The Hole By Hole
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The Works of Art: Golf
Course Designs by Arthur Hills
Writing about golf is fun, but itís not my full-time job.
In the real world, Iím a Delaware deputy attorney general assigned to represent the Delaware Department of Transportation. Under other state government systems Iíd be considered the DOTís general counsel.
There arenít many instances where my interest in golf and my regular work come into contact with each other, but Arthur Hills was involved in at least one case.
Last year my clients asked me to attend a meeting with Bill Fasy and other representatives of Delaware Park, a major horse racing/slots center in northern Delaware. I arrived at the Parkís main office well before my clients, and was ushered into Fasyís knick-knack-strewn office.
Despite all the horse-racing pictures on the walls, the foursome prints from past charity tournaments also showed that golf also holds a special place in Fasyís heart. A question or two helped confirm my impression, and he and I then had a great conversation about our chosen sport.
Fasy was excited about the parkís newest project, the White Clay Creek Country Club, which meanders through some of the vast Park acreage along the edges of that tributary. He was especially impressed with Arthur Hills, the golf course architect responsible for the design.
At that point some unusually strong storms had flooded the creek several times, well above its normal flood stages. The floods had washed out some of the new golf course, and had to be rebuilt. Fasy, a man not given to hyperbole, spoke highly of the effort that Hills and his staff put into creating a great new golf course, Hillsí first in Delaware, despite this and several other challenges.
I was reminded of that conversation when I read The Works of Art, including its segment on White Clay Creek. In this combination autobiography/design portfolio, Hills explains his approach to golf course design and customer relations. Itís obvious that the reaction Hills created in Bill Fasy was not unique, and is among the reasons for his firmís remarkable success over the last few decades.
Heís no prima donna, deigning to grace his clients with his presence. Instead, Hills gives the impression of being a quietly effective cheerleader for his design philosophy, aimed at providing a challenging yet pleasantly memorable experience for the golfers playing his courses.
In this new book, Hills gives example after example of how he and his associates met each aspect of their assignments, accompanied by great photographs of the resulting handiwork. This may look like just another coffee table book, but itís far more than that. For students of business success or golf course architecture, it offers a real glimpse into the hows and whys of one of the countryís premier practitioners.
In Driving the Green, the wonderful case study in golf course design and construction, John Strawn noted the same aspect of Hillsí personality as a reason for the architectís appeal. That book followed the story behind the creation of Ironhorse, a Florida real estate/golf course development in West Palm Beach. This new book also features a few pages about that course, along with Hillsí own memories of working with the developer.
The book also includes some pithy commentary from Hills about the state of the sport. For example, heís in favor of limiting the distance that golf balls can go, and not just because those limits could preserve the shot values of some classic courses. As he notes, the extra costs in building larger golf courses translates into higher fees, which reduces the number of golfers inclined to pay for the privilege. That kind of long-term thinking is not always in evidence in the golf industry, or in many other business areas for that matter.
The Works of Art should be a great gift for fans of golf course architecture, as well as the thousands of golfers who have enjoyed playing one or more of Hillsí designs.
Review date: May 30, 2004
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