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Golf course design and onomatopoeia

        Too many rules and red pens lead to the suppression or erasure of the individual, passionate and observing voice.  We have been hard-wired, indeed short-circuited to only like things we have seen before by a golf police state which created and enforce a free-thinking-free zone.  Elitist golf Nazis and uptight tradition nerds cluck away like broody old hens about “garble garble, blark blark, “integrity of the game,” bark bark, meow meow, gobble gobble, “tradition,” yikkety yakkety, Donald Ross Robert Trent Jones, drivel dribble drool drone, “classic parkland test,” gibber jabber, fumble shamble, “every amenity, no expense spared,” blither blather, choke chuck, “maybe the best course I have ever seen.”  Translation:  We’re preconditioned, lazy and afraid of change.                     

Great architects want to experiment.  Like Mike Strantz, Brian Silva is intrepid and gleefully rips the rug out from under player’s expectations.  Like Dye he is fearless.  And like Raynor he is true to the game’s roots and employs a broad and deep bag of design features.  He is neo-classic, taking the old for a canvas and boldly brushing it with new strokes.  As such, he is both reflective upon the old and spontaneous, challenging us in two ways.  First, we grow to accept novel or revived design features.  Second, by learning about golf design we play better.   

Silva has a unique, highly personal voice; an important and well respected one.  But most importantly and interestingly, he has a world class sense of Architectural Echo.  His designs resonate from the time they are built with little diminishment in respect or popularity.  Further, the echo continues by carrying a wide variety of design elements from the past into great courses of the present.  Then he gives the elements a twist and a spit-shine for the 21st century.

A truly great travel destination either changes the traveler forever or validates one of the traveler’s long-held beliefs.  A great round of golf does the same.  Silva validates two critical concepts for golf and golfers.  First, we are living in the golden age of architecture, building the best courses now and only getting better, more imaginative, and more intrepid.  Second, we should not be afraid of changing what the mainstream accepts as “a golf course.” 

Golf is not a game of perfect, but golf is also not a game of easy.  From punchbowls to pancake stack bunkers, from a Biarritz to a Redan, with designers like Silva at the vanguard grateful golfers will get so much more than just another vanilla flavored tree-lined target course.  After all, there may be countless beautiful golf courses in the world, but the strategic subtleties that often go unnoticed are the real test of the enduring greatness of a golf course.

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