Architect Gilles Hansey talks about what makes a great golf course

across the world golf The landscape there is good CoursesBad courses, unforgettable ones. Architect Jill Hansi Create many of the latter. His original designs include Streamsong Black in Florida, the Rio Olympics in Brazil, and one of our favorite courses in the world: Castle Stuart in Scotland.

Over the past decade and a half he has also been tasked with restoring some of America’s finest gems from the golden age of architecture including Oakland Hills (Donald Ross), both courses at Winged Foot (AW Tillinghast), Fishers Island (Seth Raynor), and North Course Course At Los Angeles Country Club (George C. Thomas Jr.), which will host US Open 2023.

This year, Hanse and longtime partner and problematic Jim Wagner unveiled their impressive restoration of Baltusrol Golf Club (AW Tillinghast), and later this summer they will welcome members to a stunning original creation –The new course at the golf club Les Bordes in France.

We met up with Hanse before the opening new cycle To hear about the inception of the project, its design thinking, and what makes a great golf course.

Architect Gilles Hansi
Courtesy of Les Bordes Golf Club

Men’s magazine: Opening your first course in continental Europe this year, the new course at Les Bordes Golf Club in the Loire Valley. There I designed a short 10-hole course, wild pigwhich opened last year. Plus you spent time renovating the venerable old course at Les Bordes (A Robert von Haag design.) Can you tell us how the project came about, and what drew you to it?

Jill Hansey: contact us project owner, Driss Benkiraneand asked if we were interested. I was moved by the prospect and agreed to come to France to visit her. Driss arranged a great evening including a boat trip on the Loire, great wine and food and I was hooked! In all seriousness, that introduction to Idris and the project was significant in that it demonstrated the commitment to the quality he had for the entire property – the golf course in particular. He has a high golf IQ – and when we got to the golf part of the property I was very impressed with the sandy nature of the site, the vegetation there, and the gentle terrain. Not every day you are asked to design a course right next to one of the top rated courses in Europe, and An old stadium in Les Bordes. The opportunity to do something different with our site, the quality of the owner and the property, and the location made it very attractive to us. Once we came to an agreement, we then tried to create a vision for a training course in the wasteland in the context of the work that Tom Simpson did in his masterpieces in Chantilly And the Morfontaine. We’ve never built a course on his business style, or that style, and it was immediately appealing to us. Time will tell if we are successful in our attempts.

As a designer, where do you find inspiration?

We find inspiration in golf courses that look to nature to deliver challenge, complexity and style. Most of these courses are from the golden age of golf course design, but there are also many fine examples of these types of courses built in the past 30 years. Nature inspires texture, colors, and most importantly, topography.

You create new courses and rebuild old ones. How are these processes creatively and technically differentiated?

Our new training projects revolve primarily around the potential of the site and the client’s personality. Jim Wagner and I have a very simple equation: The first question is do we have the ability to build something extraordinary? Will we enjoy doing it? If both boxes are checked, the timing is set. Once inside, we strive to maximize the site’s natural advantages and create interesting golf holes. With the restoration, we look at the original designer’s architectural proportions and the possibility of restoring his work. We also try to be geographically diverse. We never want to cram the market into any particular area or any particular architect. Then we set out to do as much research as possible to get the restoration as accurate as possible.

So is there a difference between renovation and restoration?

We believe restoration is when the original designer’s work inspires all the design decisions we make on a project. We try to be as project specific as possible, and research what that particular engineer did in that course. We never use the word “typical”, as in Donald Ross’ “typical” green-crowned. We feel this word allows us a lot of interpretation and we don’t want to explain it. We want to be artisan. Renewal is when we allow our thoughts, biases, and perceptions to influence the modifications we want to make to an existing course. In a restoration project, she attempts to channel the former architect’s intent into a version in keeping with the contemporary game.

Is this always possible?

I think it was Brian Silva who coined the term Sympathetic Restoration, and in many ways our restorations are always sympathetic to the original design and as accurate as possible. However, we take some latitude in adding tees forward and backward, in moving bunkers to match modern game distances, and rarely in softening slopes on greens. This last freedom is one that we take very seriously and do our best not to alter the features of green. We feel it is better to slow down the green speeds than to carve these works of art. We try to keep a level of severity in line with recent mode speeds.

A view of the restored Sahara Hideout on the lower course of Baltusrol Golf Club
A view of the restored Sahara Hideout on the lower course of Baltusrol Golf Club. Evan Schiller Photography

When you upgrade a track like Lower Baltosroll Stadium or The Country Club, how do you balance its role as a major tournament site that must test the best in the world now and then with its more central purpose as a daily-played amateur course?

This is an interesting question. We are so focused on restoring the original architect’s vision that we don’t spend too much time thinking about that balance. We have so much trust and respect for original and designer design that we feel this balance will work out in the end. There is also an expectation among members and guests that if the course is capable and worthy of hosting a major tournament, it will be harder than a “normal” golf course. As a result, I don’t think there is much emphasis on balance by the players either.

What distinguishes a good golf course from a bad golf course?

A good golf course allows players to choose, provides choices and interests, and is one where golfers learn something new each time they play. A bad golf course does none of the above. Really great golf courses that get everything right. It’s strategically interesting and fun to play, it increases the topographical and landscape potential of the property, and you get the size and nuances of each level. Moreover, it should have a high level of maintenance and presentation. It must be compatible with the design. When all these notes come together, really great golf courses have a distinct sense of place, comfort in their surroundings and perhaps a little bragging.

Is there a project for you?Re especially proud – or do you think it will stand the test of time?

They are all like my kids so it’s hard to choose. I think that Ohoopee Match Club She stands out in my mind for her insistence on playing matches as a form of golf being played there. I love matching play, and for the owner – in this case, Mike Walrath – to decide that he’s going to create a place where the look of the game is both honored and desired, is pretty cool. Jim Wagner and I love taking risks and Ohoopee let us do it in a big way. Oddly enough, the most successful thing we’ve ever built is Nativity at Pinehurst. Another type of course, but the kind that asks you to have fun, and golf definitely needs more of that.

If you could only play one round of golf, where would you play and with whom?

I will play in Old Stadium in St Andrews. There are a lot of people I love to play with so I can’t pick a particular group, but my wife Tracy and our kids walk with me!

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Written by Joseph

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