July 2, 1999
For the last 14 years or so, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design’s Professional Development Program featured a seminar by Robert Graves and Geoffrey Cornish on the principles and practices of golf course architecture. During the same period the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America also sponsored a similar lecture series by Graves and Cornish.
The hundreds of people who attended these seminars were treated to a great presentation of all the facets of golf course design, from the developer’s initial concept to maintenance after opening day.
Now the rest of us can enjoy the seminar with the recent publication of Golf Course Design (Wiley; $65 SRP).
Graves and Cornish are accomplished golf course architects. Graves passes his 40th anniversary in the business this year, and Cornish has been in the business even longer.
Anyone interested in golf course architecture and design is in for a big treat when they read this book. I really mean big. The main text of the outsized book is 360 pages long. With the appendices, useful glossary, and extended index, the full book runs to 446 pages. In fact, it’s hard to figure out what Graves and Cornish missed.
On the other hand, it’s easy to enjoy what’s here. The Design Codes set out in Appendix A are a particular delight. These codes set forth the fundamentals of golf design as originally described by such early practitioners as John Laing Low, Alister MacKenzie, and Charles Blair MacDonald. Reading this Appendix first will help the reader keep these axioms in mind when returning to the main text. The extensive photographs and artwork will also help the reader comprehend the more technical aspects.
Much of this book is the direct work product of Graves and Cornish. The two veterans of the business delve into such matters as the history of golf course design, basic design principles, and the decision-making process in routing the course on a given property. They also discuss the role of new technology in their work, including the use of computer-assisted drafting, or AutoCAD. For readers with their own CAD software, the publisher makes available free copies of CAD files that can be used for the design exercises provided in the back of the book. These exercises can also be performed by readers without a CAD background, and are fun to work through.
Other writers contributed major sections of this book, for which Graves and Cornish acted as editors. In fact, the truly impressive feature of Golf Course Design is its wide-ranging approach to the subject.
For example, Desmond Muirhead explains the uses of symbolism that informed his designs. Kenneth DeMay, FAIA, gives a great tutorial on Planning the Adjacent Real Estate. William Amick wrote a chapter on how to design and construct a golf course on derelict land, such as old dumpsites and borrow pits. James McC. Barrett contributes a very detailed segment on golf course irrigation. The Golf Course Builders Association of America gives the contractor’s view of appropriate construction methods.
Those with a background in development or construction will easily see the parallels between their work and the effort behind a golf course’s financing, design, construction, and maintenance. Those without such a background but with an avid interest in golf course design will be hard-pressed to find a book that will meet their needs as well as this one.
This book should be very useful for greens committees, club presidents, and others who must make decisions for the sake of their existing golf facility. It’s not a cheap book, but it’s well worth it. I highly recommend it.