Proper Golf

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Mantra of Modernism

"Decoration is a Sin"
The Mantra of Modernism

The decorative flowers, hedges and sculpture at Florida's Isleworth,
do not belong on a golf course.

"Decoration is a sin," claims Frank Gehry, the most famous active living architect, in his Mantra of Modernism. Gehry, architect of The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and Disney Concert Hall in California, is very expressive with his highly sculptural materials. Gehry uses what is already there and existing on site as the driving force behind his work. The Canadian-American architect may be one of the best at all time in terms of how he uses his building materials to influence form and function; he is able to find a higher power, almost emotional states through the simple beauty in his use of materials that relate back to the site. Gehry's theories about decoration and material sound very much like minimalist golf in its purest form; let the land define the design.

At Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, the sculpted metal material needs no
additional decoration. The metal works both for form and function,
but it is the relationship the building has had on the overall landscape
of the city that makes it a modern masterpiece.

There are many golf courses and greens committees that have taken it upon themselves to plant flower beds, hedges, trees and other ornamental species to "make their course more beautiful," whatever that means. Normally these kinds of decorative plantings may introduce some wild colors and species that one wouldn't normally see during a round of golf, but that is precisely why they don't work. Not only are these supplementary landscaping plans difficult to sustain, as hugely expensive draws on maintenance budgets, but introducing non-native species also distracts from the natural beauty a site may already possess.

Ballyneal Golf and Hunt Club, in Colorado, uses naturally existing sand on property and nearly all the bunkers are touched by naturally tall grasses and Yucca plants, creating a naturally beautiful landscape that looks like its existed for years.

As The Masters is just over a week away, don't get sucked into the look at Augusta National. While I still dream about making a trip to Magnolia Lane myself one day to one of the most important golf courses of all time, it must be pointed out that they do not subscribe to any normal sustainability formula in their design or maintenance practice. That is their choice and it should be respected, but seldom repeated.


  1. seeing that augusta national was originally a flower nursery, they shall be excused from such harsh criticism. is the over course arguably overly green and inconceivably impossible to maintain based off of standard country club conditions? of course. but as you said, that is their choice, and the fact that it was originally a flower bed helps to rationalize the vast amounts of gorgeous shrubery found on those sacred grounds.

  2. There is no doubt it works at Augusta, at least from where I sit, on my couch watching on TV! There is certainly much more to it than just the blooming flowers and chemically treated grass. I cant imagine the amount of thought and calculation they put into their landscaping plan, it could be among the best in the world from certain perspectives. Its hard to knock ANGC for doing things they way they like, especially when they are so good at it. The relationship to the flower nursery is certainly a great point.