Golf Course Architecture - Issue 61, July 2020

Tabby Links course at Spring Island in South Carolina had two towering pines standing guard over the second landing area. Trees so stately and full of character, we could not remove them with a clear conscience. In our 2012 restoration, we expanded the fairway right of the trees and adjusted the lake line far left of them to make them even more of a central feature. Unfortunately, disease shortened their lives. The original trees were iconic and integral to the strategy of the hole. Golf had been played there for 30-plus years and will continue to be played there for decades more, so replacing the trees was the right, and historically accurate, decision. The two new tall trees will grow fast in the local environment and continue to be a defining feature and strategic factor on this hole for future generations to enjoy – or curse! The subtle statement A more contemplative artistic approach to design sometimes wanes in the face of opportunities to dial up ‘flash’ and present golfers with more stimulation; bolder contours, bigger bunkers and more severe, attention- calling features. While this shift from ‘quiet’ to ‘loud’ might be driven by the client, sometimes a more powerful, if not impactful, statement can be made by showing restraint – finding tranquillity amongst the ripples, contrasting bold with subtle, obvious with nuanced. One of my favourite features of the Old course at St Andrews is the ninth green. It stands in stark contrast to the rollercoaster ride of contour elsewhere. One may think the oversized, flat, on-grade green was a mistake, but closer examination uncovers its hidden charm. The absence of contour or perceivable pitched slope becomes the physical and mental dilemma. There is nothing to feed, shed or stop the ball and the complexity thickens as conditions change. What is the appropriate play from 50 yards with a gust at your back? Putter? Bump and run with a 7-iron, or even a hybrid? Or a higher shot with a soft landing? There is no right or wrong answer; it’s about a confident decision and sound execution. I applaud my design partner, Thad Layton, in his use of subtlety at Fazenda Boa Vista in Brazil, where the natural terrain on the back nine is much more raucous then the low-lying front. The contrast of the small, delicately contoured green on the par-five thirteenth with the rolling terrain around it makes a wonderful statement and is a quiet moment to savour before the thrill ride starts again. Architects have a rich palette with which to work and our field is boundless in its ability to create joy, satisfaction, and confidence. For me, more than the complexities and carefully crafted puzzles themselves, that is rather the point. GCA Brandon Johnson is a principal at Arnold Palmer Design Company The flat green on the ninth hole at St Andrews stands in stark contrast to the rollercoaster of contour elsewhere Photo: Kevin Murray 47