Thursday, November 24, 2011

The clubhouse, and other details.

The clubhouse at Chechessee Creek Club, from the home green.
I love building architecture nearly as much as golf architecture. On my bookshelf, right next to all of the golf classics, are On Architecture, a wonderful collection of Ada Louise Huxtable's essays on building architecture; Preserving the World's Great Cities by Anthony M. Tung; and, of course, a number of books on the life and works of Frank Lloyd Wright.

As I mentioned more than a month ago now, in the first post at this blog, the overall brilliance of The Toronto Golf Club stems from more than its revolutionary Harry Colt-designed course. There's also the entrance drive, which elegantly winds through the course, providing golfers with a glimpse of what they've come to enjoy; and the wonderful clubhouse architecture, which adds tremendously to what would be one of Canada's great courses anyway.

Great golf course archtiecture is most important, of course. But it's many of the other important details, including the overall land plan of a golf development, the clubhouse architecture and course accessories that create truly distinct, unforgettable golfing experiences. Take those classic clubhouse designs at places like Toronto, Winged Foot, and Shinnecock Hills for example. Incredible. There's also stuff like those green pails filled with water on the tees at Roaring Gap, in lieu of the modern ball washer. Tee markers made from indigenous materials, like the drift wood markers at Victoria Golf Club, too. And, of course, Merion's famous wicker baskets atop traditional flagsticks. 

Which reminds me of the locker room showers at Merion. Fantastic. Those showers have been maintained but, presumably, not replaced since the famous East course there was opened for play in 1912. At Merion, you still pull a chain hanging from the shower stall ceiling then watch it rise until the water stops falling. Unforgettable.

Many of the great golf clubs throughout the world simply don't fix what ain't broke. They leave well enough alone. At Pine Valley, which perenially ranks as the world's #1 course, members' lockers haven't changed since the early days of the club, established during the pre-World War I era. Lockers there, at Pine Valley, still feature doors made of simple wood frames covered with chicken wire. At the world's #1 course? Yep. If interested, you can see the contents of every one of those lockers, including the Pine Valley member listed as "007" on the club's roster - Sean Connery.

Only a handful of golf clubs developed in the modern era exude comparable charm, and present similarly unforgettable golfing experiences (unfortunately). Chechessee Creek Club, with its wonderfully understated course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, is one. If you didn't know better, you'd think this South Carolina low country golf institution was vintage. As a result, Chechessse Creek Club is an incredibly unforgettable place. 

More golf clubs - old and new - should strive to make golfing experiences more different, more distinct, more unique, and less the same as so many others. Otherwise, what's the attraction? Golfers will play anywhere if it's all the same.

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