Four of the ’13 principles’ of golf course design are no longer relevant

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 19, 2021 09:05

A new survey of golf course designers’ attitudes finds that four of the 13 principles of golf architecture are no longer relevant and a further three are only partially relevant.

Golf course architects no longer feel that having two loops of nine, that the course should look like Augusta all-year-round, that there should be no excessive rough and that there should be a sufficient number of ‘heroic carries’ are essential.

The ’13 General Principles of Architecture’ were written by golf course designer Dr Alister MacKenzie in 1920, and a Sport Psychology Limited (SPL) survey in 2011 revealed they were all still of relevance.

However, a new SPL survey of nearly 500 golf course architects around the world finds that the following four principles are no longer considered important:

– There should be a complete absence of the annoyance and irritation caused by the necessity of searching for lost balls (excessive rough);

– The course, where possible, should be arranged in two loops of nine holes;

– There should be a sufficient number of heroic carries;

– The course should be equally good during winter and summer, the texture of the greens and fairways should be perfect and the approaches should have the same consistency as the greens.

In addition, a further three principles were deemed to only have ‘some relevance’:

– The course should have beautiful surroundings;

– There should be a minimum of blindness for the approach shot;

– There should be a large proportion of good two-shot holes and at least four one-shot holes.

This means only these six of the 13 original principles are still considered to be highly applicable:

– The course should be so arranged that all levels of play can enjoy the round;

– The course should be so interesting that even the scratch player is constantly stimulated to improve his game;

– Every hole should be different in character;

– There should be infinite variety in the strokes used to play the various holes (in other words, expect to use all clubs in the bag);

– The greens and fairways should be sufficiently undulating;

– There should be little walking between the greens and tees.

Participants were also asked if they had any further principles to add for the 21st century. One stood out: The design must extend beyond the golf course itself and look at the whole ‘experience’.

“We were extremely surprised by this set of results,” said Stephen Smith of SPL.

“The 2011 survey had shown that all the principles were still regarded as relevant yet 10 years on and the value to golfers of four of the 13 had dropped significantly.

“The increased use of more than two loops of nine holes as well as the recognition that a single loop of nine holes may well be more relevant to a time pressurised society could well explain why this principle is not as valued as it once was.

“It was no surprise though that the demand for perfect presentation all year round was the lowest ranked principle. In these days of high ecological awareness and reduced / challenged budgets, most golfers understand that the ability to present an Augusta-esque vision of golf is not a viable option for most venues.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 19, 2021 09:05
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1 Comment

  1. TLowe October 20, 10:09

    Interesting … Expectations higher than ever though!

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