Construction of the Pfau course, a new layout at Indiana University designed by Steve Smyers, is complete and the course is growing in ahead of a spring 2020 opening.
Smyers’ brief was to design a course that could host high-calibre championships, require golfers to execute a variety of shots, would preserve and enhance the environment, and would be economically sustainable.
“From a golf architect’s perspective, I was very fortunate,” said Smyers. “I was given almost total freedom to create whatever I thought best for the property and project.”
“The course was routed to take advantage of the topography and diverse landscape settings,” said Smyers. “The strategy and shotmaking of the course emanate from the movement of the land and the journey around the property from landscape room to landscape room provides variety in the settings of the golf holes.
The par-71 layout will have at least five tee options, with total length ranging from 4,563 to 7,833 yards.
“There is tremendous variety built into the length of the course demanding use of all 14 clubs even for the longest of hitters. The course is planned with multiple landing areas on each hole so that the golf holes can be set up with greatly varying length from one day to the next. This will require not only high-level execution but proper planning before each hole is played.”
Smyers collected data to help give him a firm understanding of how elite golfers plot their way around a golf course as well as what challenges and stimulates them. He also considered what hinders the everyday golfer too.
“In order to create the desired course, we understand that a great emphasis should be focused with proper positioning of the tee shot,” said Smyers. “We felt it important that even the most off-line hit for all golfers should be easily found but would require a creative recovery.
“Realising that execution is only part of the equation we wanted to place a large emphasis on understanding the proper shot for the situation. We wanted the golfer to be able to control the spin for an approach shot or to be able to anticipate how a shot will react from an uneven lie or a ball resting in light rough.
“To further test the golfer’s ability to create and identify the ideal shot for the occasion, several different situations were created around putting surfaces,” continued Smyers. “We developed a balance of fairway and rough height cut of grass along with a blend of downhill and uphill shots.”
According to Smyers, the climate and site was suitable for Zoysia fairways and a blend of fescues for the rough. “While the site is on the northern edge of Zoysia growing zone, the hot humid Indiana summers require a healthy chemical and fertiliser budget to maintain a quality bentgrass fairways,” he said. “Fescue rough maintained at a two-to-three-inch height of cut is ideal for the climate and will provide optimal playing conditions. The fescue is a nice visual and playing contrast to the Zoysia and the intended height of cut will allow for a golf ball hit from an errant shot to be easily found. This condition would create an unpredictable lie that would challenge the golfer to correctly anticipate how a golf shot hit from the fescue would react.
“I further explained that the native vegetation areas will be placed where even the most errant shot would have trouble settling in. The combination of all of these grasses would allow for the creation of an environmentally and economically sustainable golf course, and the contrast of the grasses would be visibly striking.
“With fast running Zoysia grass fairways, light wispy fescue roughs and low-profile subtle green complexes that have generous openings in the front, the everyday golfer will easily be able to manoeuvre his or her way around the course. The different shotmaking situations will encourage and stimulate all golfers to attempt and learn new golf shots.”
The course’s bunkering has varying depths and shapes; while slopes within the bunkers vary.
“Because of the variety and creativity in shotmaking there was no need to develop forced situations,” said Smyers. “All but one green – the eighteenth – is low profile and open in the front, allowing for and encouraging use of the ground game. The eighteenth will play very short for the everyday golfer and they will be approaching the large punchbowl putting surface with a lofted club.”
This article is based on material that first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.