Thanks to reader Mark for Dean Barnett's wonderful look at the rise of the minimalist movement in architecture, highlighted by his look at Sand Hills, Bandon Dunes and Ballyneal. But it's the setup and conclusion that prove just as entertaining:
But there followed several decades of golf architecture dreck. Architects like Robert Trent Jones and his regrettably prolific scions dotted the American landscape with courses that were difficult and unpleasant to play--largely because they deviated from the tradition born in St. Andrews. Instead of letting each player figure out his own route from hole to hole, they funnelled all into a single narrow path.And the conclusion to the piece...
Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones's son, is still one of golf's most prominent architects. He describes his theory of golf architecture as follows: "My style emphasizes definition. I work hard at giving the golfer a concept as he stands over the ball. I want him to see the intended target and be able to visualize the shot." What Rees Jones omits from his reckoning is that some golfers, indeed most golfers, may be incapable of pulling off the shot that he compels them to see. Golfers have enjoyed finding their own way around St. Andrews for over 500 years. Speaking on behalf of the modern golf architecture establishment, Rees Jones in essence insists that he has discovered a better way: He will officiously preside over each and every golfer's each and every shot.
Jones family members haven't been the only architects guilty of committing affronts to golf history and ignoring the imperative that the game be fun. Perhaps the most serious offender has been Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest golfer ever. Nicklaus has had a hand in designing 207 courses. While some of his courses are picturesque, few are fun unless you're able to play golf as well as Jack Nicklaus. On many of his courses, the average player will lose half a dozen balls a round, many of them having found a watery grave in one of the man-made water-hazards of which Nicklaus is so fond. As a player, Nicklaus probably wouldn't even notice many of the water hazards that litter his courses. But the typical golfer does.
There remains the pressing question of what long-term impact places like Sand Hills, Bandon Dunes, and Ballyneal will have on golf architecture and the game itself. The early attempts at golf-course design by Jack Nicklaus's successor as king of golf, Tiger Woods, may offer a clue.
For his first project, announced in 2006, Woods took a commission to build a course on a piece of flat desert in Dubai. It was a move right out of the Nicklaus school: Put a golf course where nature didn't intend there to be one, substituting one man's limited imagination for nature's infinite variety. The "Tiger Woods, Dubai," its website says, "will feature 20 palaces, 75 mansions and 190 luxury villas that offer the perfect blend of exclusivity and luxurious community living"--about as far as conceivable from the austere fun to be had at a place like Sand Hills.
For his second commission, Woods undertook to build a golf course on a piece of rolling terrain outside of Asheville called the Carolina Preserve. When the project was announced a few months back, Woods insisted that the land is perfect for golf, and that no man-made lakes or waterfalls will blight his first American design. The course will be walking only.
So has Tiger undergone a conversion? Only the finished product will tell. But this much we know: When someone asked him to describe his design philosophy, Tiger Woods used the magic word: "I'm more of a minimalist," he said.