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North Course Insights from Renowned Golf Course Architects

Golf, a game of precision and camaraderie, is as much about the rhythm of the swing as it is about the dance between player and course. It's not every day you get a peek into the minds behind the courses themselves. We're thrilled to sit down with RTJ II Architects' COO Robert 'Trent' Jones III, and Senior Project Architect Mike Gorman to to discuss their design principles, inspirations, and favorite holes on the North Course Back 9.

How did you get involved in/interested in golf?

Trent Jones: Like many people who love this sport,  I’ve been around golf my entire life.  However, whereas most people have memories of playing golf with family or friends, mine are of surveying sites with my dad, riding around on various tractors during construction, and digging irrigation ditches as a teenager.  I was fortunate that my dad could take us with him to visit construction sites around the country and the world. Golf was not just a game to be played but offered a means to connect with people of different backgrounds and cultures - something I still love today.

Mike Gorman: My interest in golf sparked in early grade school growing up in Sacramento. During the summer my father would drop me off in the morning at a local nine-hole course and pick me up at the end of the day, I was hooked! Being outdoors, constantly challenging myself to get better, as well as the social aspect was very rewarding, growing up learning the game.

What do you love most about practicing your craft?

Trent: Working with a creative team, to create something that we hope brings many people joy  (in spite of the natural frustrations of playing golf!)

Mike: What I find most gratifying about my work is the opportunity to create interesting and unique golf experiences. Seeing a piece of raw land transform into a place where people worldwide travel to enjoy the game is very rewarding.

How many courses have you designed?

Trent: At Robert Trent Jones II, we practice as a team of architects working under my father.  All of the senior architects contribute to and review the various projects we work on. So it's very hard to say how many projects any one architect has designed. However, as a team, since 1972, we have designed nearly 290 golf courses worldwide and worked in over 40 countries.

Mike: Over the years, I've been fortunate to work together with RTJ II on around 30 golf courses. Each one presenting its own set of design challenges and opportunities to create something unique.

It's crazy to imagine, but every six seconds, somebody begins a round on one of our golf courses.  We feel honored to have so many people playing our designs. And, if you include the legacy of my grandfather, Robert Trent Jones Sr. you can add another 350 golf courses to that total.  He was prolific.

What one word would you use to describe the courses you design, and why?

Trent: Unique. Today, you read about site-specific architecture all the time, but we have been practicing it in one way or another our entire lives. Aesthetically, our goal is to make it feel as if it was always a part of the landscape. We are also strategic architects. Rather than penalizing bad shots, we believe in rewarding good shots. Yes, there are risk/reward elements in all designs, but we want to reward good strategic choices.

Mike: If I were to use one word to describe the courses I design, it would be “memorafun”, not a word but a combination of memorable and fun. We aim to create courses that captivate golfers with imagination and take players on an adventure.

From an insider’s point of view, what advice would you give recreational golfers?

Trent: This is a loaded question, but I think many golfers don't see the strategy that's in front of them. My dad has a saying that

"Golf is like most sports, where there is an element of attack and defense. The golfer attacks. The architect plays defense, defending par, and the greens."

Of course, we must give you a fair chance to make par and perhaps even a birdie.  So when you are on the tee, don't just look for your landing area. Look at how the tee points you to targets in the distance.  Yes, the bunkers might be intimidating, but ask yourself what they are directing your eye toward. Are they revealing a strategy that might allow you to score?  Where are we enticing you to go and warning you away from?

What elements of golf course design do golfers typically misunderstand or miss that would help them play better?

Mike: I would advise paying attention to the visual cues and strategic elements of golf course design. At Corica Park North, Golfers should pay extra attention to nuances of fairway contour tilts and angles as well as the best sides of fairways to approach greens. By becoming more attuned to the subtleties of course design, you'll find yourself playing smarter and enjoying the game even more.

What is your favorite hole on the back 9 North Course, and why?

Trent: I won’t say which, as part of the fun for the golfer is discovering the course for him/herself, but there is a par 3 I’m excited to play back there.

Mike: My favorite new hole design on the back 9 of the North Course would have to be the 15th. Our vision for this hole is to create a truly drivable par 4 for all skill levels as well as make golfers really think about all of their shot options off the tee. It will be a fun one!

We look forward to seeing RTJ II's masterful hand unfold on the Back 9 in coming months and hearing more about the design of the North Course. For updates on progress, follow the North Course Project here.

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