Date: Sun 25 Mar 2018

For Whom Do Golf Course Architects Design Courses?

By Tom Mackenzie, EIGCA Member and Immediate Past President

“You only design courses for scratch golfers”
“You make courses as hard as you can.”
“You never think about shorter hitters like many of the ladies.”

Tom Mackenzie

These comments are all too common when I go to clubs to present design ideas to members. It happened to me again last night. Many members believe that I am only there because of the elite players and that there is a plot against the average players. The odd thing is that club golfers have been saying this for a century or more. It so frustrated Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson, who ran one of the great practices in the early 20th century, that they devoted two pages of their brochure to addressing it. The gist of what they said was that they are businessmen and why would they design a course solely for the 1 % or less of players while neglecting the 99%? They would soon be bankrupt. It seems that we have not got our message across to club golfers very well in the past 100 years.

The reality is that proficient golf course architects do think about all standards of golfer. We are aware that all golfers are our customers and we want them to enjoy our work. Golf is an entertainment industry after all. Very few of us are sadists and most of us like being liked for what we do!

Never has the need for courses to be shorter player friendly than now been greater. Inevitably, as average life expectancy increases, so does the average age of member increase. I do not share the gloomy view that this is a demographic time bomb. The average age at clubs is increasing much less quickly than life expectancy. Golf is one of the few sports that older people can play and I am seeing players in their 90s more and more frequently. What we need to do is make sure that we cater for them so that the game remains fun and manageable for them.

The last thing that the lifelong golfer wants to do is quit and the business case for retaining them as members is compelling for Clubs who are keen to keep membership numbers up for obvious reasons. By looking after the older players, we are also looking after the newest players who are also short hitters albeit with a hope of better things to come. They are the future of the game, so it is a doubly good outcome.

So, think again about what golf course architects are trying to do.

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