In the attached interview with Golf Atlas, Lester George discusses his approach and philosophy to course design. It is an insightful conversation with an accomplished course architect who you ought to get to know.
Lester George is not one of the names that generally comes to people’s lips when they talk about the architects of this era, at least not yet. Given the quality of work that he has done since 1991 on the eastern seaboard and beyond in renovation, restoration, and new course design, the recognition he deserves as one of the best course designers in the region is not that far away.
As this extensive interview reveals, he is a bit of an old school type architect, knowledgeable and respectful of the approach to strategic design and classic style holes of the greats of the Golden Era of course design. His recent restoration of C.B. MacDonald and Seth Raynor’s Old White Course at the Greenbrier (circa 1914) is a good example of this. He labored studiously over old renderings and aerial photos of the course, rolled back changes made by others over the years, removed tree growth that had compromised the original design, and brought back to life the living and breathing intention of these two classic designers. The PGA Tour has embraced this classic course as the host of the Greenbrier Classic.
My first experience with one of his designs was when I had the opportunity to play the Kinloch Golf Club outside Richmond. Lester did this course with the advice and assistance of one of the great Virginia amateurs, Vinnie Giles. Their collaborations revealed in great detail shed light on one of Lester’s strongest attributes, his ability to recognize reasoned advice, process it, and turn it into design results.
One of the most interesting aspects to the design at Kinloch are the number of holes with alternative playing routes. Number 2, 4, 9, 11, and 15 all have two distinctly different playing lines you can take on the hole. As Lester says of playing the second hole “Many things factor into the way I approach the second, including the tee I am on, the wind, the hole location, and the way I am playing”. The concentration of this many strategically variant holes on the same course demands full focus on thoughtful course management.
A more recent addition to his resume is startlingly bold design of Ballyhack Golf Club in Roanoke, Virginia. Built in the tradition of Scottish highland courses, it has dramatic flow and some of the fiercest bunkering you can imagine. Lester’s description of the process of bringing this course to life is testimony to his dedication to bringing out the ground what his mind’s eye perceives. The Ballyhack Virtual Course Tour from their website will take your breath away.
Take the time to read this wonderful interview with a relatively unknown course designer. Once you are familiar with him, I am sure you will be seeking out opportunities to see his work first hand.
Golf Atlas Website