Edwin Roald

Date: Thu 13 Jun 2019

10 Questions for ... Edwin Roald MEIGCA

The latest in the popular series of Member Profiles where you can get to know our members better.

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

At an early age, I developed an interest in architecture. Then, I remember seeing Seve playing golf on tv. I was drawn to his exciting play. This got me into golf. From then on, it was always clear to me that I should combine these two passions of mine.

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

MacKenzie, Colt, Simpson, Fowler and their approximate contemporaries are obvious choices, but this makes me think of influencers such as Paton & Low, Pete Dye and Coore & Crenshaw. They are among the game-changers in our field.

3. What is your proudest design achievement?

Nothing comes to mind, maybe because I always come away from a project in learning mode, thinking about how I can improve further. And, I don’t view the work as anything that has to do with me or my ego. I try to remove it. My aim is the client’s success.

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

In my mind, there are two that stand out but also serve as wonderful examples of the family of golf courses they represent.

  • I see Australia’s Royal Melbourne as a leader among equals in the Sand Belt and a symbol for the no-nonsense approach to golf that is exercised and expressed so well within that family of courses.
  • When I studied in Surrey, England, I was spoiled by the surrounding selection of astonishing heathland courses. This is where our trade evolved into a true craft through the likes of Fowler, Simpson and Colt. Swinley Forest was obviously Colt’s “least bad course,” using his own words, and it is a healthy reminder that par and yardage has little bearing on one’s enjoyment or experience.
  • I also like Cypress Point because the caddie master is half-Icelandic.

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

Keeping things simple by resisting the urge to over-decorate. Dieter Rams, the German industrial designer, wrote: “Weniger, aber besser”, meaning Less, but better. In the last 25 years, we have seen the term minimalist design get thrown around a lot in golf. I like to think of myself as an essentialist. Recently, my work has focused as much on elimination as it has on what we normally view as creation. You will be amazed to find how many elements are, after all, unnecessary, or unessential.

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

To optimize land and resource use, I have taken steps to introduce a return to flexible hole counts, as opposed to sticking to the traditional 9 and 18 holes. This often results in fewer holes, allows us to minimize the footprint and use only the most suitable parts of the site, producing better golf holes while leaving more sensitive areas intact

More recently, I have educated myself in golf simulator technology to design indoor warmup and practice facilities. This uses new and rapidly evolving technology that produces more accurate downloadable data. This reduces or eliminates the need to allocate valuable land and resources to the flight and landing of low-quality, low-responsive practice golf balls that get stolen, lost, damaged and don’t behave in the same way as high-grade golf balls that golfers actually use.

Both concepts are designed to produce a better product for less.

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

In addition to what I just described, I believe that we will and/or must see more use of alternative routing concepts such as exit, passing and detour holes, using road design terminology. Also, electric and robotic maintenance equipment will help us move from dirty & noisy to clean & quiet, possibly reducing the need for a separate building for machinery. Robotic mowers will change how we design slopes and will revolutionize how we transition from one height of grass cut to another. The ethics of land and resource use will continue to evolve, driving more golf courses to share the landscape with other pedestrians or nature lovers.

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

A golf course is great if it delivers great results. A financially successful golf course is probably very popular. This is the point of what we do. MacKenzie talked about the “greatest pleasure for the greatest number”. In addition, a great design must not only be successful in a financial sense for the owner, but also environmentally and socially for the community and nature. Golf magazine ratings focus almost exclusively on the loudest group of customers, not the largest.

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

Before committing to a career in golf course architecture, you should be aware that you would be investing years of training into a small and a very specialized industry fraught with uncertainty. If you take the jump, make sure you do it passionately, driven by the essential belief that you can contribute meaningfully to the sport and to our communities in general. Be open minded. Know your profession’s history, because if you don’t, you are bound to repeat it.

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

Sometimes, I get to use golf as a tool to produce the aforementioned multiple, mutual benefits for all. This may include cleaning up an abandoned quarry and/or working with stakeholder communities beyond golf. For me, this is the ultimate, but I enjoy solving problems and seeing the solution deliver results. I am here to create and maximize value.

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Golf Course Design
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