Conservative Fairways on Faldo's Laguna Lang Co

Today's golf course developments are designed to be less dependent upon non-renewable resources - no matter where they are located. One such way is to reduce the amount of turf to be managed - simple enough right? Counter to the popular saying of "more is less", using less requires a lot more thought and effort. So how are today's architects meeting the needs of the environment while still providing a course that is player friendly?

For that we go to the Laguna Lang Co resort development in Vietnam. Paul Jansen, lead architect for Faldo Design, helps us understand how a reduction in playable turfgrass surfaces can lead to the sustainable use of resources while still providing a superior product that is appealing to a resort community.

Turfhugger: So tell me how you've been able to cut down the amount of turf being used right off the bat at Laguna Lang Co?

Paul Jansen: The key is making the golf course as identifiable with the land as possible. We have incorporated as much as possible the abundant natural features (be it rock, trees, sand, beach, water) which ultimately will give the golf course its character and charm. When you look to ‘blend in’ and use the natural features everything else becomes secondary and less important. We wanted the golf course to be as natural, wild and rugged as can be because this is how we found the land to begin with. Having less turf and more ‘the existing’ has given us an opportunity to create a very memorable golf experience that is much more environmentally responsible.

Added to this, we have taken a very hands on and proactive approach during every stage of construction and this includes the clearing stage. This has enabled us to be very selective with areas we have cleared and how much we have cleared ultimately. I highly recommend this on-site approach (versus sending a plan that identifies all the areas to clear and then leave it to chance and hope that certain species are retained). I have seen too many golf courses that are over cleared and the obvious response would be just to plant more grass. In our case we have been responsible in managing the clearance which has given us a better opportunity to incorporate the natural features within the golf course boundaries (as rough areas) and reduce areas that need grass and water.

Lastly, from the start we have been acutely aware of the need to make the golf course as sustainable as possible moving forward. By reducing the amount of watered areas (turfgrass) we ultimately reduce the costs of construction and maintenance which is a positive thing and something we wish more existing and planned golf courses would do.

Turfhugger: Todays golfer has in their equipment arsenal clubs and balls to help them get further to the pin with each stroke, sometimes at a sacrifice to accuracy. How can an architect be expected to incorporate both - the minimization of maintained areas and the user friendliness to accommodate various player technologies and capabilities?

Paul Jansen: Making a golf course playable and fair is important although I think there is perhaps too much focus on this today. Often this drive for fairness leads to very wide maintainable play corridors. In many cases character, interest and enjoyment is lost to compensate for this. It is about striking a happy medium but not losing sight of keeping the game fun and challenging as well. One of my favourite quotes, that I adhere to, is one written by John Laing Low ‘Thinking golf is what the true golfer wants, the fairness of the plane field is hardly attractive’.

With this quote in mind, and with reference to Laguna Lang Co, we have larger maintainable areas where we feel most golfers will find themselves (in most cases this is the safe conservative option) so you could say this is fair. However on most holes we have a strategic and more demanding route to the hole – in this case we have often tightened the fairway widths / maintainable areas and incorporated more of the natural surround. If the golfer wishes to take on the more demanding and risk fraught option then they need to understand the repercussions good or bad.

Don’t get me wrong I think wide fairways can offer very strategic shot opportunities but that there should be variety in the design and hence some holes can be wide and maintainable and others tight. This variety will give the greatest opportunity at fairness and playability as well.

I see many golf course today where I think they could greatly reduce the maintainable areas where golfers just simply would not go. I remember seeing a golf course in the middle east that had maintained grass some 100 meters behind the green… I bet if you asked the superintendent how many ball divots he sees from these areas he would say very few.

(A big thank you to Paul Jansen and Faldo Design, and a special shout out to Laguna Project Manager David Mathews for assisting in making this interview happen)

1 comment:

  1. Choose your beautiful garden turf with Perfect Turf