Leadingcourses.com is all about golf courses. And who knows a golf course better than the architect? In this monthly blogpost we give several renowned golf course architects the chance to tell you a bit more about themselves, their work, where they get their inspiration and so on. In this second episode we talk to Belgian golf course architect Bruno Steensels.
Name: Bruno Steensels
Years in the business: 30
Number of courses designed: 75+
Favorite golf course to play: Cypress Point Country Club in Pebble Beach, CA and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, in Southampton, NY.
Hidden gem: The Island Golf Club in Dublin
Bruno Steensels was born in Belgian Congo in 1957 and started playing golf in 1974. It didn’t take him very long to play from scratch and he soon became a member of the Belgian National Team. Today he still plays of a handicap of 2,2. Steensels started studying architecture in Ghent in 1979 and graduated in 1984. Because of his love for architecture and golf, he decided to combine the two and became a golf course architect. Since 1991 Bruno is a senior member of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA).
Golf course architect
Is there one of your golf course designs you are the most proud of?
I am still very proud of every project I have ever realized. But it is a very nice and interesting challenge to design a golf course with a bigger budget. In that case, I’m very proud of The International in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) and The National in Sterrebeek (Belgium). These are both golf courses with more financial possibilities, which gives you a bit more options as an architect. But in the end it doesn’t really matter if the budget is small or big though, we always strive to build a golf course where all holes are good or have something unique.
Where does a golf course architect get his inspiration?
I get inspired by everything around me. But creativity is something you have and not something you can learn. Of course there are other golf course architects that inspire me. Who they are? Well, Harry Colt, Tom Simpson, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones to name a few.
Which golf course would you like to have designed?
I would love to have designed Trump International Golf Links in Scotland. For me it is a dream to design a real links project. And it doesn’t matter where.
What is the most challenging thing about designing a golf course?
Golf course architecture basically consists of two parts, 1) the golf technical dimension – the game – and 2) the culture technical world – the construction. Both of these aspects have a direct influence on the chosen style for the land an architect has to work with.
The coalescence of these worlds, together with the prescribed budgets and government regulations (laws), is in my opinion the most difficult for a golf course architect. Of course every golf course architect approaches this in his way and with his own style.
My credo is: “Personal style is of greater importance than being a slave of trends.”
What makes a golf course architect good?
An golf course architect is good when he or she is able to design a golf course that is pleasant and challenging to play for both professionals and grandmothers (and everything in between). I also believe that having to use every club in your bag to complete your round is a sign of a very good architecture.
When are you satisfied about a golf course design?
Designing golf courses has become a true passion for us. We have a deep appreciation for, and understanding of, the most important golf courses in the world. Our employees are highly qualified professionals with international experience, who have made a point of studying many architectural classics in the world, like the Old Course at St. Andrews, Muirfield, Royal Dornoch, Ballybunion, Pine Valley, Shinnecock Hills, Royal Melbourne, Cypress Point, and many others.
We pay attention to the fact that our designs comply with the elements mentioned below. According to us a good design should:
- combine a strong visual appeal with an exceptional golf value,
- be able to challenge the best players, but thanks to its strategic qualities also be ‘playable’ and rewarding for golfers of other levels,
- take into account and harmonize with the natural environment, and
- be recognized quickly as the ‘better’ golf courses in Europe and beyond.
Is there a certain place or country where you like to design a course?
For me, that would be Brazil. In particular the northern coastal areas (with sand dunes and palm trees) where I have been involved in several projects, but which didn’t get the green light in the end. Every interesting natural piece of land will have its challenges. Think of a links land with dunes, heathlands, hilly areas with valleys including rivers or streams or a terrain bordering a big lake all ask for a design that isn’t created on the drawing table, but in the field. These kind of projects are the ones I like best, but unfortunately they don’t come around much.
Top-5 golf courses by Bruno Steensels (rating per 18-04-2017)
How do you design a course that is challenging for different levels of handicap?
The most important aspect in our designs is the creation of “strategic golf courses”. In our vision, strategy means that every hole should have its own characteristic and technical challenge. An optical image that takes shape by the influence of the surroundings and the layout of greens, fairways and obstacles. There also should be a challenge for every golf player, with the additional subtlety that top class players shoud never be challenged too little and the less skilled player never to strongly. A golfer must use all his skills, regardless of his (or her) handicap, his technique, tactics and understanding of the game.
What is your next project?
We are currently finishing a high quality project called “The National” in Sterrebeek (Belgium) which is expected to open later this year. Furthermore, we are working on a number of new projects and/or extensions in Belgium (3), Netherlands (3), France (1), Croatia (1) and Hungary (2).