It’s been uttered by many a great fictional course creator in The Golf Club, “I’d love to do a real course, but I just don’t have the patience or dedication”. It’s certainly true that a real course creation (RCR) requires a great amount of patience and dedication, as any effort to make an RCR should be approached with attention to every single detail.
The experience does not have to be a great, daunting task, though, or a massive hurdle that needs to be scaled. A simple shift in perspective can make a huge difference in the RCR experience, and might even help make your fictional course designs even better.
While it feels great to present a real course to the community to play (and the ProTee crowd in particular), the end goal of publishing the course is not the highlight of a RCR. The process and the experience, or “the journey”, if you will, is what will provide you with the greatest joy and the most to take away from the experience. Why? Because you will be spending several weeks or months (if undertaken with the proper goal and mindset) immersed in the environment, history, and culture of what is presumably one of the great golf courses in the world. Or even if you are producing a local course, you are immersed in a course that means something to you personally.
An RCR is and should be more of an experience than just tracing the outlines of holes using Google Earth or Blue Golf GPS. It should involve finding as many pictures as possible, finding green data, elevation data, learning the history of the course, and reviewing analysis from communities such as Golf Club Atlas, or TV personalities such as Geoff Shackleford or Matt Ginella about the strategies of the course. By the time you are done creating the course, you should be a borderline expert on the course and its history.
One of the best ways to illustrate my point is to relate my experience of building Chambers Bay leading up to the 2015 U.S. Open. This was a course that hadn’t been seen on Tour before, was a unique design, and was so flexible in its setup that nobody knew what to expect from the course or from the tournament.
This made finding data on the course a bit of a treasure hunt, and I was able to find valuable information from a number of golfers in the Pacific Northwest who touted the virtues of the course. One such contributor was a member of the Golf Club Atlas community who put together one of the most comprehensive course tours that I have ever seen. The information provided in this tour, along with the ensuing debates throughout the summer over the design virtues and drawbacks of the course was one of the best learning experiences in regards to course design that I could have ever asked for.
While creating an RCR, your fictional course designs do not have to be put on hold, nor should they be. Again, if you are undertaking an RCR with the correct mindset, you should be prepared to work on the course for many weeks and months, working on bits and pieces at a time. You can feel free to go back and forth between your different fictional designs when you need a break, or feel the need to see quicker progress in the GNCD.
It’s not a bad thing for an RCR to take a long time. If you are working on a course by one of the great designers, this means you are immersed in that designer’s “culture” for the duration of the design. Who wouldn’t benefit from studying Donald Ross or Dr. MacKenzie for two whole months? Even if subconsciously, the design tenants and ideas of these legends will seep into your fictional designs and produce a better product going forward.
Are you considering creating an RCR, but not sure if you feel like committing to the work? Start by giving yourself a realistic timeline. If you set a loose timeline for completion of Summer 2016, you will never feel pressure to complete the course, and you can work on the course in bits and pieces at your own pace. If it helps, refrain from creating a Work In Progress thread for the community too soon, as this can provide a source of pressure to rush the final product… people will be excited about your creation!
Next, start by simply researching the course. Make sure there is enough information to capture the breaks of the greens and the elevation of the course. If there is not enough information available, then it probably is not worth investing the time. If the information is available, take your time before getting started. Read about the strategic elements of the course, learn more about the architect, or study the history of the course. Before you know it, you will be fully immersed and ready to begin the journey!