Publication Date


Committee Members

Michael Davidsohn, Chair - Tim Gerrish, Member


The design process behind a golf course is unlike other landscape architecture design processes. The interaction of a golfer with the course is much more engaging and active than a park goer's interaction with a city park. For this reason this project has delved into the tenets behind the golf course design process, using as guides the great designers of the Golden Age of Golf Course Design. The results indicate that there are five primary design tenets that form the framework of a successful golf course design project. Similar to the circular system design process found elsewhere, the five tenets of golf course design function as a repeating loop that funnels toward a final design.

First among these tenets is the idea of rhythm. Rhythm guides a golf course designer both across the land and through a round. Rhythm can be both natural and constructed depending on the situation. The second step in the design process involves the twin tenets of strategy and balance. Strategic design ensures interest over repeated play through the mandating of decision making. A strategic course requires a player to think his way around a golf course as much as play his way around it. The second twin is balance. Balance seeks to shape strategy so that the decisions a player faces allow the consequences, rewards and difficulty of those choices to function in tune with one another. Finally, the process reaches the fine tuning stage. Here the ideals of scale and fairness are applied. Proper scaling of a design allows an architect to, at a minimum, fit a course to the land but it can also help an architect improve interest in the game through subtle acts of deception. Fairness acts as a final check on a design concept. It is vital to note that fairness in golf course design has its own definition. A fair design allows every player who steps off the first tee to enjoy a challenging and interesting round of golf, regardless of their skill.

A golf course is not finished (at least not finished well) until the process has been run through and repeated numerous times. To properly test the concepts identified in the research portion of this project, the tenets were applied to a two phase design of Pine Grove Springs Country Club in Spofford, New Hampshire. The project identified areas where the course could be improved and applied the tenets of design to make these improvements in such a way as to improve the playing experience of Pine Grove Springs' members.