Golf Course Architecture - Issue 66, October 2021

47 over ground occupied by the Valley course was both a necessity and a design triumph. But the eradication of other original Colt greens and movement of bunkers is perhaps one example of where that ‘why?’ should have been quizzed further. Across our courses, classic greens get removed one by one, fairway bunkers are relocated to test only the elite players and quirky holes are done away with because a club might have delusions of grandeur that one day it will need to be fit for Rory, Dustin et al. It all feels a little like designing to standard. The same can be said with the look and feel. Presently there is a worldwide obsession (it has gone well beyond a trend) to build naturalised, frilly edged bunkers and open ‘waste’ areas. An admiral goal and all well and good if scraped out of original, sandy landforms. Retrofitting them to flatter dune systems that have long ago stabilised and succeeded to grass can seem contrived, especially when the bunkers are housed in custom-built mounds disconnected from the original dune ridges. The touted ecosystem improvements that come with exposing open sand seem minimal at best, a fabricated storyline at worst. Stylistically, work should be sympathetic to the individual links landscape that is presented, not a copy/ paste answer to every problem posed. The new par-three fifteenth at Royal Liverpool is a spectacular addition but hopelessly out of tune with the elegant subtlety of one of England’s most understated classics, just one example of many where a dramatic photograph for the global audience is prioritised over harmony with the other seventeen holes. It would fit far more snugly in Ireland’s rugged west coast dunes, among the untamed blowouts and wild Atlantic Ocean. It would be wrong of me to suggest that all change is bad; or that there isn’t excellent work happening throughout GB&I. Much of what we are seeing improves our courses. Almost all of it is executed with high professionalism and precision. Some of it is even necessary. Whether it is Tom Mackenzie’s playful rejuvenation of Trevose, Clyde Johnson’s low-budget and loving update to Seacroft, Ken Kearney’s measured work at Ardglass or Martin Ebert’s superb alterations to the tenth and fifteenth at Royal Troon, there are intriguing projects happening continuously. But my plea to clubs and architects alike is to pause and question the need before ploughing headfirst into major builds. Links land was formed over thousands of years and no hand of man can replicate the elements exactly. Respect the past and if work is agreed to proceed, remember that variety can be a welcome bedfellow to restraint. As Joni Mitchell once reminded us, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”. GCA Dublin-based architect Ally McIntosh is the principal of McIntosh Golf Design Photo: Getty Images/David Cannon AL LY MC INTOSH The par-four eighth at Royal Portrush, a necessity and design triumph for the 2019 Open, but original Colt greens were lost