ScotAGCA Response

ScotAGCA responds to Trevor Ledger’s article in Golf Inc magazine (Summer 2011 edition) on the subject “ARCHTECTS?…WHAT ARE THEY THEN?”

The main thrust of Trevor’s article deals with lack of knowledge and interest in golf course architects among Europe’s golfing public, especially when compared to the interest in The States. Trevor asks the question… “how can an uneducated golfing public be educated in the merits (or otherwise) of golf course architects and the effect that they have on the game that we all love?” And he hints that the EIGCA may have a role to play in improving the present situation.

One of many factors that encouraged the establishment of ScotAGCA was the lack of knowledge of Scottish golf course architects beyond Braid, Old Tom and perhaps Donald Ross. ScotAGCA represents Golf Course Design in Scotland and we have been making golf clubs aware of our Association and professionally qualified membership since 2009. We believe that we have been very successful in making clubs more aware of the Association, what GCAs do and how they can benefit golf clubs. The R&A are aware of ScotAGCA as are the SGU, the Club Managers Association in Scotland and the vast majority of Club officials in Scotland. This is a huge leap forward since the days prior to 2009 when even club officials would not have been aware of a GCA working in Scotland. However, this does not suggest that club members are any more enlightened or indeed any more interested in architects or what they do.

Certainly if the editors of our golf magazines are unwilling to publish articles on course designers due to lack of interest in the subject then they will not be mistaken. But it certainly seems to those of us who are passionate about course design that golfers should be interested and therefore there is a problem somewhere.

Our ScotAGCA members certainly notice an increase in awareness at the clubs we work with. Changing the design often stirs up the interest and it is not uncommon for golfers to want to question changes and find out more about the architects “qualifications”. Indeed the interest in design stretches to providing some of their own advice regarding the changes that should be made!

In Scotland, the trigger to provide information to members or the golfing public generally has to come from the clubs themselves. At the present time the vast majority of golf club members are focused on their game, their handicaps, how new technology can improve their game, fashion, what is happening at pro level and how the course condition affects their game. Many will have heard of James Braid and Old Tom but few will be able to name a current Scottish GCA. Whereas it is not our mission to make members more aware of the design heritage of their courses or indeed become more interested in course design we would like to think that getting club officials and owners more aware of their course design heritage and the professional help that is available in Scotland would be a reasonable starting point.

It is rare to find a club official who believes that the design of his/her course is as important as the condition. Clubs often have consultant agronomists who visit on an annual basis but relatively few have a consultant architect who they can call upon for advice.

At ScotAGCA we will continue to progress by encouraging clubs to find out more about what a Golf Course Architect can do to help the club. Once they are aware of the benefits we can work together to highlight how a more exciting course design can promote interest among the membership in what is happening on the course. This leads to more awareness of what an architect can do and in turn this can also be the catalyst to encouraging clubs to advise members of an architect’s involvement. If clubs then embrace the ideas about the positive aspects of design they will be more inclined to promote their ongoing developments in publications and this can lead to more awareness among our golfing public.

We believe that in our work with clubs we raise that awareness and the fact that our GCAs retain their association with clubs over a number of years does suggest that we are successful. However as long as the majority of clubs do not recognise the importance of improving their course designs and how this can benefit their club they will fail to encourage members to be interested in course design as a subject that should be of immense interest to serious golfers.

It would certainly be a sad day if golfers are only ever fed information on course design that leaves them believing that Colin Montgomerie or Sam Torrrance were the only course designers in Scotland and that European course design is dominated by Ernie Els or Nick Faldo!


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