Golf Course Architecture - Issue 64, April 2021

WELCOME 1 ADAM LAWRENCE A guessing game I am, broadly, a supporter of the idea of restoring golf courses to the state in which they were left by their original designer. But there is no doubt that ‘restoration’ is a much-abused word in the golf design industry. What does it mean to restore a golf course? If the routing of the course has been changed, then restoring it is a relatively simply concept (though not necessarily a simple task). But other elements of restoration are, almost inevitably, a more subjective matter. Nowadays, we can take GPS measurements and record the exact contours of greens, and take high quality photographs. Many architects produce and archive detailed plans of golf courses. That wasn’t the case in the past. Vintage photos, where they exist, are of priceless value, but most of the time give a general impression of ground conditions, not a detailed assessment. GPS, obviously, is a modern innovation. And plans, in the Golden Age, were mostly hand-drawn, and sketches rather than fine details of actual grades. And that is where such things exist. A lot of the time, clubs and architects that want to restore are scrambling around trying to find any hard evidence of what their course used to look like. They might have the odd photo showing what individual features were like. But it is very unlikely they will have comprehensive information. Consequently, much restoration is inevitably guesswork. To be fair, it is informed and thought-through guesswork by highly qualified specialists, not idle finger-in- the-air stuff, but it is still guesswork. Obviously, today’s golfers hit the ball further than those of yesterday. So should a course built a century ago be restored as exactly as it can be, to what the original designer left? Or should features be moved so they have broadly the same impact on today’s players as they did on those of 1920? There is no single correct answer to this question. It is a matter of debate in every case. Move a bunker, or a mound, if you think it is for the best. But don’t call it restoration.