Date: Tue 15 Mar 2016

The influence of Augusta National on European golf course design

By Svein Drange Olsnes, EIGCA Senior Member & Council Member

©Mark Alexander Photography

©Mark Alexander Photography

The first full week of April each year sees golf players, architects and anyone with a love for the game glued to their TV screens. It’s Augusta Masters time and all golf enthusiasts follow the best golf professionals trying to capture the coveted green jacket.

For many Europeans, the Augusta Masters in Georgia, USA, marks the start of their own golf season. Watching the players negotiate the fast and undulating greens, and wide fairways between the tall pine trees is what inspires players for the games they are about to play themselves.

The golf course design

It was the dream of the great Bobby Jones to create a course based on the playing values of the Old Course at St Andrew’s. After seeing the newly-opened Cypress Point CC in California designed by the golf course architect, Alister Mackenzie, Jones chose Mackenzie to help bring his ideas to life.

The 6th hole in 1935 (Credit

The 6th hole in 1935 (Credit

Together they planned a golf course with wide fairways inviting players to choose their strategy, and with no rough in play to make players spend excessive time searching for their balls. The bunkers were big, sprawling and natural-looking, placed where the best players would normally place their shots, and the greens had intricate inner movements and short-mowed fall-offs to test short game skills.

The Augusta course has been altered many times since it opened in 1934, including removal of the natural expression, yet Augusta National remains a course with great strategic values and enough challenges to test the nerves and playing qualities of even the best players.

The Augusta legacy

The 12th hole, ”Golden Bell” ©José Agustin Pizá

The 12th hole, ”Golden Bell” ©José Agustin Pizá

Watching the Masters at Augusta creates a desire for the course that every other golfer wants to play on. Augusta’s oval bunkers with clean cut edges and white sand, clear blue lakes and a course maintained to perfection with every flower and bush in full bloom, creates a level of expectation in every player for what they want to see at their home club. Members expect Augusta to be replicated, or at least emulated.

The climate in Europe is not quite what is experienced in Georgia, USA, and the courses here are based on the natural look and maintenance routines of the links courses in Scotland or the inland courses around London.

The last economic rise and golf boom saw many ambitious projects emulating the manicured look of Augusta National. Courses spent large amounts of money on ‘upgrading’ green areas, buying expensive white sand, importing fancy green seed and planting hundreds of rhododendron bushes.

Lessons learnt

The recent interest in the Golden Age of golf architecture has led to an increasing number of projects with natural-looking strategic design.

EIGCA Members come from 23 different countries and have the historic knowledge and experience to take the challenge of making interesting golf holes based on the original philosophies of Augusta National, and the other classics of 80-100 years ago, and marry these with the local environment.

Golf is not an easy game, but let us make every round of golf a “fun to play” experience!

Click here to read more about Svein.

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