Golf Course Reviews

by: Rick Baril

I’ve seen hundreds of golf courses during my career; making it a point, during my travels, to visit golf courses.  I’m curious to see any and all golf courses.  It’s an ongoing quest to learn as much as I can about golf and golf architecture.

My intention is to write about the courses I’ve visited.  A few years ago, I even made a serious effort to start.  I found it difficult immediately.  I’ve been designing courses for more than 30 years.  So, I appreciate the myriad of issues influencing the design and development of a golf course.  This knowledge hampers my ability to write a golf course “review” – in the traditional sense; not knowing influences which actually shaped a project and the design, I find it illogical to judge the outcome. There are enough writers, comfortable with critiquing, scoring and judging the work of others, without any intimate knowledge about what it actually takes to accomplish the work.

The angst of writing a review likely emanates from my “backward” approach.  In golf, a writer tends to establish credentials by critiquing other peoples work.   It’s a sad truth. We often, and erroneously, accept a writer is an expert in the subject they write about.  Wouldn’t it be great if writers, reviewers and critics were obliged to work a reasonable amount of time in the field or profession they critique?  After all, how can you judge a thing, if you don’t actually comprehend what is required to accomplish the work.   This would make reviews more meaningful.  I suspect, it would also tend to make reviewers more equitable.  Perhaps I’ve read too many golf course review narratives judging the value of something; while pretending to convey knowledge about what was accomplished, why it was accomplished and the most curious one; the designers intent.  This is not intended to sound cynical, even if it might.

Design Philosophy is not a static thing.  It evolves over time.  The longer a designer’s career, the more evolution occurs.

Which brings me to the final point;  Being a golf designer for more than 30 years, I can attest that; 1) my thoughts about design, 2) my “style” and 3) my “design philosophy” continue to evolve.  I’m sure all artists and designers experience the same thing. This combined with the unknown external influences of developing a golf course, would make it hopeless for an outsider/writer to translate and convey – “what the designer was thinking”.  This combined with the external influences of developing a golf course, make it hopeless to translate and explain “what the designer was thinking”.

When I see a golf course, I attempt to understand what it would have been like to produce.  Inevitably, I see the course through “my eyes”; including my unique bias, aversions and preferences.  Inevitably I find aspects to admire, and things which prompt questions. In the end, it’s just another opinion.  And, maybe you know what they say about opinions….