Christoph Staedler

Date: Tue 14 Aug 2018

10 Questions for ... Christoph Staedler MEIGCA

1. Why did you want to be a golf course architect?

In the 1970s and 80s I played in a lot of international golf tournaments. Most of the venues were the top courses of the respective countries and bit by bit I realized how much more creative they were in comparison to the golf courses in Germany. So I started to dream of invigorating my home country's golf scene someday. This opportunity unfolded after Bernhard Langer's Masters victory in 1985 and I took advantage of the golf boom it induced by founding my golf design firm soon after.

2. Which golf course architects do you admire and why?

Dozens of excellent architects spring to my mind. If I have to make a pick, I'd select Pete Dye for his creativity and boldness. Playing on his "Teeth of the Dog"-Course in the Dominican Republic on the occasion of the World Team Championship 1974 was a key moment in my life - a real eye opener. Later on, I started to admire the pioneers, most notably Harry Colt and Donald Ross, for their fantastic layouts considering the modest amount of earthworks being possible in their eras.

3. What is your proudest design achievement?

I'm particularly proud of the many projects where we achieved an excellent course with an extremely low budget. GC Semlin (near Berlin) as a new-build and the complete renovation of the former German Open Course "Garlstedter Heide" of Club zur Vahr/Bremen are good examples of many dozens of similar projects.

4. What are your favourite three golf courses in the World from a design perspective, and why?

  1. "Teeth of the Dog" at Casa de Campo / Dom.Rep., see above. Extremely creative features.
  2. Kingsbarns in Scotland, a modern links, designed by Kyle Philipps, containing a superb variety of strategies and playing options.
  3. Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, a Tom Doak design which benefits primarily from its unbelievably spectacular cliff-top setting but offers also many excellent strategic holes.

5. What are the greatest challenges you face as a golf course architect?

Quite honestly: to overcome the hurdles of the various permission procedures is sometimes nerve-wrecking, and the spare time for family, friends, and occasional golf rounds that this busy professional life is leaving me.

6. What environmental or sustainable initiatives have you incorporated into your designs?

I'm a strong advocate of affordable golf and of sustainable golf courses. I have always implemented these principles into my designs. The sustainability goals perhaps unconsciously in my early career because the term was not common then. In recent years, when EIGCA established their excellent RSSGCD programme for the procurement of knowledge in all aspects of sustainable golf design, I was greatful to be provided with such an excellent education and eventually finished the course with the distinction "Sustainability Design Leader".

7. How do you see the golf course design industry changing in the next 20 years?

I believe that the golf industry as a whole will have to find solutions to the contemporary trend that young people spend so much time with social media that a time-consuming sport like golf is facing increasing problems to attract new blood. There have to be additional offers for shorter and funnier playing forms, e.g. loops of 3 or 6 holes, short courses, par-3 courses, pitch & putt-courses, "Himalaya" putting greens etc. However, we architects can't be proactive, we have to react to the market demands and to our clients' commissions but then we shall deliver role model design solutions which ignite new demands and revitalise the golf market.

8. What makes a golf course great rather than just good?

A stunning location and scenery provides an ideal basis. In the abscence of natural features, these can be man-made with modern heavy machinery, Kingsbarnes being a perfect example. Then: a sound course routing, a well-balanced rhythm of holes, a variety of strategic and heroic holes under best avoidance of penal design, surprising design features which provide individual hole characteristics and remain in the memory of the players, and, last not least, a sane balance between the challenges for good players and the playability and fun for the majority of the weaker ones.

9. What advice would you give to an aspiring golf course architect?

Live your dream and show your burning desire. Provided that you have excellent, widespread skills and you can convince your clients about them, you'll have a good chance to establish yourself. However be aware that leading a normal family life will be difficult.

10. What do you enjoy about being a golf course architect?

I enjoy the independent life of a freelancer, the hours and days I spend in the most beautiful natural landscapes, the multitude of positive, often enthusiastic feedbacks to our creations and the joy which I feel when I play myself on one of my courses, especially in national championships.

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