June 1, 2008

Natural Wonders

Architects are designing contemporary courses that look frayed, timeworn and windblown.

The distressed look is in. Three new courses—Erin Hills Golf Course in Erin, Wisc., Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., and The Castle Course in St Andrews, Scotland—showcase the hand of nature over the hand of man. At Chambers Bay, architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. and his team built the course in a former quarry on Puget Sound, transforming sand and gravel pits into large sandy zones and creating undulating fairways that give a worn, storm-tousled feel. The scenic track plays 5,132 yards from the forward tees (7,585 from the back), and it's already slated to host the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the 2015 U.S. Open Championship.

In St Andrews, The Castle Course is the seventh course at the home of golf and the first new 18-hole layout to be built since 1993. Scotsman David McLay Kidd, who designed Oregon's renowned Bandon Dunes, overhauled a potato farm high on a cliff above the North Sea, sparing only a sycamore on the first hole. It's St Andrews' sole nonlinks course, but Kidd brought in tons of sand and seeded it with fescue and bent grass so it would play like a traditional layout. He also created humps and moguls that look shaped by the weather, not by bulldozers in a matter of months.

At Erin Hills, architects Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, with Golf Digest architecture editor Ron Whitten, worked with the land, moving dirt on only four holes. It plays 4,543 yards from the forward tees (7,824 from the back), and has fescue-lined fairways and firm greens. The course hosted the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.