After making our own golf course bucket list earlier this year, we decided it would be fun to see which places golf architect and Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Gil Hanse had in his sights. Unlike many well-known course designers, Hanse does the dirty work — you can find him on a bulldozer as often as you’ll find him drawing up the plans. Though he’s gotten a sneak peek at the courses on his list — he designed them, after all — Hanse admits to looking forward to teeing off on a few of them. In his own words, he tells us why the three following layouts sit atop his 2013 leaderboard.
TPC Blue Monster, Trump Doral Golf Resort & Spa Miami
Golf course architects are constantly asked to visualize an 18-hole layout over a variety of landscapes from dramatic to benign. However, seldom has such an ambitious project been set out on such a dismal piece of property as Dick Wilson was given at Doral. Over a flat stretch of South Florida land with poor soil and coral rock near the surface, Wilson built a course that has challenged duffers and pros alike for more than 50 years. His imaginative use of angles and interesting green complexes, with wide swaths of sand and water, transformed this wasteland into an oasis of golf that is undergoing a needed revitalization at the hands of the Trump organization. The other constant factor in play at Doral is the wind, and Wilson knew how to twist and turn his holes and hazards so that the capricious nature of the wind is always on your mind when facing these challenges.
When asked how we like to have our courses described, the answer we always return to is fun and interesting; and I believe that these two words describe Rustic Canyon to a tee. When Geoff Shackelford, Jim Wagner and I designed this course, we wanted to build a set of holes that people would want to play again and again, and not just solely because the green fees were affordable. We wanted to create a course that provided wide corridors of fairway, relevant angles and strategies for scoring, and fun, fun, fun to play. What constitutes fun for us? Well, we would start with lots of room to play off the tee and plenty of interesting shots around the greens. Let’s face it — most golfers do not hit greens in regulation, so the creativity and interest created in the recovery game is critical in providing a fun experience on the course. With its rugged beauty, idyllic setting and beguiling recovery shots, Rustic Canyon is the epitome of fun for us.
The Horse Course, The Prairie Club
What could be more fun than short courses where you can stroll down holes with your friends calling shots and enjoying some of the most dramatic ground ever committed to golf? Both of these scenes are true at The Horse Course, designed as a “small” course where respite from the rigors of the regulation courses and camaraderie are the tenets of its creation. The Horse Course was intended to be a play on the basketball game of H-O-R-S-E, where the victorious golfer from the previous hole gets to call the shot on the next hole. All of these diminutive holes can be played from any area of short grass — no defined tee boxes — to a set of interesting green complexes along a cliff-top setting in the Nebraska Sandhills. It’s the ultimate course for friends enjoying “beer and a giggle golf,” and there is nothing wrong with that.
Photos Courtesy of Gil Hanse and The Prairie Club