The future of course design? Here’s how the next generation thinks about architecture

junior design contest entries

The Great Junior Golf Design Challenge of 2021 was open to aspiring architects aged 17 and under.


Golf’s youth movement is alive and well, spurring both the elite professional ranks and the growth of grassroots programs.

It is even seeping into course design.

As a case in point, consider 14-year-old Claire Lu of Edison, N.J. A freshman who plays on the golf team at Wardlaw+Hartridge School, in her hometown, Claire plays to a 0.5 index, so you know she’s handy with a wedge and putter.

Turns out she’s also good with a sketchpad and a pen, a skill that has earned her first place in the Great Junior Golf Design Challenge of 2021.

Sponsored by the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), the contest solicited submissions from candidates age 17 and under for design ideas for “golf holes of any par, style or strategy, and from whimsical to serious.”

Claire’s entry (below), which was selected from a pool of nearly 100 submissions, shows serious strategic considerations but isn’t shy on whimsy either.

I pictured us being on opposite sides of a lake in a fairway, and all of us playing to the green at the same time.” Claire Lu

A 539-yard par-5 with multiple tee boxes, the hole is designed to play pretty much straight away with a notable wrinkle: a large lake in the center of the fairway forces players to pick a side on their route from tee to green. 

Claire named it “The hOle,” a typographical nod to its signature circular hazard.

She said the inspiration for the design came from an image that popped into her head as she contemplated memorable scenarios that might unfold as she played with friends.

“I pictured us being on opposite sides of a lake in a fairway, and all of us playing to the green at the same time,” Claire told “I just thought that would be a lot of fun.”

The Great Junior Golf Design was launched in 2020 as a way to provide home-bound kids with an outlet for creative expression during the pandemic.

Submissions to the Great Junior Golf Design Challenge of 2021. ASGCA

Claire got wind of this year’s iteration through her father, Zhigang, and submitted her design just in time to beat the deadline. 

After hashing out a rough, hand-rendered drawing, Claire shifted to a design app to complete a polished version of the design.In 2020, winners were selected through a random drawing.

This year, though, a single winner was chosen by a panel of judges. Two names were also selected in drawing to receive $100 each in merchandise or equipment from U.S. Kids Golf (the winners of the drawing were Olivia Sheaffer of Tucson, Ariz., and Sabrina Chen of Irving, Texas).

In choosing the first-prize winner, one judge praised Claire’s design as “flexible and engaging.” Another hailed the clarity of her theme and the artistic skill she showed in bringing it to life.

“If I didn’t have someone who already color-rendered my drawings, I might hire Claire (for the job),” one judge wrote.

Claire said she had no expectations of winning but was pleasantly surprised late last month when she pulled out her phone after a practice round with teammates and saw the good news in an email.

Along with hearty congratulations, Claire’s win brought her $250 from the ASGCA Foundation. A matching donation in that amount was also made to her local First Tee chapter.

Asked how she planned to spend the money, Claire said, “I’m just going to save it.”

A scratch golfer, a skilled designer and wise beyond her years.


Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.