The revered ar­chi­tect, who spent a year in Bri­tain and Ire­land play­ing our elite cour­ses, ex­plains why he com­mends Eng­land to fel­low Amer­i­cans.

Golf World (UK) - - Contents -

The revered US ar­chi­tect talks ex­clu­sively to Golf World and ex­plains why English cour­ses hold a very spe­cial place in his af­fec­tions.

There are a bunch of lit­tle pock­ets of great golf all over Bri­tain and Ire­land but pretty con­sis­tently I ad­vise friends who are trav­el­ling over the At­lantic from Amer­ica to come to Eng­land. It’s there, in my opin­ion, that you’ll find the most un­der­rated cour­ses.

I think that is the case mainly be­cause they are not ex­posed like the Scot­tish and Ir­ish ones are and have been.

For two gen­er­a­tions peo­ple have been mar­ket­ing golf tours to Ire­land and Scot­land, but not Eng­land for some rea­son. Maybe it is be­cause it is a lit­tle big­ger and more spread out. I also sup­pose that at least some of the clubs are less in­ter­ested in vis­i­tor fees be­cause the mem­bers are wealth­ier and they don’t want as many non-mem­bers play­ing their cour­ses. But there is so much good golf. My client for the Tara’Iti course I built in New Zealand came over to play in the Dun­hill tour­na­ment and was bring­ing his wife and an­other cou­ple. He’s the kind a guy who has played pretty much all of the Top 100 cour­ses in the world… the kind of guy that’s even been to Wood­hall Spa (pic­tured right) in Lin­colnshire, where I’m work­ing right now.

So he asks me where should they go for a few days, where they could see some cool stuff that he didn’t re­ally know any­thing about. I thought about it for a while and then had them go down to the south west of Eng­land.

They played St En­odoc and West­ward Ho! – which is a pretty dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for Amer­i­cans! – and they re­ally loved that. The wives thought it was re­ally neat, be­cause they hadn’t seen any­thing like this any­where. But there is, be­cause he would have thought the same thing of Brora had I sent them up there – al­though he’s been up and done Dornoch.

He also played Saun­ton and then Burn­ham & Ber­row. They had a great time in a dif­fer­ent part of the world that has a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter to Scot­land and Ire­land. Those cour­ses, es­pe­cially West­ward Ho! and St En­odoc, are just so dif­fer­ent.

It’s much tougher now to be sur­prised by a course as I was when I came over to study here in 1982 be­cause you can go on­line and find a mil­lion pic­tures of it. When we were do­ing Barn­bougle Dunes in Aus­tralia I said to the client, “I know you’ve got to put some pic­tures up to get peo­ple in­ter­ested in com­ing, but don’t put all the best holes up. Leave some­thing for peo­ple to come for the first time to go ‘wow, I didn’t ex­pect to see that’, that’s re­ally good”. It’s so hard to do that now.

‘They played St En­odoc and West­ward Ho! – a very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for Amer­i­cans! – and they re­ally loved it’

I knew a lit­tle about St En­odoc, as well as Pen­nard in Wales, be­fore I came over in 1982 be­cause they were men­tioned in the same, very old ar­ti­cle I’d read when I was in the States. There was a guy called Sir Ernest Hold­er­ness, who was an am­a­teur cham­pion in the 1890s and they asked him to pick his favourite 18 holes in Bri­tain. I guess he was from the west of the coun­try be­cause while he picked some of the ob­vi­ous ones he also picked holes from St En­odoc, Pen­nard, Saun­ton and West­ward Ho! He also chose one at Dornoch, so he trav­elled!

It was the first I’d heard of those cour­ses be­cause they didn’t make Bernard Dar­win’s book [Golf Cour­ses of the Bri­tish Isles]. So I made a note that I should see them but didn’t know what to ex­pect. It turned out they were two of my favourite ex­pe­ri­ences over here.

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