This book is subtitled “The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design” and that is an accurate description of what it is about. Fundamentals, not the wonky details, of course design is what Shackelford successfully relates to the arm chair course architects out there.
You know who you are. Guys who regularly are moving bunkers or rerouting the front and back nine on their home courses over clam chowder after an above handicap performance and a loss of two out of three on the morning Nassaus. Or guys who come back from that man trip with a litany of “suggestions” on how those name brand architects could have made the courses just a tinch more playable.
This is an informative and very readable primer on golf course design and the history that has brought us to where we are today. Shackelford is a bright guy with an easy going writing style who is well briefed in the subject and opinionated enough to make it thought provoking. He is a guy who has played all the holes he discusses and has done the necessary background research as well. The book is full of thoughtful quotes from C.B. Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak, Pete and Alice Dye, among other design authorities that lend credibility to his opinions on the history of the development of course design.
“We want our golf courses to make us think. However much we may enjoy whaling the life out of the little white ball, we soon grow tired of play a golf course that does not give us problems in strategy as well as skill.”
Add to this the etchings of Gil Hanse, a fine course designer in his own right, and it is a well presented and balanced presentation on a subject that too often is discussed vociferously without adequate background knowledge.
The book is compartmentalized by subject to cover what is architecture, schools of design, evolution of the craft, principles of design, great holes and classic designs, and even the nomenclature of the industry. His two chapters on Comic Relief in quality design and the role of Temptation as a key element in challenging players to make quality decisions that will affect their scorecards are particularly interesting.
Shackelford has the distinction of having dabbled in design as a consultant on a track not far from Los Angeles called Rustic Canyon that he did under the tutelage of Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner. This is a natural looking daily fee course they created in the rugged foothills of Southern California and it avails him the opportunity to explain many of his theories of design as expressed through their own experience in creating this course.
The print version is accessible for a steep price in the used market but you can get the Nook electronic version for about $7.99 through the internet.
This book is not for everyone, you need a bias of interest in the topic to wade through the detail he presents. If you are an armchair architecture wonk like me this is something you need to have read if for no other reason than to have some basis for your personal authority when criticizing the Pete Dye design that just ate your lunch.
Grounds For Golf
Geoff Shackelford (2003)