Jul 27, 2023

T-Time Podcast // Ep. 59: Building a Better Female Experience from the Ground Up with Golf Course Architect, Christine Fraser

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Tori is joined by the talented golf course architect Christine Fraser. They explore the captivating world of golf course design and gain insights into Christine's inspiring journey to becoming a leading figure in her field. The discussion explores the fascinating concept of links courses, the signature styles of renowned designers, and the challenges and joys of her work. From shaping greens to building golf courses, we'll uncover the nuts and bolts of her job.

Journey to Becoming a Golf Designer

As illuminated by Christine Fraser, the journey to becoming a golf designer is a tale of passion, perseverance, and unique paths. Unlike conventional job paths, designing golf courses has no clear academic path. A background in competitive golfing was the starting point of Christine's path, which ultimately inspired her to seek a master's degree in landscape architecture. She started a fantastic journey to become a golf architect by embracing her love for the game and her desire to help shape it. She traveled to Scotland, the home of golf, where she met her tutor and developed her talents. She demonstrated that women can succeed in this traditionally male-dominated industry via hard work and determination. Christine's tale motivates other women to explore golf course design while underscoring the importance of shared values, trust, and environmental consciousness in building lasting relationships with golf clubs.

What Links Course Is

Christine Fraser clarifies what a link golf course is and its historical background. Links golf was first invented in Scotland, where it was first known as Lynx Gulf because it symbolized the connection between the sea and the arable farmland. These golf courses were created on stretches of land along the shore that couldn't be used for farming but were perfect for golfing. Thus, "links" refers to the beachfront property transformed into a golfing haven. Modern links golf courses are distinguished by their proximity to the seaside and sandy terrain, essential in forming the course's distinctive features. Sandy terrain makes for stable, quick, and springy playing fields, highlighting the significance of a ground game and strategic play. Today, links courses remain iconic and continue to enchant golfers worldwide with their historical significance and natural beauty.

Design Trends That Have Happened Over The Years

Over the years, golf course designs have evolved, showcasing the ever-changing landscape of the sport's architecture. The industry has witnessed fascinating shifts in course design philosophies from the Golden Era of Golf Architecture in the early 1910s and 1920s to the bold and maximalist designs of the 1950s and 1960s that sought to impress TV viewers.

1.   The Golden Era of Golf Architecture (1910s-1920s)

Traditional British architects like Harry Colt and Alister Mackenzie affected golf course design during this time. They provided several approaches to a hole from the tee to the green as part of their design philosophy, emphasizing strategic factors. During this era, golf courses strongly emphasized encouraging good play and promoted players to employ strategy to navigate the course properly.

2.   The Boom of the 1950s-1960s

As more golf events were shown on television, architects like Pete Dye rose to prominence, leaving their distinctive imprints on the sport's architecture. Larger, more difficult courses were created to impress TV viewers. Layouts featuring additional water hazards, carry, and bunkers were produced to emphasize maximalist and punitive elements. These championship-style golf courses highlighted golf as a competitive sport requiring great skills.

3.   Return to Strategic Design

In recent years, strategic play has gone full circle in golf course design, returning to its origins. Even a century later, the courses from the golden age of architecture are still highly appreciated. This renaissance of strategic design is centered on building courses that can accommodate golfers with different ability levels while fostering diversity and fun. Golf course designers strive to retain the rich traditions of the game while providing enjoyable and engaging experiences for all players by avoiding severe difficulty.

Steps and Phases Involved in Bringing a New Golf Course

A new golf course must be developed throughout several phases, which requires dedication and endurance.

1.   Rezoning the Land

Finding and purchasing adequate property to construct a golf course is the first step in the process. This site may need to be rezoned from its current classification to accommodate the golf course. The rezoning procedure might be drawn out and take up to a year to finish.

2.   Design Phase

The planning process starts when the property is purchased and set aside to construct a golf course. The golf course architect designs the course's intricate plans and layouts at this stage, considering the topography, natural features, and strategic playability. Usually, the design phase takes one year.

3.   Permit Acquisition

The golf course architect must get all relevant approvals, such as water and building licenses before work can start. As it includes going through different regulatory procedures and clearances, this stage may add another year to the timeframe.

4.   Contractor Selection

Choosing a qualified and experienced contractor to carry out the work is critical. As the golf course designer evaluates several contractors' qualifications, prior projects, and competence, this selection process might last up to a year.

5.   Construction Phase

The building stage of the process is the most engaging and active. The golf course architect actively participates on the job site and works closely with the shaping and construction teams. This stage, which takes roughly a year to complete, turns the 2D designs into a real golf course.

Environmental Elements that Come into Play When Building a Golf Course

When designing a golf course, environmental factors are taken seriously when thinking about the course's long-term viability and influence. Water management is crucial since future water availability may become more expensive and more scarce. By retrofitting and equipping courses with water-saving techniques, designers must account for and prepare for decreased water supplies. Replace typical grass with drought-tolerant plants that use less water and store moisture well for one concrete example. Planning and execution may be impacted by the differences between working with public and private courses.

Importance of Intentional And Considerate Tee Box Placement

When building a golf course, careful consideration must be given to the positioning of the tee boxes to ensure that all players, including women, children, seniors, and those with adaptive requirements, have a positive and inclusive experience. Tee boxes that are strategically positioned accommodate players of different skill levels and make sure they have good alternatives for their game. Women-specific tee boxes should pay close attention to distance, length, and location to fit their playing preferences. To understand their tastes and demands on the course, designers must speak with female golfers and other groups. The entire experience for female golfers may be improved by considering elements like fairway length and location, mounds, bunkers, and water hazards. This will also make the course more friendly and enjoyable for all players.


In conclusion, Christine's inspirational journey emphasizes the importance of having passion, tenacity, and carving out a special route to success. Golf's genesis and coastal ties are shown through link courses and their historical foundations. Golf course design trends have evolved from strategic play to maximalist layouts and now back to strategic design, demonstrating the industry's constant change. The meticulous process of building a new golf course highlights the commitment necessary for a memorable and long-lasting golfing experience.

Environmental factors, particularly water management, are essential for a golf course to be sustainable. For inclusion and enjoyment among various players, thoughtful and intentional tee box placement is essential. Christine's dedication to creating golf courses that accommodate all golfers emphasizes the value of hearing players' opinions and prioritizing shared ideals and environmental awareness. Her story motivates female golfers and aspiring course designers to follow their goals and leave a lasting mark on the sport.

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