Ed. note: The inaugural GOLF + Nicklaus Design Challenge, to which contestants submitted plans for their dream par 4s, attracted nearly 200 entrants. From that group, the experts at Nicklaus Design, along with a handful of GOLF editors and writers, nominated 10 finalists — and now we’ve recruited your help in picking the winner. (You can cast your vote here.) To give you more insight into the designers behind the designs and how they conjured their holes, we’re profiling each of them in more detail in the coming days. The winner — which will inspire a hole design on an upcoming Nicklaus Design course — will be announced on or before May 15.
DESIGNER: ARNO KAMPHUIS
Residence: Nijkerk, Gelderland, The Netherlands
Occupation: Senior lecturer/assistant professor at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences
Handicap: I have been keeping track of my handicap according to the new World Handicap System for two years now. In this system, my handicap is around 0.3.
Been playing golf for: I started playing when I was 12, so according to the calendar that would be 32 years. But I actually stopped playing at 22, then resumed playing 10 years ago, a gap of 12 years. So, long answer short: 20 years!
Favorite course you’ve played: I haven’t played any of the real highly ranked courses in the world. My favorite course is Harry S. Colt design called De Pan in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Course you’d most like to play that you haven’t: I have a whole list of courses I would like to play if I had the time and money. High in that group would be Harbour Town Golf Links, with the iconic lighthouse, nice tree lines along the fairways and finishing holes along the sea.
Ever designed a golf hole before? Yes, I “design” holes in my spare time, just for fun as a hobby. But I have never been involved in any real design.
Time spent on your design? The first rough sketch of the hole was put to (digital) paper quite quickly, within an hour. But working out all the details, the challenges, putting the sands traps in the correct spots, working out the slopes and green complex took me way longer. I spent around 12 to 15 hours in total, spread out over several days.
Please explain your creative process.
The process of designing a hole like this almost always starts with me thinking of the global challenge I want to present to the player — i.e., challenging the players with their tee shots or asking them to plot their way around the fairway. The test I wanted to present here was a risk-reward balanced between the tee shot and the approach to the green. I wanted the risk of the tee shot to be two-fold: (1) a bad strike will result in a bad lie, and (2) a poor tee shot results in a tougher angle into the green. But the reward of avoiding all the trouble is considerable: a much easier approach to the green.
I wanted my design to be in a sandy forest-like environment. Once I decided that — along with the challenge I wanted to present — it was apparent to me that the hole needed to be a dogleg with the possibility of taking a shortcut. Due to the nature of the terrain, the risky tee shot needed to be over a waste area in between two large groups of trees.
From there, I started to sketch the global shape of the hole, which I then started to expand into the final design. This process involved adding smaller challenges like bunkers or moving tree lines to be in the line of play and adding elevations to help the players who choose to take the “normal’ route. These steps of adjusting the details of the hole are often done in stints over the course of several days. I print the hole on paper, put it on the dinner table and look at it several times during the day, making notes on it what I might change.
Eventually, this process leads to the final design.
For me, the most difficult part of the creative process is knowing when to stop, to declare the design to be finished. In this case, I really needed to just say to myself, Leave the adjustments, keep the hole the way it is and send it in. The deadline for entry really helped me.