Sand and Golf: How Terrain Shapes The Game

Sand and Golf Waters Doakby George Waters with Foreword by Tom Doak
I recently picked up this book which had been on my wish list since it first came out a couple months ago. I’ll be forthright in saying that I was a big fan of the book pretty much before I opened it. It has a beautiful dust jacket featuring a rich photo of the Monterey Peninsula’s Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Club which would have been the last course I expected to see on the cover. Ironically, I took the protective dust cover off in order to protect IT from my two toddler boys. Underneath, the book is bound in a gorgeous green poplin cover with gold lettering exactly as it appears on the cover.

After an excellent Foreword penned by celebrated golf course architect Tom Doak, George Waters begins the book by outlining the progression the reader will follow and how sand has helped in the design of many of the world’s greatest courses. He writes about how the first golf courses came about on the sandy loam of the Scottish coast and how grasses came to grow in such nutrient-poor soil. Many of the great early courses such as Sunningdale, Royal Melbourne, Pinehurst, and Shinnecock Hills were built on sand and Waters spends a little time covering each of these masterpieces in the book.

Waters goes on to explain that in the early days of golf as a sport, earth-moving didn’t exist and the courses were laid out across the existing terrain. On ancient courses like St. Andrews, golf was played not only in the air but just as importantly on the ground, and the Featheries or Gutta Perchas were subject to the land over which they were struck. Paraphrasing the author, he says that playing on inland, tree-lined corridor golf courses really only results in two necessities for the golf ball: distance and direction. The beauty of links courses is that the golfer must not only account for these two things but also for how the ball will react once it hits the ground. A mere couple yards can mean the difference between the ball bouncing onto the green or into a pot bunker. He goes on the write, “Too many golf courses focus on separating a good shot from a bad one. The real goal should be to separate a good shot from a great one.”

The author continues analyzing the advantages to a designer of building on sandy soil – the most important being short, tight turf and drainage. Good drainage allows an architect to leave existing undulations in place or design more unique contours without the concern for pooling water in low areas. Tight turf is great for the ground game in general but is also cheaper to maintain as it requires less water and stays hardy even when withstanding the abuse of having sheep as the lawnmowers in the early days. The book is fantastic because it highlights a variety of sand based golf courses located all around the world and dating as far back as the 1600s all the way up to the current day.

I could go on and on about this wonderful book, but I’ll stop here and leave you with my unabashed endorsement for this book having a place in the library of any golf aficionado. I’m extremely passionate about this type of golf and very excited for the future of the sport with more and more of these sandy courses being built every year.