There are many excellent course designers around today, but relatively few people in modern golf who can say they’ve made it to the very top of the industry. It is a difficult avenue to go down, primarily because you have to build up a reputation for outstanding work over a long period of time. Tom Doak and Gil Hanse are two obvious examples and, unquestionably, the design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw fits into this category too.
The high standard of their work in terms of creativity, aesthetics, design and overall quality means they have built a reputation which demands huge respect from the golfing community. You will obviously have heard of Crenshaw because of his stellar playing career, but a lesser-known yet equally important part of their success is Coore, a man who became fascinated with golf course architecture from an early age.
“I grew up in North Carolina about an hour and a half away from Pinehurst,” Coore explains. “My next door neighbour played golf, so as a small kid I would caddie for him. He would hand me a golf club and say ‘have fun with this’.”
Coore would later go to Wake Forest college, an institution synonymous with great golf, not just in terms of former players like Arnold Palmer, Curtis Strange and Webb Simpson but also because it lies right next to Old Town Golf Club. It was this course, along with Pinehurst, that stoked Coore’s interest in architecture.
“The two courses that inspired my desire to design, but more importantly my understanding of what interesting golf architecture was all about, were Old Town and Pinehurst, primarily No. 2,” Coore tells me. “I played a fair amount as a kid. In the summer, they would keep two courses open, and back then you could play for $5 and you could play as much golf as you wanted. Then, when I went to Wake Forest, it was the Old Town course, which is a Perry Maxwell design that lies immediately adjacent to the campus. They created my awareness in both interesting golf and challenging golf.”
A chance encounter
It was that interest in design, along with a bit of luck, that would eventually lead to Coore working with Crenshaw. A project manager down on the Texas Gulf Coast spoke to Coore about working on his course and then put forward the idea of partnering with a professional golfer. To basically stop the conversation, Coore threw out Crenshaw’s name because he had just won the 1984 Masters and in the past had shown an interest in golf architecture.
“This man got us together in the hope that we would work on his project, which was unworkable,” Coore reflects. “We then spent the next few years becoming friends, really.
We didn’t have any intention of working together early on, but it evolved from being introduced to more of a friendship, and then at some point saying why don’t we try one of these things together?”
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