Less is More

Award-winning architect Paul Jansen argues that creativity and imagination will always win over conditioning and a plethora of features in terms of golf course design

Laguna Phuket Golf Club is a course built around the philosophy of ‘less is more’

A few years back I was ask to deliver some thoughts on the state of golf and golf course design for The Campaign for Real Golf - a noble initiative geared towards making the game more attractive and fun for everyone moving forward. Whilst I firmly believe that golf is in a healthy state - there are over 30, 000 golf courses spread about the planet and tens of millions of golfers - my feeling is that we can improve on these figures by addressing some issues I feel are damaging.

One such concern I have is how over the top some of our modern courses have been designed and are being maintained. Make no mistake I think this is a new golden age for golf course design, particularly given the number of remarkably good golf courses that have been built in the last 20 years, but every so often you find one that is so excessive in nature that it leaves you dumbfounded. In fact anyone that objects to the game of golf could point finger at such courses and make a case for golf being much less environmentally friendly than it makes out. Of course those people should be reminded that a high percentage of these golf courses have actually improved the landscape - but that is another essay altogether.

I suppose when you take a step back it’s hardly surprising that we find some of these excessive cases. I mean we live in a world where excessiveness is sought after and, at times, celebrated. Added to that, people are often judged on their appearance, as if this is important. In much the same way some of these modern excessive golf courses carry that same mantra - they have an abundance of needless features that add little to the golf experience, but rather add to the cost of maintaining the golf course. To go further these courses are almost always visually very appealing, yet lack much, if any, content. When I think of content I think of a golf course that is strong on strategy or one where, in the great Alister MaKenzie’s words, “every hole should present the golfer with an appealing problem to solve”.

It’s my opinion that golf would be in a better place if we embraced a “less is more” attitude to golf design and maintenance, coupled with a need for more strategic golf environments that call for thoughtful play.