Have you ever been asked what type of golf course you work at? Of course you have.
So, how do you answer?
Maybe you say private or municipal. Perhaps you answer resort. You could even reply links or desert or mountain or seaside.
Something defines your course in your own mind, even if it isn’t overtly noticeable. Maybe you’re not in the desert, on the coast or in the mountains, but that isn’t to say each and every golf course doesn’t have its own personality and traits – in other words, features that make it unique.
We should distinguish, however, between the personality of a golf course – the things that make it what it is – and having say, one unique feature that it might be known for.
For example, consider the 17th island green at TPC Sawgrass. It’s an iconic feature, yet the island green doesn’t define the personality of the Stadium Course. The real personality of the course is its balance, which can be defined as a golf course that doesn’t give an advantage to one particular player or style of play over another. The island green is simply one hole of 18.
It’s part of the personality, but it is not the personality.
You no doubt even have themes on your course that you haven’t even given conscious thought to. Maybe they were original design features, or maybe they simply evolved over the years. Many factors can determine these features.
As I said, design is probably the biggest of these; the original intent of the architect and his or her vision. But other factors have certainly influenced what your course is now, and the exact personality it has taken.
Geographic location of the course (and within this the specific environment of the property) is a factor. Neighboring houses or businesses are factors. Even maintenance practices and budget have no doubt influenced the personality of your course. People (greens committee chairs, owners, etc.) can dictate the personality change of any golf course. And Mother Nature can have a say as well. What if a tornado or hurricane has left its mark on your course in the past? A high percentage loss of trees can change a golf course dramatically in a single day. Erosion from a flood can literally change the lay of the land.
So, as the manager of your particular golf course, you have a certain duty to keep that personality consistent, whatever it is. This isn’t to say you can’t renovate, but always renovate and update with that underlying personality in mind. Avoid drastic changes that may run against your course’s personality.
Let’s say you’re adding a new bunker. You must keep in mind all the other bunkers on the course. Not only the size of the other traps, but shapes as well.
Even sand type and how you rake the bunkers should determine your design. You probably wouldn’t want to add a grass or pot bunker if your course has no other grass or pot bunkers.
Accessories can even have an impact on your course’s personality. You wouldn’t want to suddenly change your tee markers to a decorative rock marker if your course is situated in the middle of a forest. Cut tree limbs would be a better choice. Same thing if you’re a links course in the desert. You wouldn’t want to go with those cut tree limbs when you have no trees, would you?
Size is another factor. If you’re rebuilding a green, don’t build a 9,000 square-foot green if your average size is 4,500.
At a recent staff meeting at my course, the golf pro and owner brought up the fact that one of our 27 holes has a blind tee shot. I had never given this any thought before.
So we have a blind tee shot, no big deal. I’ve golfed on lots of courses that have blind tee shots.
But their point was it is the only blind tee shot on our course. And it is something (because it’s the only one) that the members notice and frequently bring up. So now we’re in the early stages of figuring out what we can do within our financial means to remove that one blind shot.
The point being, figure out what your course’s personalities are (yes, there will be more than one). And next time you’re asked what type of course you work at, you may have a better idea how to answer.