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PRO LANDSCAPER INTERVIEWS JEFF LAWRENCE – SENIOR DESIGNER AND VP OF GARY PLAYER DESIGN

Who has been your biggest Role Model / Mentor and why?

I have been very fortunate to have worked with three amazing golf course architects; Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio during my design career. They all have been very instrumental in helping me grow as an architect over the last 30 years. I began my design career with Jack Nicklaus where I learned the fundamentals of building and designing quality golf courses. Working with the Nicklaus team and other industry professionals allowed me to fully understand the requirements and details to design and build quality golf courses. It’s these fundamentals that set the standards for furthering my design career.

Being a Design Associate for Tom Fazio was a learning experience. This opportunity allowed me to be more involved in providing design input on several dynamic projects. Working with Tom and other team members challenged me to expand my design vision and creativity, allowing me to fully understand how all the elements of design, construction, strategy and visual aesthetics creatively interact to produce world-class golf courses.

My longest and current tenure is with Gary Player Design, 14 years. What an amazing experience. Traveling the world designing golf courses with Mr. Player has truly been special. As a Senior Designer for Gary Player Design, working with Mr. Player has allowed me to really expand my design knowledge. Marc Player, our CEO has given me the latitude and trusted me to take the lead on projects that have produced several award-winning designs throughout the world. Mr. Player and I have a great working relationship that allows us to respectfully interact to each other’s opinions and collectively formulate the best way forward for each project. He has taught me many valuable lessons, both from a golf perspective as well as life in general.

Without the vested interest of those who have helped me along the way, I would not be where I am today, so let’s start by saying, I am very grateful.

This is a loaded question, but, what do you think makes a “Great” golf course?006_Thracian_Cliffs_Jacob_Sjoman_16BITS_v2 copy 2

This can be an incredibly simple answer or one that is vastly complex. We first must define what “great” means in this sense. Do great courses only pertain to those who have hosted Major Championships like Pebble Beach? Or those who have continue to stand the test of time like St. Andrews? Many consider great courses are the ones that are highly ranked by the golf media, fans or professional golfers.

The answer can be a combination of the above factors, or none at all.

Golf is a game meant to bring joy to its players. As golf course architects, we must focus on this first and foremost. The average golfer could not break 100 at Bethpage Black under tournament conditions. Does this make it a great course?

The Lay of the Land and the Design?

The natural typography of the land dictates the routing plan with determining factors like elevation changes, soil type, natural vegetation and habitats of indigenous species all playing a part in the look and feel of the design.

You also must consider things such as the primary water source, seasonal changes in the weather and the overall creativity of the architect. It is a collective interaction of many variables and this is why the golf course architect plays such an important role in the success or failure of the project.

Being that we are featuring Leopard Creek in this June edition, How does this course address the “key ingredients” that go into a successful course?

Set on the banks of Kruger National Park, Leopard Creek is a testament of having a golf course seamlessly meld into the natural environment. Utilizing the natural features of the site and experiencing the view of the national park and Crocodile River… this was all part of experiencing nature while playing golf in a secure environment. We integrated fun and playable features into the golf course to ensure everyone would enjoy the experience. We also creatively introduced nature into the strategy of the golf course through water features, indigenous vegetation and natural elevation changes, always keeping in mind the playability of the golf course. The flow, variety, conditioning, visual aesthetics, strategy and fun factor all play a role in delivering a golf experience that will be remembered and respected by all who play this course.

The Putting Green.

Putting greens are likely the most important part of the golf course. The design and conditioning are often at times the focal point of the golf course. Quality putting surfaces begin with quality construction practices and materials. Without this fundamental basis, no design feature will overshadow poor turf conditions._MG_2505-109

Each putting green should be unique, but consistent with the overall design concept of the golf course. Regardless if greens are large, small, highly contoured or flat, each putting green should keep the players interest by being strategically meaningful and visually appealing. Once again, variety is key when designing 18 unique putting surfaces with varying slopes, orientation, location and memorability being all ingredients for quality putting greens.

Which is the most intricate hole you have ever designed and why?

We believe intricate is directly related to strategy. Every contour, hazard, natural feature, mowing pattern, and many more factors all play a role in the strategy of every golf hole. Shot value, variety, visual awareness and maintainability are also part of a successful golf product.

The most dynamic and intricate holes we have designed are likely quarry holes (#16/#17) at DLF Golf & Country Club in Delhi, India. Ona totally flat site, we created a rock quarry that thoughtfully and dramatically captures the imagination and amazement of everyone who plays it.

Visually stunning, strategically challenging and mentally draining, these two holes are truly the most intricate and technically challenging golf holes we have designed. More importantly, this man-made rock quarry provides a great habitat for the natural wildlife, allowing for both flora and fauna to flourish in this eco-friendly setting.

dlf_tristian_jonesHazards. What are they and where to place them?

Bunkers, water features, naturalized areas, strong contouring and dams are all considered hazards. These types of design features are used by the architect to create visual awareness,

strategy, contrast and texture throughout the golf experience. Golf is a visual game and to captivate players visually while also providing strategy will certainly capture the interest of the golfer and hopefully have them enjoy it so much that they return again and again.

Remember, although golf is a visual game, it is also subjective. Every person has different opinions on what makes a good golf course, so keeping variety in every design allows us to appeal to a variety of golfers.

We have designed numerous courses around the world that have hosted professional, amateur and charity Pro-Am events. Many of the best players in the world, current and past, have played our courses as have government dignitaries, celebrities and royalty. We are honored to have such a diverse portfolio of work that allows us to reach so many people to help grow the great game of golf.

What does it mean for you to be a member of and sit on the board of Governers of the ASGCA?

Being a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) and being selected to the Board of Governors is an honour. We collectively work to promote our profession and to support the overall golf industry for the betterment of the game. It’s an exciting time to be a member of the ASGCA and being a part of this organization has allowed me to cultivate many professional relationships that will last for many years. I continue to learn more about our profession through many of the ASGCA members as well as helping mentor some of the younger members.

What is a course you are currently working on that we can look forward to seeing in the near future?

Gary Player Design was selected to renovate the prestigious Delhi Golf Club in India which should be completed in early July and reopen later this year. We are totally redesigning green complexes, fairway bunkers and installing a new irrigation system. It is an exciting project knowing the steep history of the club and the opportunity it presents to make meaningful improvements to this iconic golf venue. We are also active in the Vietnam market as well as exploring new opportunities in Morocco, Africa, Europe and Asia.

 

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