Thursday, September 17, 2015

Getting to Know: Tripp Davis, Golf Course Architect

Tripp Davis at Engineers Country Club
American Golfer: When did you start playing golf?
Tripp Davis: My great uncle was an avid player and he took me to play when I was 9 at my mom's request - to give her a break. I was hooked.

Tripp Davis, ASGCA
AG: How did you become a golf course designer?
TD: It's something I dreamt about as a kid, and I never let go of the dream.  After playing college golf at the University of Oklahoma I went back to school and got my Masters in Landscape Architecture.  From there I have simply worked hard and tried to learn something new every day.

AG: Why did you choose a career in golf course design?
TD: It sort of chose me.  I wake up every day excited to do what I do.

AG: In your opinion, have any design trends hurt the game?
TD: The extreme lengthening of golf courses.  Relative to the best players in the game, you don't challenge the longest players by making courses extremely long - that plays to their advantage.  Design should allow all players in a "field" of players the ability to compete on scoring ability and good design and setup should test the longest players ability to show other skills at times.  Devaluing the length of the longest players in balance with letting length be a big advantage through design is okay and we need to do more of it.  We have great examples - Pine Valley, Harbor Town, Oak Tree and really a lot of courses inherently are better at shorter length than stretched out.

This has pulled the length of the other tees back and it has pulled golfers back as well.  The male ego sometimes has a hard time passing by too many tee markers.  The Ladies course has always been designed too long and I would like to see multiple tee markers or options for Ladies.  Men have as many as four tees to choose from, why should Ladies play one tee most of the time?

AG: How can we grow the game of golf?
TD: It varies from market to market and by type of venue (public or private), but overall it's a tough task.  There are a variety of things that can help, such as speeding up play, which is a very complex subject on its own that goes to course difficulty, flow of the course, the way in which slow play is "tolerated" or not (if it is tolerated at all it will persist), among other things.  I think we need to design so players can play fewer holes so as to reduce time - routing to get players back near the clubhouse after 4-6 holes, and I think we should look for opportunities to do unique courses that are fun to play 6 - 12 hole courses, maybe even 3-4 hole short courses on a few acres to encourage younger players.  To grow the game to new segments we need to find points of entry that are less expensive - less expensive courses to play being the primary concern, which is where courses that are just a few holes could come in.

AG: Do you have a specific design philosophy?
TD: I constantly look to create strategic interest over making a course simply tough.  I like to work with the land as closely as possible - it more easily provides unique features than trying to create unique features.  When doing restoration or renovation of a great course, I give in to those things that make a course special and I try to enhance that - I don't need to leave "my mark".

AG: Of all the holes you’ve designed, do you have a favorite (why)?
TD: No. A lot stick out in my mind, but that would be somewhat like having a favorite child.

AG: What’s your “dream foursome” (living or dead, golfer or non-golfer)?
TD: I recently said Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer and Ben Crenshaw at Augusta.  Still sounds good to me.  I would like my Mom and Dad to walk with us.

AG: Is there a “bucket list” location in/on which to design?
TD: I would love to work on sand right on the sea on a site with good character with little to no time constraints.  Sand on land with good character is great even if not on the sea.

AG: What is the future of golf course design?
TD: It's going to be a smaller profession, and we are going to be doing far more work on existing courses than building new courses, but I think we more than ever as golf course architects have a chance to impact the game and how it's played.  We have an ability through good design to make courses more fun/more strategically interesting to play.  We can make courses better deterrents to longer balls and clubs (without making courses longer).  The play of the game will be a bigger part of design in subtle and more complex ways.  We will also have a greater obligation through design to make courses more sustainable - primarily using less water.  That does not necessarily mean thick native grass everywhere and brown fairways, but there will be a new normal.

Learn more about Tripp Davis HERE.

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