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On & Off the Course

October 15, 2006

On and Off the Course: The ‘other’ kind of shaper is just as important to golf

TERRE HAUTE — When you give an artist a bulldozer ...

If I were having a conversation with you about golf, and brought up the term “shaper” you would probably think I was talking about a “shot shaper” which is a golfer who is able to put different types of spin on the ball to make it do different things. Usually only the advanced golfers are considered shot-shapers, because they are able to make the ball do what they want it to, be it a high fade, a low hook, or a slight draw. Those of you with a major slice that you play for are just slicers, not shapers.

In golf there is another kind of shaper that is very important, that most of us would hardly ever think of. A “shaper” in golf course architecture is the artist that runs the bulldozer when constructing a golf course. The bulldozer operator is an artist because he takes the architect’s conceptualization on paper, and builds it into reality. It is more than just pushing some dirt around with a big Tonka truck.

Other than a shaper, just what does it take to design and build a golf course? First of all, a tract of land from 140 to 200 acres, preferably with gently rolling hills, soils that will drain well, and a place suitable for an irrigation lake. Of course, it also takes some person or group with funding and a desire and vision for making that tract of land into a golf course.

A golf course architect is needed to lay out the plan. Many golf course architects are big-name golfers, like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player. These men have had stellar careers playing golf, and use that experience when designing their courses. The people that hire them get the added benefit of having a household name in their brochure when marketing their newly designed course.

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