When a client of mine requested a golf facility for his own private use on 50 acres (20 ha) on his private estate, I saw it as an opportunity to get really creative.
He wanted a facility which replicated as closely as possible a full 18-hole round of golf, for the use of himself, family and friends. But he didn’t want to have to build, or ultimately maintain, 18 individual holes, greens and tees.
I delivered a concept for a course that was based around five zones, each with a full size green and tee. The tee in each zone has four possible ‘destinations’ in each of the other four zones, which gives a total of 20 possible holes.
In the model, four of the zones are placed in each of the corners of a rectangle, with the fifth zone towards the middle of the area, to create par three options. The lengths of the holes – and the overall size of the site – can be varied to suit any client’s brief and available area.
My client was very enthusiastic about the idea. He, his friends, and family are all very low handicap players, and my initial concept was developed into a course of championship length.
As well as playing as an 18-hole layout, I also wanted the design to reflect, as much as possible, the experience of playing on a full length course. I set out a list of ‘theoretical ideals’, which included having 18 unique holes, two relatively equal and balanced loops of nine starting and finishing at the (club)house, no consecutive par threes or fives, and no consecutive reverse holes (ie A to B, followed by B to A). I also added the usual requirements of different directions of the par threes and fives, and good sequencing.
Having established routings which met that theoretical ideal, the development into the scheme design was taxing, but interesting! Course features were often used in two or three different holes, so bunkers and other hazards needed to be multi-directional. But it was the five greens that were the most challenging, with two being used three times, and the others four times, and always from differing directions, albeit generally from within a 90 degree segment.
This allowed for challenging green designs. For example, a deep but narrow green can receive a long iron approach on a medium-to-long par four, whereas the same putting surface, played from a 90 degree angle, also serves as the green for a short par four hole, where its (now) wide but shallow (from front to back) shape is ideal to receive a high iron or wedge approach. Similarly, the greenside bunkering was designed to be played, and visible, from different areas of the fairway. The ninth/eighteenth green complex in front of the house was also designed to act as a large practice putting green, with a multitude of different pin positions, as well as being the focus of the short game practice area.
Although the theoretical course works with one tee per zone, in practice, a number of small tees were built per hole, to give differing lengths and angles to individual holes.
The course was built during the summer of 2015, and opened for play in summer of 2016. Such was its success that I was also commissioned by a relative of the client to create a similar facility on his own land!
David Williams (www.williamsgolf.co.uk) is a golf course architect based in Colwyn Bay, Wales, and past president of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more detail, download the diagrams in PDF format.