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UNIVERSITY LECTURER TAKES OLD COURSE APART

 

For Mike Wood, the newly appointed Director for the world’s first masters degree in Golf Course Architecture, trying to play the Old Course for the first time without a caddie would be like trying to cross the Cairngorms in a white-out without a compass. To the uninitiated on a grey, misty day, this golfing Mecca can appear bland and non-descript – but that’s all part of its enduring mystique.

Of all the classic courses, Wood maintains the Old Course least bears the stamp of being “designed” in the usual sense. At St Andrews nature was the real architect – the inherent qualities of the site took precedence in shaping the evaluation of the course. The early players simply chose the best sites for tees and greens and navigated their way between them, avoiding the natural hazards of gorse and bare sand on the way. Since then on one has dared mess about with the basic layout and, apart from occasionally adding new tees, it’s essentially the same as it’s always been.

For Wood, The Old course exemplifies sound ecological principles which, although long recognised, have been overlooked in the more recent past by designers eager to create “signature” holes and “trademark” bunkers. By contract, Wood argues, the Old Course had very few gold features – no dramatic contours, flashy water features or multi-coloured flowerbeds here. Everything appears understated, subtle and restrained. Indeed, many of the bunkers, and even some fairways, are invisible from the tee.

A member of The Landscape Institute as well as The European Institute of Golf Course Architects, Wood is delighted to become involved in the education of a new generation of golf course architects. The new masters degree – the first of its kind – will promote a return of the classic gold design principles exemplifying first and best in Scotland. The aim, in short, is to lay the foundation for best practice in golf course architecture by focussing on teachings students how to create golf developments which are in harmony with the environment.

The new MSc in Golf Course Architecture, which has been developed by Edinburgh College of Art, an associated college of Heriot Watt University, commences in October and has already attracted considerable interest from overseas candidates as well as from closer to home.