Golf Course Architecture - Issue 74, October 2023

43 HARD VS GOOD It is extremely difficult to avoid these bunkers and their gathering contours and even more problematic trying to escape from them. The intelligence of the architecture isn’t how penal the feature is, it’s the strategy employed to avoid them. The thrill of narrowly skirting a shot by a notoriously penal pot bunker is far more rewarding than successfully navigating a benign hazard or run-of-the-mill forced carry. The more complex the decision making, the more intricate the game becomes. While the architect’s intention is not to ‘make it difficult’, the mental deliberations add layers of sophistication and nuance to the game. Making the right decision, choosing the best path and executing the shot of choice becomes the challenge versus mindlessly waking a ball around a featureless landscape with no discernible consequence or reward for the effort. I had the pleasure of playing Sand Valley earlier this year. The course was brilliant, fun to play, and treated us to a thrilling walk, especially on the front nine. While navigable, the course presented an extraordinarily strong challenge with contours and sandy dune situations that can abruptly throw a good round into a tailspin. It’s a wonderful example of thoughtful architecture successfully walking that delicate line of simultaneously being hard but great. The fifth at Lakewood National points to these thoughts as well. This bunkerless green complex, with feeding slopes on the approach, uses a domed back pin as its principal defence. Bold, edgy and unconventional, it’s sure to evoke emotion but more importantly engage the players mind to conjure a creative shot choice. During the 2019 Korn Ferry event, we witnessed the deliberations of one group. Almost identical recovery situations resulted in three completely different shot types and outcomes. A true test of the mental and physical aspects of the game on full display for the fans and membership who play there 51 weeks of the year. What else can you ask for in golf course architecture? Brandon Johnson is a golf course architect based in Orlando, Florida. “ The intelligence of the architecture isn’t how penal the feature is, it’s the strategy employed to avoid them” Photo: Brandon Johnson The fifth green complex at Lakewood National