The legendary British Golf Course Architect Tom Simpson efficiently summarized our philosophy on Strategy nearly a century ago when he wrote: “No tee shot can be described as good if the proper place to be is the center of the fairway.” At Ross Golf Design, our goal is to help guide our clients and their facilities in a more strategic direction. While each golf course project has its own set of goals and intended outcomes, the overarching themes that consistently represent our definition of “Strategy” are Width, Angles, and Options.
"Narrow fairways bordered by long grass make bad golfers. They do so by destroying the harmony and continuity of the game and in causing a stilted and a cramped style, destroying all freedom of play."
- Alister MacKenzie
One of the most common concerns we hear when discussing wide fairways is that we “are going to make the golf course too easy.” Our response is simple: It will be easier in some ways. It will be easier to find your ball and hit it again, it will be easier for you to recover when you do hit a poor shot, and perhaps most importantly it will be easier for your superintendent to grow the best possible stand of turfgrass.
The reality is, the straight hitters will still be able to put themselves in the appropriate position to attack the flag, and the reintroduction of angles that comes with wider playing corridors will leave the wild hitter in a more difficult position to score more often than not. Despite advances in technology, the intent of the game is the same as it always was: to challenge oneself and have fun in the process, not to spend all day searching for slightly mishit balls and hacking out of ankle-deep rough.
The reintroduction of width brings with it a renewed necessity for the golfer to understand angles and how best to attack the golf course. On a RGD designed golf course, rarely will the center of the fairway be the best place from which to attack the pin. The thinking golfer capable of mentally playing the hole backward, from that day’s pin to the tee, will have the advantage over their competitors.The proper angle of attack can vary significantly on any particular hole depending on that day’s pin location.
In golf, there is but one over-arching goal: to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible. Despite this somewhat simplistic goal, the best experience should see the golfer presented with a variety of options for how to play each one of those strokes. So, what exactly does it mean to provide the golfer with “options”?
It means providing fast-and-firm playing conditions with expansive short grass areas so golfers have the option to hit any club in the bag on any shot. It means providing multiple angles on each hole so golfers have an option for which route they want to take to get the ball close to the pin. Finally, it means providing at least one clear path to the hole so that even the weakest golfer has the ability to play the hole from start to finish.
Alister Mackenzie's winning entry for Country Life Magazine's Lido Competition in 1914. Note the variety of options for how one might play the hole.