Projects of passion: An exploration of golf course architecture


Few sports combine the intersection of athletic movement and nature as much as golf. Golf is a sport that is played entirely outside, and unlike many other sports that are always performed on the same playing field, no two golf courses on which a player competes are ever the same.

For over a century, golf architects have moved earth and sculpted land to create beautiful works of art. Sites for these intersections between man’s work and nature’s canvas range from bluffs high atop the Pacific Ocean, to massive sand dunes sprawling across the Midwest, to dense forests in the mountains of North Carolina.

While the San Francisco Bay Area is home to a large golf population and a handful of some of the country’s best golf courses, it is a little-known secret that among the hundreds of technology startups and tech giants sits a six-person company in downtown Palo Alto that has anything but small stature in the world of golf course design. Indeed, for over four decades, Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course Architects (RTJ II) has designed and built over 270 golf courses in 40 different countries.

RTJ II’s president and chief design officer, Bruce Charlton, and lead project architect, Mike Gorman, talk about their design philosophies as well as the challenges golf architecture faces in the 21st century. The focal points of the video above are the recent redesign of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Monterey, Calif., and the 2015 US Open to be held at Chambers Bay in Tacoma, Wash. Both are public golf courses designed by RTJ II. They serve as excellent examples of golf courses which have been built with water conservation and sustainable design at the forefront of the architect’s mind. These are two issues that are of paramount importance for today’s golf courses, particularly those on the West Coast.

Homepage image courtesy of Robert Trent Jones II, LLC.

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