Lassi Pekka Tilander

Date: Wed 17 Nov 2021

10 Questions for ... Lassi Pekka Tilander 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?

I had a long playing career as a national amateur team member and had the opportunity to play on many great courses around the world. Gradually, I became interested in golf architecture and at the beginning of 2000 I got a chance to finalise my first 9-hole extension.

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

Many of the Golden Age architects. At that time, before big machines and golf carts, they really had to focus to get the best out of a site. As far as the architects of our time, I cannot put one name in front of another. There are names everyone knows who do excellent work. They get a lot of column space. But seeing the sites and budgets it is not difficult to succeed.

3. What is your proudest design achievement?

For me it is very difficult to put my own design achievements in order. Despite reasonable and small budgets, I have had five courses selected in the lists of 100 best courses in continental Europe*. This is something I'm very proud of.
* 2013-2019 Lists from UK magazines Golf World & National Club Golfer

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

  • The West Links in North Berwick, Scotland - the European Tour wouldn't ever come to this course (unfortunately) but playing there is one of the most fun golf experiences I've ever had.
  • El Saler, Spain - playing there as a young amateur in the late 80s showed me a whole new example of a golf course. If I must give a moment when my interest for golf architecture arose, it must have been there.
  • Kingsbarns, Scotland – a great mix of classic links type golf with a 21st century twist.

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

In practice, it is working with inexperienced machine operators and poor materials. In general, when you work with your own name - like I do - a big part of the work is to promote yourself and your projects. Standing in front of people and talking about how good you are can still sometimes be a challenge. In the big picture there are no challenges, just opportunities.

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

From a design perspective, the biggest issue is minimalist design. After careful dedication to the site I try to do the routing with as little earthmoving as possible. Two other important points are drought tolerant seed varieties and closed water circulation. I also advise my clients to use natural materials on the course like wooden bunker sand rakes, etc. This has not as much environmental impact but it is psychologically important. In the long run most of the environmental issues on golf courses have to do with maintenance.

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

The future of golf is fast and fun. 7,000 meter golf courses will not disappear, but not every course should be like it. There will be more different types of golf courses and ways to play. 9 hole games, par 3 courses and driving ranges are becoming more popular. Less metres, less holes, less maintenance means more affordable golf to more people. Of course, environmental issues will become more and more important.

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

Site is the most important part of a good golf course. A superb site has sandy soil, suitable elevation changes as well as great views. Sea or a large body of water is always a big plus. But the site is only the beginning. The routing that has good flow and takes the best out of the site will bind everything together - to be a great golf course.

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

A golf architect's work is a highly creative profession. There is no absolutely right or wrong alternative. Trust your instincts. Explore famous golf courses but be careful not to copy them directly. If you just try to copy someone else's work you will not become more than average. To become a good golf architect you have to find new ways to approach established practices.

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

There are many things I enjoy about being a golf course architect, and actually, it is hard to think of anything I don't enjoy. It is still just unbelievable to be in a position where you're able to lead a creative process. From seeing the site for the first time, then taking it via a drawing board through to the construction of a finished golf course. After several years, seeing happy people playing on the course is what I enjoy most.

Click here to read more about Lassi Pekka.

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