Gil Hanse, one of the world’s most sought-after golf architects, will present a discussion on ‘Where’s Golf Going?’ for the Given Tufts Spring Colloquium on Wednesday, March 21.
The evening begins with cocktails at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the program at 6:30 p.m., in the Cardinal Ballroom of the Carolina Hotel.
From his front row seat as a designer and expert in course restoration and renovation, Hanse has observed the trends impacting golf for more than 20 years. Here locally, he recently completed The Cradle, Pinehurst Resort’s new nine-hole short course. Additionally, Hanse is engaged in the major renovation underway at Pinehurst No. 4. Plans call for returning the grounds to a-turn-of-the-20th-century appearance by shaping and styling the course in similar fashion to the restored masterpiece, Pinehurst No. 2.
“There is now a much greater appreciation for the genius of the Golden Age of golf,” Hanse said. “There was a shift that began around the 1980s where golf course architecture became highly regarded, and with appreciation for this work, that has translated into where we are now.”
In particular, he noted that renovation and restoration projects — as well as popular new coursework — is nearly all in the vein of creating a more natural feeling golf course.
“We’ve come to this point in time where there is a heavy influence from the past that I think will continue to drive golf course architecture into the foreseeable future,” he added. “That is why I think there is more interest in older courses. They are playable, fun, rooted in the landscape and have a sense of place.”
However, Hanse sees that change is necessary for the future of golf. Over the same 20-year span, he has seen interest in club membership wane, and personal priorities of players have also shifted.
“Going forward with the time constraints we all have in our lives, in that the pace of society is ever increasing, golf will have to come to the realization that to continue to attract younger people to the game, we may have to look at alternative ways of introducing people to the game,” Hanse said. “For example at Thistle Dhu and The Cradle, these are not regulation courses, but the idea is to get a club in someone’s hands. The emphasis is on fun instead of the pressures usually associated with golf.”
He also believes the focus should not be limited to growing the game, but also on the retention of existing players.
“I think clubs will have to become more innovative in how they pursue members and what their membership model looks like,” he added.
As part of his presentation titled ‘From Rio to Pinehurst’ for the Given Tufts Spring Colloquium, Hanse will present a list of courses — both modern and classics — that he sees as leading the charge.
“These are the courses that I believe are the ones to be emulated as we try to promote the game of golf,” he said.
Hanse himself was first introduced to the game by his grandfather. Later in college as an undergraduate, he studied political science and history, then earned a graduate degree in landscape architecture from Cornell University. He was the recipient of the William Frederick Dreer Award, which allowed him to spend a year in Great Britain studying early golf architecture, and also interned with Hawtree and Son, the oldest continuously practicing golf architecture firm in the world.
On his return to the U.S.. Hanse went to work with noted golf architect Tom Doak before founding his own company in 1993. Together with Jim Wagner, his close collaborator for more than 23 years, Hanse Golf Course Design has become one of the most accomplished firms in the industry. Their philosophy is to create courses that reflect individuality, and are simple and elegant in appearance, yet sophisticated in strategy and design.
“I’ve always loved the golf landscape, doodling golf holes, and I’ve always loved playing in the dirt. That is the part of the job that I truly love,” Hanse said.
Hanse’s other work includes the South Course at the Los Angeles Country Club, The Vineyard Club at Martha’s Vineyard, and the Streamsong Resort Black course in Bowling Green, Florida. He has also worked on course restoration at several upcoming U.S. Open venues including Winged Foot Golf Club West Course, in New York, The Country Club of Brookline, Massachusetts, and The Los Angeles Country Club North Course. On the international golf scene, Hanse was the original designer of the Castle Stuart Golf Links at Inverness, in Scotland, the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai, U.A.E., and the 2016 Summer Olympics course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In addition to his work with Pinehurst Resort, he is also completing a major project at Tokyo Golf Club, one of the oldest club’s in Japan. To make his commute a tad more convenient, Hanse and his wife, Tracey, recently settled into the Donald Ross cottage. The couple plan to stay for five months while work on No. 4 is underway.
“This is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had,” Hanse said. “Truly it is one of the nicest pieces of good fortune.”
Tickets to attend the Given Tufts Spring Colloquium are $100 per person, including dinner at the Cardinal Ballroom at the Carolina Hotel. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Tufts Archives in historic Pinehurst, call (910) 295-3642, or go online to www.giventufts.com