Alister MacKenzie's Augusta National
Good Golfer = Good Course Designer?
By Kickntrue on 9/16/09
Why do pro golfers think that just because they are good at the game they'd be good course designers? Actually, the better question is, why do developers with money pay pro golfers to design courses when they have no reasonable experience to do so? The answer to that question is obviously exposure but if you really think about it- while you need to be a golfer and have a strong grasp and love for the game, it doesn't make much sense that Tiger Woods would automatically know how to design a course, not to mention players like Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III and Nick Faldo (along with many more). Just because you are good at surfing the web and clearly have great taste in websites (BAM!) doesn't mean you should design or develop websites.

The thing is- we seem to fall for it. We will visit a course with a bit of awe and brag to friends about playing the latest course designed by Ernie Els despite the fact that in reality he may have just looked over the course and dropped his name on it. [For the record- I just made that example using Ernie Els up. For all I know he is the most involved player/developer who's ever lived.]

The other side of the argument is that it means something to see the course through the eyes of a great player. By playing a course designed by Gary Player you are able to see what he considers to be a great golf course. I think some people have clearly parlayed their success as great players into being great designers. Jack Nicklaus has multiple courses listed in any Top 100 list and almost any course designer out there today has been touched in some way by Nicklaus' influence.

Of course this is just an idle argument to waste time until Tiger is done with one of his 3 courses in process. I think how his courses are judged will be pretty interesting. While indications are that he has been very hands-on with his courses they could turn out to be complete crap. It's hard to imagine with the terrain he's been given but we really won't know until there is something to play. It's hard to imagine Tiger failing at anything, but when you think of all-time great course designers, you think of Alister MacKenzie, Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Pete Dye. You won't find any of their names on any Major Championship trophies.

photo source

[ comments ]
Golf_O_Matic says:
You have to remember that these big names have a lot of talent behind them. I've worked with the Nicklaus and Miller groups and they have great designers working for them. Jack and Johnny have input on the courses they do (Jack mostly on his Signature Courses). I've played some big name designer courses (Fazio, Dye, Nicklaus, Miller, Bates etc.) and they all have there strengths and weaknesses. It boils down to Name...they have the name and therefore is more prestigious and can sell real estate...besides would you rather play on a Nicklaus Course or one designed by Joe Shmoe?
KVSmith59 says:
lol. I don't remember what computer game it was, but there was a golf game that let you design your own courses. I used to create some crazy island par 3's.
Kolt15 says:
KVSmith59- haha thats soooo cool!!!
HotBacon says:
I remember that was a PC game that paled in comparison to Links. I think Jack Nicklaus might have had is name on it to be honest.
Golf_O_Matic says:
Links 2001 had a design program with it...I still have an old copy...Arnold Palmer was the main man.
Swingem says:
I loved that game (Links 2001). Shot a 58 on St. Andrews Links Old Course, still have the scorecard that I printed out. Had a ton of fun with the design program as well, designed some awesome tracks. Wish they had an updated version.
edditude says:
I play the Tiger Woods series and sometimes like to set up some of the local courses I play on the game. I got the "Links" also but couldn't get the design to work very well. We have a local course here Milham Park in Kalamazoo I think someone told me that Sam Snead was the designer or had some input.
k-von says:
To me, whenever a course is either designed or renovated by a great player it means that course is or will soon be excluding me from ever setting foot on it, so I couldn't even tell you if great players are great designers (Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, I'm looking at yous).
k-von says:
For the most part, I think course designs seem to be more identifiable by era than by designer. Regardless of who's overseeing the design or renovation of a new course, you already know what you're going to get in terms of yardage, number of par 3's and 5's, your uniform doglegs to warrant clubbing down, gimmicky this and that and so on. While Tillinghast, Ross, McCallister, etc. all occasionally blow your mind with their clever conceptions, I believe it's more the reflection of old-timey precision shot-making and natural essence that envokes greatness and nostalgic revery for these courses which is nevertheless neglected in modern designs. I honestly don't think Tiger has the brass to put his name on a course with less than 6,000 yards and minimal earth moving involved.
wrhall02 says:
I live (and therefore play) in Mexico year round, and all of the top names have courses here. But the courses I like most are designed by Joe Finger, who I was not aware of until I moved here. The common traits of all of Finger's courses are: affordable, playable, using the terrian (he was not an earht mover), a good test of golf.
The big names usually mean big $$, stunning views, top notch club house etc...but...not necessarily super playable for us amateurs.
My criteria for a good course design is simple: reward good shots, punish bad shots, add a risk/reward element.
I have tracked down a few of Finger's courses in the US, but wonder why he made so many courses in Mexico?

Oobers; if you know of a Joe Finger course (anywhere), please post it, I would like to put together my own "Joe Finger golf trail" and play as many of his courses as possible.
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