After the Second World War the economic boom caused golf to grow again, this time not only in English-speaking countries, but all over the world.The two elements that have the greatest influence in this period are the popularity of professional golf on TV and the availability of new technologies that make it possible to move immense quantities of earth and to grow a turf in any climatic condition.
Robert Trent Jones Sr.
takes center stage on the golf course architecture scene with his redesign of Oakland Hills for the U.S. Open of 1951 and its subsequent extremely long and difficult course designs. The yardstick of a good golf course becomes its difficulty and its ability to test the best players in the world, losing sight of the needs of the average player and ignoring the achievements of the Golden Age.This period is characterized by the greater importance given to quantity rather than quality.
Hundreds of courses were inaugurated every year and the architects didn’t have the time to follow the work in person. The projects were developed almost exclusively on paper, and thanks to the use of bulldozers any idea of the architect could be transformed into reality, ignoring the natural context in which the path was inserted.The great exception of this period was Pete Dye.
While less prolific than his contemporaries, Dye was able to create challenging courses for players of all skill levels and place them in natural surroundings whether it was old marshes like at TPC Sawgrass, or very harsh terrain like Whistling Straits.In 1995, the Sand Hills Golf Club was inaugurated in the dunes of Nebrasca.
No other course after the Old Course of St. Andrews has had such a great impact on the history of golf course architecture. In the words used by architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw: “this field was not built, it was discovered”.Returning to Golden Age concepts of strategic architecture and natural land use such as the Links, Coore & Crenshaw and later Tom Doak revolutionized the world golf landscape simply by drawing inspiration from the past.Wide fairways, undulating greens, respect for the natural environment and great attention to detail during the construction phase are some of the elements that have allowed the creation of many of the best golf courses ever built.The main element, however, is the choice of the site.
The Sand Hills project proved that a golf course can be built anywhere, but a great golf course can only be built on great land.A consequence of this renaissance that took place at the beginning of the millennium is the advent of “restorations”.
Between the post-war period and the 1990s, many courses built during the Golden Age were distorted by interventions aimed at making the courses more difficult. The fairways have been narrowed and surrounded by trees, the bunkers moved and the greens flattened in order to get faster and faster.In the last twenty years, however, this trend has been reversed, and most of these courses have been restored to their original state thanks to the work of specialized architects and historians of golf course architecture.For us European golfers, the result of these works can be admired during the U.S.
open. This tournament is almost always played on historic courses, and in recent years it has been possible to see restored masterpieces on TV such as the Los Angeles CC, Winged Foot, Shinnecock Hills, Pinehurst #2 and many others.