• Cameron MacKellar

Do you need a SIGNATURE designer?

It’s often the first thing a golfer asks, who designed this course?

Yet it’s also something that many golf course developers spend only a few hours deciding – in their minds, for whatever reason, they want a Nicklaus course or a Norman course and that’s precisely what they are going to get.

The reality, of course, is that a Nicklaus course is not designed by Jack Nicklaus, and often not designed by a particularly senior or talented architect.

While large signature companies occasionally build good courses, developers should be aware of the pitfalls of signature design and ask themselves the question - do I want a Nicklaus or a Norman or a Palmer or a Player - Or do I want a Great One?

In my experience, the passionate golf developer will spend time to research his options properly while the business-focused developer often just wants a name course and doesn’t care about quality. Whether you want to sell houses, hotel rooms or green fees, however, the undeniable truth in golf is that a great product will always help your bottom line.

MacKellar Golf's aim is to improve golf course design standards by educating key decision makers and returning the balance of power back to genuine golf design. As much as they will protest, the work done by large signature firms such as Nicklaus Design, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Robert Trent Jones II is not genuine design at all. These firms are rarely creating or ‘designing’ anything new but rather sticking with an established formula and building holes to a prescribed standard across all projects.

We want to start a revolution and every revolution starts with a small step in the right direction, in this case it means returning to the greatest ‘celebrity’ designer of them all. Born out of frustration with the concept of signature design, Dr Alister MacKenzie penned a chapter in his famed bible ‘Spirit of St Andrews’ on the qualities that make a good golf course designer and the problems of high-profile golfers creating courses for unwary clients. Much of what he wrote rings true today, particularly the point that for any developer the most important thing to achieve with a new design is finality. With a sound routing and sensible, strategic design your golf course will have the structure required to ensure it’s a high-quality product and also prevent the subsequent need for expensive overhauls and redesigns. Having a hot-shot professional officially open your course is great for publicity, but no good if the course has to be ripped up and redone a few years later. This is where an expertise in design and routing is so crucial.

Consider this fact; between them the five largest signature design firms in the world have built more than 1,100 courses – YET ONLY 2 SIGNATURE STANDALONE DESIGNS (Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol by Jack Nicklaus and Chambers Bay by RTJ II) ARE RANKED BY GOLF MAGAZINE AMONG THE WORLD’S TOP 100 GOLF COURSES.

What many developers don’t realize is that in each instance it was the designer that routed the golf course, the celebrity adding his input to the design of the holes. The routing of your course is crucial and if you want it done right then you simply can’t afford to leave it to junior designers employed by large signature firms. A better option is to employ a genuine golf course architect and then, if required, employ a celebrity golfer as ‘co-designer’ to help with your marketing and profile.

MacKellar Golf offers a unique co-design facility, where we pair our talents with celebrity professionals who will endorse your project, submit some design ideas to the concept and allow you to market to both golf connoisseurs as well as the general golfing public. Co-design is not new, it really started with the building of Augusta National by Dr. MacKenzie and Bobby Jones. That was true collaboration, and combined two of the game’s greatest minds on a beautiful property with the explicit aim of creating a masterpiece.

So before simply selecting a celebrity signature designer for your golf course, ask the question – do I need a Nicklaus / Player / Palmer course? O

If you want a great golf course contact MacKellar Golf today at info@mackellargolf.com

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