I learned how to play golf when I was a kid. When I think of the sport, family is the first thing that comes to mind. My parents and grandparents golfed. Growing up in Minnesota, when perfect weather days were few and far between, we took every chance we could get to be out on the course, has always been my favorite way of spending time with my grandparents. They were a huge influence on my love of the game. It also gave us a chance to enjoy the outdoors. That’s basically how we spent summers. During the school season in high school, I joined a golf team. Golf was not necessarily considered a cool kids sport, but I didn’t care. I loved it and I was pretty good at it too! In my senior year, our team went to the Minnesota State Tournament; a first in the history of the program. During that time, I also had to figure out what I was going to do in college. Could I somehow create a career that included my love for golf? I also knew I had an eye for design and loved to build.
Thinking about how I could work all my passions into a career, I decided to pursue landscape architecture, which would give me an opportunity to design outdoor spaces. And hey, somebody’s got to design golf courses; maybe it could be me! Golf is a unique sport in which players get to experience the sport while immersing themselves in an outdoor experience. There are not a lot of other sports that are played in an area that spans hundreds of acres. The player is immersed within that environment because the environment becomes a part of the game. Within the depths of the course, a player is surrounded by nature, providing an escape from the outside world. The designer’s job is to create a course that is visually appealing, fun to play, and challenging enough to keep the player’s attention. Because of this, the design serves many functions. The best-designed courses blend in with the surroundings and land conditions and make the players feel as though they are walking through nature while playing golf. The aesthetics of a course are very influential on the overall experience, activating our sense of sight, sound, touch and smell.
Sustainability and resiliency in response to climate change are increasing globally. As a result, the game of golf has come into question over the last few decades and is viewed as an unsustainable, bottomless pit of water use and fertilization application. In general, the public knows little about the efforts around the world to make golf more environmentally friendly. Because of these efforts, the game of golf is evolving, and the big question in the industry is “what is it evolving into?” My research, conducted while completing my Master’s degree, aims to discover an answer by analyzing the game now and into the future.
Throughout the next several months, I will be sharing topics within the realm of designing golf courses. The ideas presented in the articles are talked about on a global scale. For example, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities entered a five-year research partnership in the fall of 2015. Coined “The Science of the Green,” the University’s research project focuses on the game through multiple facets, including environment, agronomy and economics. An overall assessment of the status of golf and where it is headed is the overarching goal of the study.
The research included a “Pace of Play” analysis using USGA GPS trackers, which were given to golf players across the United States. They were asked to wear the device and play their rounds as usual. At the end of the rounds, the devices were collected, and the data was downloaded and reviewed. The data analyzes areas that are used in the course. It revealed the amount of unused space by the player. The unused areas, however, need to be laboriously maintained as playing areas. This sparked the thought process of how else the land could be used on a course. This also sparked an evaluation of the mindset of the architects, superintendents, managers, and players. In my articles, I will share what I learned through my research, what I hope to accomplish as a landscape architect, and how I envision the future of golf.