Because of the difficulty in trying to express one’s philosophy in a few sentences, we have decided to break our design and construction philosophy down into the following eight categories:
Our approach to the construction process melds design and construction into one entity. Daily attention to the details of the look, feel, and strategy of the evolving golf course by a cohesive construction unit is the most effective way to ensure that the final product is at the pinnacle of artistry and craftsmanship. It is our intention to design and build timeless, artistically inspired golf courses in harmony with nature that provide options and strategic interest to the golfer and provoke thought, above all else.
TEAM – BASED APPROACH
King-Collins Golf Course Design will be responsible for assembling the team of construction professionals who will work on each of our jobs. Our team will consist of like-minded people who find inspiration in the creative process of creating a golf course. It is a common misunderstanding that the lead architect is the one who deserves all of the credit for a successful project. Instead, the best golf courses are designed in the field, and are the result of thousands of hours of intensive work by a tightly knit crew. Our group genuinely enjoys each other’s company and we do not limit our interaction to the workplace. As friends, we find a common resolve in creating the best possible product, and we believe that our fluid approach to construction yields the greatest amount of variety, artistry, and attention to detail in the finished design.
The presentation of options to the golfer is at the heart of several of the most important aspects of design. The concept of strategic design is reliant on their presence. Also, designing for a variety of skill levels is not possible without providing options. In addition, the best golfers are challenged by courses abounding with shot making choices, and it is essential for the architect to design in this manner if he is going to effectively test the elite player. Conversely, the worst players also require options since golf would become an unbearable, tortuous experience if they had no way to safely circumnavigate most hazards. An easier route to the hole may not result in the lowest score, but it will help ensure that golfers of all skill sets can enjoy a round of golf.
Many modern designs have abandoned the concept of playing the ball along the ground in favor of a purely aerial form of golf. While this is unquestionably due in part to advances in club and equipment technology, many courses simply do not give players the option of playing shots that hug the ground. One obvious perquisite for this style of golf is firm and fast conditioning of the playing surface. While there are examples of mismanagement that have negated some architect’s intentions of promoting this style of golf, most modern courses are simply not designed or built with this type of shot making in mind. We believe that golf is an exponentially more entertaining endeavor when the player, at the very least, has the option of playing it along the ground. One of the greatest satisfactions in golf comes from watching one’s ball catch contours that filter it toward its intended target.
“The strategy of the golf course is the soul of the game. The spirit of golf is to dare a hazard, and by negotiating it reap a reward…” George Thomas
-Hazard placement is essential to the strategic and aesthetic value of a golf course. Well-placed hazards add variety to the golfing experience and test the golfer’s decision-making faculties. King-Collins Golf Course Design is intent on creating a golfing experience that is both mentally and visually stimulating.
“[Employ] the biggest fool in the village and tell him to make all the greens flat.” – Alister MacKenzie
-Green contouring is perhaps the most important aspect of golf course design and construction. The undulations of a green not only enhance the overall character of a golf course, but they are an expression of the strategic vision of the architect.
Strategic shot making and the mental test of golf are the soul of the game. It is an unfortunate fact that an abundance of modern golf courses do not inspire us in the same way as many of the older layouts from the classic era. Our design philosophy advocates a return to the classic design techniques that were refined by the early masters such as Tillinghast, Ross, MacKenzie, Colt, Crump, MacDonald, and Raynor. Taking inspiration from the classical architects, placement of hazards should force the golfer to think his way around the golf course with positive or negative results awaiting depending on the success of the attempted shot. Each shot chosen has a specific consequence, some more subtle than others. Building upon this maxim, it is the responsibility of the architect to employ psychology in order to test the non-physical aspect of each golfer’s game. MacKenzie wrote, “It is an important thing in golf to make holes look much more difficult than they are.” Modern masters, such as Pete Dye, use psychological ploys to enhance the value of their designs. Even though many of Dye’s courses are known for flummoxing touring professionals, there is also substantial value in his deigns for the weekend golfer due to the variety of shot values as well as the numerous potential outcomes hat one encounters while playing one of his courses. As in life, the more potential outcomes and variety that one is presented with, the more interesting his life, and in the case of golf, the more interesting his round is judged to be. While many of Dye’s creations are renowned for their psychological value, the greatest architects from the classic period mastered this element of design approximately a half-century before Dye’s prime. Given that it is a rarity to find a modern course that matches the psychological impact of the work of the early masters, one would assume that there is little connection between the modern and classic periods. However, Dye’s work proved that parallels can and do exist between the eras, and it can be said that this common thread is an expression of the mid-20th century scientific theorem, chaos theory. Chaos theory “attempts to describe and explain the highly complex behavior of apparently chaotic or unpredictable systems which show an underlying order.” While this theory was not fully developed until the mid-20th century, the early masters seem to have innately understood its essence. Tillinghast, Ross, MackKenzie, Colt, Crump, MacDonald, and Raynor, among others, created golf courses that utilize fundamental and time tested design principles but were expressed across the wildly varying and seemingly incongruent landscapes of Baltusrol, Pinehurst, Augusta National, Cypress Point, Pine Valley, the National Golf Links, and Camargo Club. Each of these architects managed to build timeless golf courses that initially seem wholly different from one another but on closer inspection reveal that they are grounded in a set of fundamental truisms that permeate the greatest of golfing experiences. These architectural techniques are inherently wed to contouring, both fairway and green, hazard placement, and psychological impact. The best golf courses utilize these features to test the golfer’s ability to work the ball around the golf course, encountering a new decision or strategic puzzle on each shot. This is the essence of the “underlying order” that is described in chaos theory. While all sites have varying degrees of beauty and natural characteristics that are suitable for golf, it is our intention to design and build artistically inspired golf courses in harmony with nature that provide options and strategic interest to the golfer and provoke thought, above all else.
It is easy to forget that the game of golf is actually supposed to be fun. With an abundance of highly difficult courses on the market today, which are often only playable for low handicappers, it is an unfortunate reality that many golf courses fail miserably at providing “the greatest enjoyment to the greatest number”, as Alister MacKenzie advised. King-Collins Golf Course Design intends to build courses that appeal to a wide range of golfers and provide personal enjoyment and enrichment as a central feature of the playing experience.
BEND, BREAK, OR DESTROY THE RULES
Avoid pre-conceived and self-imposed ‘rules’ of design at all cost. These only serve to limit creativity and usually result in lost opportunities. Each site will present the architect with a set of options. When the architect shackles his creativity with a set of design rules, it is inevitable that he will obscure from his vision many of the potential options at his disposal. The result, of course, will be an uninteresting final product lacking in life and spirit. For example, a bunker may want to be, what some would consider, excessively deep or a green may want to be unreceptive to incoming shots by sloping away from the player. The main lesson from these examples is that one should not be wed to a preconceived mold as to the character and design of golf course features or terrific opportunities may be missed. This is true for nearly all elements of the golf course including, but not limited to: length, fairway contouring, sequencing of the routing, par, character and placement of hazards, maximum fairway width, green size, green shape, green contouring and visibility of features and hazards. Ultimately, it is always the best policy to work with the site with an open mind in order to achieve the best results.