"Signature" Holes

Bart Bird

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Question for all course designers: when you are developing the course plan, do you give specific thought/emphasis to including a "signature" hole, like Blue Ribbon Pines #4?
 
Not really with a course my dad a friend and then My brother and I designed. this course: https://www.dgcoursereview.com/course.php?id=2444 We did on hole 17 kind of make that a signature hole as we did with 4 but then the trees died in a storm replanted different kind of trees though. Then we did with hole 7 going into the woods. Hole 8 can be tough if it is not designed right. Then with this course: https://www.dgcoursereview.com/course.php?id=1704&mode=ci we did not design the original 9 but did change a few of the original holes. I do think the sigature of the back 9 my dad a friend and then My brother and I designed, is one I insisted back in 2006 had the basket behind a dead branch on a tree that is still on the tree. The branch is in the way of putting if you land in behind the low hanging tree branch. I am happy with that hole as if the tree branch was not their, the hole would be either a just under 360 or a just over 300 depending on which tee you use.
 
Yes and no- mostly no in my case. (about 2 dozen courses worth) One of the biggest mistakes a designer can make is to wed themselves to a single exceptional hole at the expense of the course in general. The goal is to maximize the property and often that means that what may be the single best hole on the property has to fall to the wayside. Sometimes it does work out that there is a demonstrable "signature hole", sometimes there is one but it doesn't wind up being the hole you expect it to be. if this sounds deliberately vague it is because the course design process in itself differs greatly from one parcel of land to another.
 
Typically when you first visit the property, you see features you want to use well in your design. As the layout and hole designs emerge, you probably have a sense what hole(s) players will see as signature holes. But as Biscoe mentions, don't get trapped into saving a potential signature hole if it screws up the routing or quality of other holes. However, if the course owner or park department wants a particular hole, then you need to do your best to work around that one if it doesn't flow naturally.
 
What Chuck doesn't explicitly state is that the land available will dictate, in most respects, what the course is like, this is because almost all DG course designs are 'subtractive' at this point, in terms of what is done to the land. Just as important to the character of the course are the wishes of the property controller. It is then up to the designer to 'make things happen'.

Not all courses can have an actual 'signature' hole, other than in a marketing sense.
 
I am going to agree with everyone else's comments so far. I only got 3 courses under my belt but, I can say I would rather have a course with well designed holes over a course with a few signature holes that has all sorts of safety issues or long walks or filler holes or any combination of those things.
 
I'll chime in to agree with everyone else. You can try to plan for and design a "signature" hole, but if it doesn't fit, you have to be prepared to abandon it. IMO, as much as you can design something to be the signature hole, sometimes the true signature holes just happen by (happy) accident.

I'm on my first solo design after apprenticing (for lack of a better term) with another designer on about a dozen courses and maintaining/tweaking a few others, and the first rule I had to understand was to not be precious about my ideas, particularly at the expense of the rest of the course. Early on, I designed a couple holes I felt had potential to be signatures because they included a significant feature of the property. Those designs have since been tweaked and re-routed and ultimately abandoned because I couldn't find a good way to get to them or to get out of them. But sometimes you find a new way to include that feature anyway. Maybe not in a "signature" way, but in a way that better serves the course overall.
 
Some courses have built their signatures holes with man made structures or gimmicks or earth moving in what would otherwise be a very bland or forgettable hole.

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Only being responsible for one course, and half-responsible at that, I will confess that in the first few years we talked about building "18 signature holes". Despite the absurdity---if 18 are signatures, then none are signatures---that concept slowed the process considerably. Well, that, and the labor involved. But for holes that are scenic and emblematic of the course, we might have ended up with 3 or 4.

Several of which we did cement into the design at the beginning, and then work around. They may have been tweaked over time, but 3 are essentially the same as they were when we had just a 7-hole course.

Eventually, though, we hedged a bit. We built a second, overlapping layout, so that those "signature" holes didn't entirely stop us from building other holes in the same areas.
 
Not at the expense of the overall product. Unless the overall product is going to be awful regardless, then maybe.
 
Only being responsible for one course, and half-responsible at that, I will confess that in the first few years we talked about building "18 signature holes". Despite the absurdity---if 18 are signatures, then none are signatures---that concept slowed the process considerably. Well, that, and the labor involved. But for holes that are scenic and emblematic of the course, we might have ended up with 3 or 4.

Several of which we did cement into the design at the beginning, and then work around. They may have been tweaked over time, but 3 are essentially the same as they were when we had just a 7-hole course.

Eventually, though, we hedged a bit. We built a second, overlapping layout, so that those "signature" holes didn't entirely stop us from building other holes in the same areas.

Agree there, our belief from day one is NO FILLER HOLES. I hate holes that appear to be nothing but a link between 2 holes, and nothing more. I want 100 people to play here, and all 18 get a mention as a favourite.

As for true signature holes...11 here has to stand above all else, just as something unique and different, although the sunken basket on 8 is quirky too.

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Agree there, our belief from day one is NO FILLER HOLES. I hate holes that appear to be nothing but a link between 2 holes, and nothing more. I want 100 people to play here, and all 18 get a mention as a favourite.

Since only a few are destined to actually be signature holes---holes that, when someone thinks of the course, immediately come to mind---the rest of the holes will have to console themselves with the knowledge, that, if not for those top holes, they could have been the signature.

In other words....holes that, if they were on another course, might be signatures, but are overshadowed by even greater holes.

At Stoney Hill we have the same philosophy about filler holes. It makes it really tough to keep designing new holes, because they have to be up to a certain standard, and not repeat any previous ideas.
 
Signature Hole - the hole where chuckers put their name on the basket for finally getting a par.
 
I do not try to design a signature hole, I try to come up with the best overall 18 holes with good flow that the property will allow.

Sometimes that does take out the "best single hole" that I saw potential for, sometimes that has incorporated that hole. Its really what the land allows, and to quote a mentor "the land will tell you what it wants and where to put the course". What the means is use use the features, and find a balance of what is possible while maximizing the available land.

As some courses develop, players have told me they favor this hole or that hole, and on a course or two we have gone above and beyond after the fairways have been in and I got some feedback on what players think is the signature hole - with the build and added manmade features we can increase a certain hole(s) and improve a favorite hole to leave a favorable impression.

But I do not design around that, I wait to see how it plays out and often my favorite hole is not one of the "signature holes" in the general perception. I actually feel when I hit the nail on the head, I get feedback that many holes from many different people consider this or that hole the signature hole - that is when the tuning fork humms at the right pitch and the harmony of a really good course come out of the property IMO

Ex - I liked hole 4 on this course, and most players told me hole 6 or hole 7 or hole 15 or hole 16 was their favorite.
 
hole 4 is a nice slight up hill that drives out to a field, then 2nd full shot that returns into a 2nd tree line with a nice tall pine tree cover and fair lane to the green - thought I would be the favorite

Next picture is hole 7, and a lot of players loved the pond drive (only 260 ft to clear, and can be laid up, as well as go around the pond if you want to) - so we built up the retaining wall and added to the ascetics and decreased the "unlucky" roll aways into the pond. Statistical anaylsis showed the random rill aways into the pond decreased greatly, less bad double and triple bogeys...

last picture is a green structure we built as many players changed what I thought was the signature hole - lots and lots of players said they loved hole 15, so we built the green feature and stopped an future erosion problems at the same time....
 

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