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Jay Flemma interview snippets with Brian Silva – in his own words

JF: Tiger, Phil, Ernie and Vijay all challenge each other to a one hole, winner take all televised $1 Million Shootout. What public hole of yours will you take them to play?

Silva: #17 at Red Tail. It’s tough to pick your line and it would tempt those long hitters to try to drive the green. Eagle might win!

JF: It’s even a challenge for the amateur to pick the right line.

Silva: Exactly. Sometimes I’ll give the player something in the background as a target, but this time I deliberately wanted to test that skill…picking the right line. Sometimes you have to play my courses more than once to correctly pick the right line for your ability.

JF: And amateurs sometimes make the mistake of being too greedy. Their eyes are bigger than their R7.

Silva: Yes! And they end up slicing it dead OB or in the waste bunker. Aim a little left and in the middle of the fairway and your golden

JF: How did people initially react to the green pitch on your redan at Black Rock

Silva: You should have heard the crying!

JF: I’m sure.

Silva: The green slopes away from the tee box!!!!” [he said in a shrill mocking voice.] Why does my lofted shot at the pin go over the green? I’ve never seen anything like this!

JF: Is that the craziest or zaniest moment you have had to deal with as an architect?

Silva:  Here is the dumbest "this can't be happening moment" ever.  I was working on a project with
two partners.   One was the money guy, the other the site guy. The money guy made his infrequent
visit to the site and seemed predisposed to make sure he put me thru my – or perhaps it was his
paces.  We came up to a hole that played over/around a wetland. I explained that the back tee
would play to about  200 yards, totally over the wetland. I next pointed out the little peninsula of
dry land – a natural formation – that jutted into the wetland about 150 yards from the green.
I mentioned that this would be the location of  the middle tee. It required less carry and also
approached the green at less than the perpendicular  afforded by the back tee.  I then pointed
out another small peninsula – a natural formation - that jutted into  the wetland. Here is where
the forward tee would be and would play to about 100 yards and featured a nice  angled approach
that required even less carry.  
When I paused, the money man said, "Why so many tees?"  I told him that it was a par-3 and
that par-3 tees varied both the distance and the angle of approach, playing shorter and with a
more favorable bite off angle as you  worked from back tee to front tee.
The money man repeated himself, "Why so many tees?"  I told him that it was a par-3 and that
you needed a  good amount of tee space so that divots could be repaired and given time to heal.
He then said, "Why don't you just use a rubber mat.”  Among other things, I thought, "This can't
be happening to me."
JF:  What else frustrates you as a designer?
Silva:  Of all the frustrating preconditions that plague golf design in America, the worst is the need
to “dumb down”  golf holes to their mind-numbing easiest.  That utterly obviates any chance of
strategy on a golf hole.   Sadly, that is how so many designs become so entirely milquetoast.
With the, what is it 18,000 courses in  America, I don't understand why every course has to look
like every other course and why can't some be unique.   For example, I really don't understand the
few negative things I hear about Tobacco Road. It is fun. It is different.   It is aesthetically
invigorating. What is wrong with that?  Plus it accomplishes all its magic without the benefit of a
seaside setting.  How amazing is that.  We are supposed to be in a somewhat free discipline.
I sure don't want my  courses to look like everyone else’s.
JF:  What are some of your favorite public courses?
Silva: There’s a great 9-holer called St. Marks in Southboro, Mass.  It has 6 or 7 great holes!
Lets see, I also like Talking Stick North in Arizona by Crenshaw and Desert Forest.

JF: What other interesting design features should we look for in your courses?

Silva: An essential golf hole for me is a par three that requires driver. It’s very old school. There is almost always one on each great course in Scotland and Ireland.

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