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D.A., Nelson and Hogan

Jeff Rude Interview

The focus of this article is to address the concept of balance—not the balance we instill in all our golf designs, but the balance necessary when establishing a design team, specifically from an agronomic perspective. In the last 20 years, there has been a great deal of attention paid to the influence that golf design has on the ability of superintendents to economically and successfully maintain their golf courses. Entire books could be written on the design and maintenance of each component of a golf course (e.g., bunkers, drainage, green construction, etc.), but this article will briefly address the general issue of the balance required between golf architecture and golf maintenance.

The most important phase of the Weibring-Wolfard “Process” of renovation/restoration or new course design is the planning phase. This phase involves the development of the master plan and includes most of the decisions that establish the “road map” for successfully meeting the goals and objectives of the project. It is important that during this phase a balanced team is put in place to make these decisions. We have all been a part of or seen projects in which the superintendent, engineer or architect is left out of the early planning and the project becomes slanted or unbalanced as a result.

The focus of the planning phase is to satisfy the objectives that the client sets forth. By setting goals and objectives to be achieved through the master plan process, the designer can determine how to appropriately address the golf course’s issues. As a result, decisions can be made to improve the course objectively without favoring any one consultant’s interests. If the developer has a goal to build a golf course that will be distinctive and unique, then certain maintenance concessions and/or commitments may be required to accomplish this. If a municipality has a goal to upgrade their golf course in comparison to the competition, the historical mentality of their approach to golf course maintenance may have to be adjusted. The point is that the role of the individual superintendent and the superintendent’s industry should be to provide information and comment, but not dictate all the parameters that could handcuff the creativity of the design team. Limiting the creativity, based solely on the simplicity of maintenance, can result in golf courses that are boring to look at and boring to play. A dull golf course runs the risk of being considered an also-ran after the newness wears off.

A specific example of the superintendent’s role in design balance would be bunkering. Certainly, bunkers can be at the epicenter of the maintenance-versus-design “tug of war.” Arguably, all outstanding golf courses have significant bunkering. If a developer wants an outstanding golf course, then the superintendent will need to provide information regarding what “outstanding” will cost as it relates to the architect’s intended bunker style. Make sure you as the superintendent understand exactly what the bunker design is and how they will be constructed. In addition, make sure the person who has to pay for it knows what equipment, manpower, time and materials will be required to maintain them to the expectations of the project. Keep a record of the correspondence and then gear up to maintain the projected bunker style. You should be a willing observer during construction to see if the bunker construction and finish out is occurring similar to previous agreements between the team members. If the work is different than anticipated, then raise your hand and tactfully address the team with your concerns.

If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that our own human nature could cause us to slant the design of a golf course in favor of our own interests. That is why a balanced design team is so critical to the success of a golf design and construction project. At Weibring-Wolfard Golf Design, an important aspect of our “Process” is to assist in the establishment of a balanced design team.