SOUTHAMPTON, NY. The tandem of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore are among the world’s finest golf course creators. The duo have reshaped — no pun intended — by re-emphasizing classical golf architecture with some of the finest modern designs including the likes of Sand Hills in Nebraska, Friar’s Head on Long Island, NY, Bandon Trails in Oregon, Sand Valley in Wisconsin, Streamsong / Red in Florida, among others, as well as major restoration work with the likes of Pinehurst #2 leading the way and as course consultants to this year’s US Open site – Shinneccck Hills. Among their upcoming newest layouts is Ozark National in Branson, Missouri opening later this year. In sum, the twosome continues to bring to life golf design that embody designs working in total concert with their native sites.
Like his partner Ben Crenshaw, Bill Coore was exposed to traditional golf architecture during his formative years. A native North Carolinian, Coore played much of his early golf at the Donald Ross courses of Pinehurst and the Perry Maxwell designed Old Town Club in Winston-Salem. A 1968 graduate of Wake Forest University, Coore began his professional design and construction career in 1972 with the firm of Pete Dye and Associates. Under the Dyes’ guidance, Coore was introduced to the elements of creative design and physical construction. It was also the Dyes that first introduced Coore to the written classics of golf architecture– the same books that Crenshaw was then collecting and studying. The information within these books was to later form the foundation for the Coore and Crenshaw partnership.
During the succeeding ten years, Coore was involved in the design, construction and maintenance of golf courses in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Canada, and Texas.
Coore formed his own design company in 1982. Thereafter, he completed courses at Rockport Country Club in Rockport, Texas (featured in the 1986 issue of the U.S.G.A. Golf Journal), Kings Crossing Golf and Country Club in Corpus Christi, Texas and Golf du Medoc in Bordeaux, France — named one of the ten best courses in France and one of the top fifty courses in Europe. Bill Coore and his wife, Sue, reside in Scottsdale, Arizona.
WITH THIS WEEK’S IS US OPEN AT SHINNECOCK HILLS YOU AND BEN HAVE BEEN CONSULTANTS TO THE CLUB. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE BEST HOLE AT SHINNECOCK HILLS?
COORE: In my opinion , there is no best hole at Shinnecock Hills and fortunately there is no worst hole or even less good holes. There is a collection of 18 distinctive extremely high quality holes that fit seamlessly together.
WHAT’S THE MOST UNDERRATED HOLE?
COORE: The first hole may be the most underrated because of it’s position in the round a, and it’s not one of the courses most difficult holes-yet it is a marvelous introduction to what is about to be experienced. The view from the first tee located so near the iconic clubhouse, the angle of the fairway to the tee shot, the bunkering, the contouring of the green, it’s surrounds and the precision demanded of the shots played to the green combine to make it one of the most attractive and interesting holes on the course.
SHINNECOCK IS CITED AS BEING ONE OF THE MOST IMPRESSIVE COURSES IN THE WORLD. WHY IS THAT?
COORE: The most impressive overall feature of the course is the amazingly interesting way in which the holes lay on the natural landforms and are oriented in such a way that holes play toward all major points on the compass, therefore assuring that during a round the almost always present winds will be encountered at every possible angle. I’m not sure I can think of another course about which that can be said.
GOLFERS HAVE THEIR OWN RESPECTIVE BUCKET LIST OF COURSES TO SEE / PLAY. WHAT’S YOURS?
COORE: Amazingly enough, during my travels, I have yet to see Muirfield in Scotland, so that would certainly be on my bucket list.
WHAT’S THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A GOLF ARCHITECT?
COORE: If you successful in the business — saying “no” to a given project. In so many ways you do wish to say “yes” but if you don’t feel as if you can really attain the goals set by the ownership it’s best not to go forward.
WHAT’S THE TIPPING POINT IN MAKING THAT DECISION?
COORE: Ben and I have been good naturedly kidded about taking forever to make a decision. When we first started we knew we had to run the operation as a business but we also wanted it to be fun too. Truthfully, when we first started we wondered if anyone would hire us. When making a decision we’re going to study the site. We’re going to listen to what the ownership wants. We’re also going to be candid to ourselves — can we accomplish the goals being set? Sometimes a given site requires extreme alterations and we may not be the appropriate fit to do what is being sought.
WHAT’S THE MOST SATISFYING ASPECT FOR YOU AND BEN?
COORE: The early stages are the most rewarding. Discovering the natural attributes and spending time with the ownership on the property. The whole discovery process shows whether the site plays to our design strengths — can we accomplish the goals set by ownership in tandem with our skills. It’s tough when you like an owner personally and professionally and really want to see things move forward to make that dream a reality but there are times when you don’t see how what we do can make that happen.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED CREATING COURSES TO WHAT YOU DO TODAY?
COORE: When you’re a young designer there’s a temptation to show what you can do. You often try to do too much. It’s understandable to happen — particularly early in a career. It’s tempting not to have much restraint. We’ve believed that if we could mange our impulses — we’d be better off. We try to establish the concept — the goals — and collectively with the guys we works with to allow that process to evolve to come to life. If something happens in the field — even by mistake — that seems to be a better end result then our team is free to move in a better manner. If you allow the process to happen and don’t get hung up on some preconceived concept so many wonderful things can in fact happen.
WHAT’S HARDER TO DO — A COMPLETELY NEW COURSE OR ONE BEING RESTORED?
COORE: A restored course — by far. You have to first decide what are you going to restore it to. This happened during our time at Pinehurst #2. The course had gone through various looks over the years and when we got involved that question needed to be answered. Are you going to go back to its earliest days by using aerial photography? Or is there some interim period of time? So one needs to ask restore it to when and what.
WHEN YOU AND BEN WALK ONTO A PROPERTY FOR THE FIRST TIME WHAT GENERALL DO YOU BOTH DISCUSS?
COORE: The very first day cam prompt some general impressions of the potential a given site has to offer. We will assess if the site plays to our strengths — does it have interesting natural features. Is it adaptable to golf — if it doesn’t need major alterations. What are the most interesting features and whether we can work with that site — can we do it justice. Clearly, when talking with the ownership you get some guidance on what the goals are to be.
FROM WHAT YOU HAVE MENTIONED — YOU SPEND PLENTY OF TIME LISTENING TO OTHERS. HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT IN GETTING THE FINAL ASSESSMENT ON WHETHER YOU WILL BE INVOLVED?
COORE: It’s an absolute priority.