf ever will be,” mentioned Doak, an architect who labored with Nicklaus to construct Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
“What they bring is much more focus on the individual golf holes and the strategy of the individual golf holes. What they don’t bring is the perspective that everyone who plays golf isn’t out there trying to shoot their career best.”
Large vacation spot programs are nonetheless being constructed, however many course designs lately are renovations — they usually typically lack the finances of a big, tournament-focused membership like Wentworth.
“The pendulum has swung toward architects because most of the market is being driven by remodeling,” Michael Hurdzan, whose course designs embody Erin Hills in Wisconsin, which hosted the U.S. Open in 2017, mentioned. “That means you’re going into an existing facility and fixing someone else’s mistakes with a limited amount of time, a limited amount of money and 300 critics who are members. It takes a lot of time, a lot of hand holding.”
One such instance is the Medalist Golf Club, in Hobe Sound, Fla. It’s a tricky, well-liked course amongst professionals. When it was constructed, Norman was given prime billing because the architect, with Pete Dye second. But when the membership underwent a renovation, Weed, who has labored carefully with Dye, was referred to as in to do the work.
Some professionals perceive that their abilities lie elsewhere in a mission.
Mathew Goggin, who performed in 279 occasions on the PGA Tour, is creating Seven Mile Beach, a golf course in his hometown, Hobart, Australia. But he’s clear that being an expert golfer doesn’t make him an amazing architect.
“I’m smart enough to know that I’m not smart enough to design a course,” he mentioned. “You let the design team do what they do. I think you’re doing a disservice to golf-course architecture unless you really do it. I have no expertise in it whatsoever. What am I going to say? ‘Move that bunker over there?’”
And good architects know what to hearken to. Goggin mentioned he complimented the architect, Mike DeVries, for creating what even Goggin thought was a very exhausting gap at Seven Mile Beach. DeVries listened and redesigned it. He wasn’t constructing it for a PGA Tour professional.
Goggin mentioned he used his popularity as an amazing golfer from the realm to push the mission alongside. “I used my profile to get a meeting with the government ministers,” he mentioned. “I showed them the success of Barnbougle Dunes [a course in Tasmania], and we talked about how destination golf has an economic impact.”
There are benefits architects get from working with professionals that they’ll’t get elsewhere. Doak designed Memorial Park with Brooks Koepka, and the course hosts the Houston Open on the PGA Tour. With the assistance of Koepka, an amazing ball striker, it was a lot simpler for Doak to see his imaginative and prescient come to life.
“On the resort courses or the member course, you visualize the shot you expect to see — and you sometimes wait months to see it,” he mentioned. “At a course for a tour event, you really only have to wait two or three groups to see it.”