Golf Course Architecture - Issue 74, October 2023

39 Photo: credit stretching 80 yards across an entire fairway. Very militaristic if nothing else. Battlefields and golf courses both employ vistas, ramparts or ridges, in tactical ways to head off trouble either from an enemy or hazards in the land. Military scouts and golfers alike enjoy a high vantage point. The stark objective of mastering a Volcano or Mesa par three can be like taking a castle on a hill, with its sense of victory or defeat fronting you. Standing on the tee it is do-or-die. A Little Round Top at Gettysburg, if you will. An overall similarity between golf and war is, beyond aesthetics and mere topography, the idea of mastering territory. It is a tactical exercise in both that requires analysis of the lay of the land and the way to best get from point A to point B. The principles of war articulated by Napoleon Bonaparte included economy of effort. This involves employing as few moves as possible to arrive at your objective. It is a matter of efficiency and keeping the golf strokes (or ‘moves’) to a minimum. The game Capture the Flag bears a striking resemblance to golf, in that the flagstick is your ultimate goal, and putting interesting obstacles in the way creates the essence of the game. Interestingly, in golf and battle, you’re using implements to hurl missiles. It is shooting bullets at a target but, with implements much better suited for warfare than golf! In both golf and war, a plan is made, then after the first shot you need a new plan as you adjust to the changed situation. Make your plans and then make them again. Golf courses have been used as military bases, sometimes requiring the reconstruction of the course after the war is over. This has happened on both sides of the Atlantic. Warfare has created features on golf courses. On the south coast of England is the Seaford Head club, where the first tee shot must carry two grassed-over bomb craters in the upslope of the fairway. These are the result of German bombers on a mission to drop their payload on London. The captain did not want to fly over the antiaircraft artillery and so, thinking they were going to drop their bombs into the English Channel, and with the lack of lighting on the ground, he inadvertently contributed to the craft of golf architecture in the land of the enemy. Recognising a military-golf crossover seems somewhat inevitable given the importance of the British Empire and the spread of golf. For instance, British (or rather Scottish!) military men started the Royal Calcutta Golf Club in India in the 1820s, remarkably 40 years before there was any course in England. One of the great things about the resurgence of classic architecture is a renewed emphasis on random, interesting landforms whether naturally occurring, like at Sand Hills, or man-made, such as the mined-out landscape of Streamsong. Great courses focus the eye and make the golfer choose their preferred method of mastering a landscape to meet their objective with efficiency. Not unlike a military field general! Ron Forse is principal of Forse Golf Design. Photo: Mark Alexander The Redan at North Berwick got its name from a V-shaped fortification encountered in the Crimean War