Classic Advice On Designing A Golf Course
An article in the April 7, 1898 Gaffney, South Carolina Ledger offers an interesting window into the thinking of course designers from the late 19th century.
To begin, the author (unknown) recommends renting a sheep pasture from a farmer of about 80 – 90 acres in size. Sheep will help to manage the grass, and not damage the ground like cows.
The number of holes, the author suggests is not as important as the quality of the holes. Six or nine holes is recommended, as they are evenly divisible into eighteen.
The article also has some fairly specific advice on building a bunker, specifying 14 to 16 feet wide, 18 inches deep, open on the near side, and banked on the far. The length, the author says, should increase the farther the bunker lies from the tee.
However, “No hazard should cost the player more than one legitimate stroke to extricate his ball” Further, blind pits and the like are unfair and should be marked by flags.
Other than bunker specifications, however, advice on how to lay out a hole is entirely missing. Nothing on length, direction, size of green and so on.
I wonder if this wasn’t part of a larger article that was cut for the sake of space.
The complete article with classic advice on designing a golf course follows:
A Golf Course
The ground required and how the links should be arranged.
From 80 – 90 acres are required for a full 18 hole course, entailing a large initial expense in construction and heavy permanent charges for up keep, to say nothing of the item of rent. But golf does not absolutely depend upon how many holes you have. Their playing quality is much more important.
Nine, or even six good holes will give better golf than 18 short or indifferent ones, and it is never good policy to overcrowd the playing area. Since 9 and 6 are both multiples of 18, two or three rounds of a short course will make up the required number of 18 holes and it is for this reason that 7, 10 and 12 hole courses are seldom seen.
For a club of, say, 30 to 50 members, a 6 hole course should be large enough to accommodate all who may be likely to play at any one time, but with a longer list of playing members, it is apt to get blocked. A 9 hole course will give 100 per cent more playing room than one of six holes.
It is not always possible to obtain exclusive control of even the 25 or 40 acres that we will need for our moderate sized course. Ground under cultivation or in hay is impossible and the same is true of woodland and hopelessly rocky fields. There are obvious objections to the use of land upon which cattle are grazed and the hoof marks are particularly destructive to the putting greens. On the other hand, a sheep pasture may be used to excellent advantage and indeed sheep are purposefully grazed on many of the big golf courses for their good offices in keeping the grass short. Almost any farmer should be willing to give a club the privilege of playing over his sheep land at a very moderate rental and the arrangement generally works well for both parties.
Of hazards on the course, there are the natural and the artificial. No hazard should cost the player more than one legitimate stroke to extricate his ball (although he may very possibly take a large number) and the difficulty should always be a visible one. Blind pits and the like are unfair traps and should have their position by special flags.
At the seashore the sand bunker is the natural and traditional hazard and its ordinary substitute on an inland course is the cop bunker, or simple ditch partially filled with sand. In making a cop bunker, the turf should first be removed from a strip of ground 14 to 16 feet wide, the length of the strip depending upon the distance of the hazard from tee or putting green.
The farther away from either tee or green, the longer must be the bunker so that wildly driven balls may not escape its clutches. The excavation should be from 18 inches to two feet in depth and the earth removed should be heaped up in a mound three to five feet in height, with the open trench on the near side and then banked with the turf to insure its preservation. The sides should have a tolerably steep slope to keep the balls from running over, but they should not be so perpendicular as to be unplayable. The trench should now be filled with fine white sand to within a few inches of the playing level of the field; otherwise the ditch will either be muddy or sun baked and neither condition is favorable to good golf.
In the up keep of the average inland course, the chief difficulty is to keep the grass short upon the fair green or course between the holes. It must be short, or the player will never get a decent brassie lie, and the balls will be lost with vexatious frequency. If the grazing of sheep will not keep the grass down, the n it must be regularly cut, and preferably by a horse lawn mower. The ordinary hay machine cannot be cut close enough to the ground.
The Gafney, SC Ledger, April 7, 1898