Gil Hanse on Tokyo Golf Club
Tokyo Golf Club committee member, Mr Ito, interviews Gil Hanse.
What do you personally consider important in your design of new courses and renovation of existing courses?
There are many important factors that we consider important in the design of our new courses, however, the most important factor is the potential for the site/property to yield an exceptional golf course. Within this factor the most important elements are topography, soils, natural vegetation, and views/vistas. Almost every great golf course is built on ground that has interesting and varied topography that is ideally suited for golf. If the topography is too similar throughout the site, the holes can become boring and predictable. We prefer topography that has both subtle and sharp slopes, gentle and steep rises, and would preferably have less than 100 feet of elevation change so that the course can be easily walked. If the roll of the ground is good, having sandy soil is even better. The advantages that occur with sandy soils manifest themselves in many ways, from drainage, to turfgrass selection, and they also provide us with the opportunity to create very natural looking sand hazards. The ability for firm and fast conditions due to well drained soils also allows us to build the ground game into our designs, which creates much more interesting and fun golf shots. While all golf courses by the same architect look somewhat the same, having good native vegetation on hand to tie the golf course into, creates a look and feel that is distinct to that particular landscape.
We prefer to build courses that blend gently into their surrounds and the use of native vegetation helps us greatly in this effort. The final piece to the property puzzle is the view from the golf course. Obviously having a dramatic piece of property with ocean/water, mountain, or city views can be the ingredient that makes a great golf course a “world class” golf course. Golfers love to look at their surrounds while playing golf, and part of the beauty of the game is the sense of being out in nature. This sense is heightened when the surrounding landscape can be brought into the golf course and can help to add to the drama of the course by focusing the golfer on distant landscapes while they play the golf hole. This concept is not dissimilar from the Japanese garden concept of the “borrowed landscape”, wherein the immediate landscape is made much more dramatic and expansive by using long distance views as if they were part of the course itself. Our final criteria for the selection of golf course projects is, “Will we have fun doing the project?”. If the site can provide for exceptional golf, we need to make sure that the owner/client is someone with whom we would like to work, and that the process of getting to and living on site will be comfortable and interesting. We spend so much time on site that we need to make sure that these arrangements are satisfactory, otherwise it will lead to frustration, which does not lead to good design work.
In the renovation of existing courses, the potential for improvement and the history of the design and the club are the most important factors for us. We need to believe that we can significantly improve the golf course, and that the membership will be supportive of these changes before we take on any renovation projects. We also believe very strongly that the golf course should have a strong tradition either in the course or in the architect who originally designed the course. Having these strong traditions or history allows us to research the design of the course and to implement or restore many of the interesting features from the original design. It also allows us to immerse ourselves in the style of that particular course or architect and learn from their example. This ultimately makes us better golf course architects when we work on our original projects. The strong potential for improvement and the great traditions of Tokyo Golf Club are what led us to pursue the commission at TGC, and we hope that our philosophies are evident in our work on the Asaka greens.
How do you see the current trends in golf course designs and what is the background for such trends?
Why are so many courses being renovated today?
How have Colt/Alison courses fared in the US and how are they being viewed by the golfing world?
28 January 2011 Respond to this article