Gil Hanse: Golf Mastery is Everywhere in the Game

A Master Course Designer’s Credo

True artistry can be found in the fine lines of a pen and ink drawing or the rugged lines of a bunker edge. Our palette has upon it an abundance and variety of plants, grasses, and landforms, which provide our designs with unmatched textures, colors, and character.

Nature is a complex system subject to human influences and interpretation. We look to nature for inspiration, but have confidence that our golf courses are not merely a replication of nature but a work of art clearly reflecting human influence.

Our hands on commitment extends to hands on the equipment, whether it be a bulldozer or a shovel. We personally shape and finish every green and bunker on our golf courses. We have the calluses to prove it. 

Traditional golf courses focus first and foremost on the player and his or her experiences on the course.

Pride in one’s work is manifested through the details and final touches. We provide a level of detail and subtlety to our work that is unsurpassed in the profession.

We create courses that are simple and elegant in appearance, yet sophisticated in strategy and interest.

Our designs will not become repetitive. Every golf course site is unique and different; our designs reflect that individuality.

At this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Miami, Florida, much of the pre-tournament chatter has to do with the remodeling of the tournament course, the famed Blue Monster.

To his credit not only did the normally flamboyant new owner, Donald Trump, commit to remodeling a flat, tired course, he had the good taste to select one of the least flamboyant designers in the game to do it, Gil Hanse.

Gil Hanse is a master. It is reflected in his credo that begins this post. And it is confirmed by his selection as the designer of the brand new course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Truth be known, even though I am quite interested in course design — nurtured by Tom Doak’s, Anatomy of a Golf Course, back in 1997 — I had never heard of Hanse until he was named to this project. How did I miss him?

In my defense, in a 2012 profile, Links golf magazine labeled him “the game’s stealthiest architectural craftsman,” and referring to the Olympics project, wondered, “How can you hide the winner of the most spirited competition for the most coveted commission for a golfing ground since Mother Nature aced out all comers at St. Andrews?”

Doak was one of the architects at Bandon Dunes in Oregon along with Scotsman David McLay Kidd and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Hanse is in that minimalist camp where the land speaks for itself with nudges here and there by the humans. He’s also been commissioned to design another 27 holes at Bandon Dunes among a long list of other projects around the world.

Since a major topic of discussion all through the tournament will be about Hanse’s work at Doral, I thought you might appreciate an opportunity to get up to speed on him.

From Golf Digest, “7 things Gil Hanse would have you know about the new Blue Monster,” a clever, overall piece on his work and relationship with Trump.

From Brian Wacker at pgatour.com, “Eighteen holes alongside Gil Hanse at the new Trump National Doral,” a nice insight on the course, a personality profile on Hanse and an explanation about the helipad.

From pgatour.com, “Q&A: Course architect Gil Hanse,” a short excerpt from a longer Media Center session; Hanse in his own words.

And if you’re really a design wonk or want to see how your old favorite has changed, from pgatour.com, “Hanse’s hole-by-hole: Trump National Doral,” so you can be one step ahead of the broadcast conversations.

And lastly, as I researched this post on Hanse’s website, “Hanse Golf Course Design,” I discovered that one of the courses he renovated was the course I learned the game on as an 11-year-old caddie growing up in Stony Brook, New York, St. George’s Golf and Country Club. Five bucks a bag, ten for doubles, plus a Coke and a hotdog at the halfway house. And if you got there at 4 am so you would be first on the caddie master’s list, you could get two loops in. The course was closed on Mondays, the day the caddies got to play. It was quite a comprehensive education and yet another reason that I love the game of golf.

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