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Fairways to Heaven

Backyard Golf Course Owners Find There's No Place Like Home
Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Pierce Brosnan, Nov/Dec 97

(continued from page 3)

Designing and building a golf course requires much more than a bit of landscaping experience. According to the ASGCA, whose membership reads like a who's who of golf, including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones and Jones Jr., Pete Dye, Rees Jones, Arthur Hills and Jay Morrish, there are only 128 men and two women in North America who are, "by virtue of their knowledge of the game, training, experience and vision and inherent ability, qualified to design and prepare specifications for a course." Golf course design requires a working knowledge of several different disciplines, including landscape architecture, civil engineering, hydraulic engineering, agrostology (the science of turf culture and care) and construction using heavy equipment.

Of course, you do not need a member of the golf course architects society to design most backyard courses, and certainly not for just putting in a putting green. Hollander, who gets almost all of his golf work through word of mouth and referrals, is a landscape architect who frequently works on projects unrelated to golf. "If you are going to put in a residential golf course, it is part of your residence, and has to be approached like any other piece of landscaping. You don't want to put the green next to your kitchen window, so you look for a remote corner of the property, somewhere where it gets full sun and good drainage. Just like building a house, you have to select a good designer, contractor and someone to maintain it. Any one of them can screw it up. We are responsible not only for design, but for getting it built."

If golf's popularity continues to soar, firms like Hollander's should be in luck. The ASGCA estimates that the number of golfers and rounds played could increase by 35 percent by the end of the decade. As more avid golfers are faced with more crowded courses, residential golf becomes an attractive option. Serious players know that the short game is by far the most important part of golf, so even just having a putting green to practice on can result in a substantial improvement in your play. According to David Bishop Sr., manager of information services for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, "we get five to 10 requests a week" from people interested in installing backyard putting greens of some size and scope.

While one green or hole will suffice for many, some golfers crave a little more. One such enthusiast is Stephen Hannah, a journalist, who along with his friend, Bill Wernecke Jr., is writing a book on golf course architecture called Six Who Changed the Course of Golf.

"I bought a little farmstead in a place called Mequon, around 20 miles northwest of Milwaukee, with about 10 acres of land, and I decided that I'm going to put some golf holes in here," says Hannah. "So Bill, who has been studying golf course architecture since he was about 10, comes over, and we scope out the land, and at one point I figured I could put in six holes, using three greens, so I'd be coming back and forth. The longest hole was going to be 190 yards.

"Then I read this article about pitch-and-putt courses of Ireland, and the longest hole they have on those courses is about 65 yards. They hit these terrific wedge shots that back up 25 feet on the green. So I started shifting my thinking and decided what I really ought to have is a nine-hole pitch-and-putt course. You can really do one or the other. You can have a regular hole where you are going to be hitting three and four irons, or you can really practice. I'd probably get a lot more practice and have more fun with the pitch-and-putt."

Hannah broke ground on his course this summer and plans to be playing in the spring. "I think I should have a golf course in my backyard as long as I have this nice little farm. I'm looking to do this to have fun, and because I'm 48 years old and I think I ought to be doing this kind of thing. I see myself out there with friends, with the sun going down, lofting up wedge shots while we drink some beers." Sounds like golf heaven. *

Larry Olmsted is a freelance writer who lives in Vermont. MATTERS OF COURSE

For more information on building your own golf course, contact:

The American Society of Golf Course Architects
221 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, Illinois 60601 (312) 372-7090
www1.golfweb.com/library/arch/asgca/


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