Palmer Design Still Going Strong

Arnold Palmer became modern-day golf's first player-architect back in the early 1950s, while still a student at Wake Forest University. He and his teammates created a layout near the college campus that would serve as their practice facility.

When he served in the U.S. Coast Guard, Palmer was asked to build a nine-hole course on a weed-choked grassy patch of ground between the runways of the air base where he was stationed. "That probably was not the most challenging layout but certainly was the most exhausting to create," Palmer says. "When I was done, it was a pretty rudimentary layout - a nine-hole chip and putt, really - but I was pleased with my efforts, and the officers who played it were delighted to have a place to hit balls."

More than a half-century later, one of the game's legends represents the face of the new generation of golf course design. Arnold Palmer Design Company (APDC) is progressively helping shape the future of golf course architecture by incorporating talent, experience and expertise to address the industry's most pressing issues and challenges.

Since its inception in 1972, Arnold Palmer Design Company has designed approximately 300 golf courses all over the world, including Chung Shan Hot Spring Golf Course in southern China, which in the early 1980s became the first new course built in that country in more than half a century and subsequently ignited a golf boom in that nation.

APDC is not known for any particular trademark or style; rather each golf course is compelling and authentic featuring its own characteristics.

The company's move to the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla., from its longtime home in Ponte Vedra four years ago signaled a new horizon for APDC. Yet, at the same time, an economic downturn and its subsequent trickle-down effect on golf and golf course architecture has raised the bar for golf course architecture.

Domestically, golf-course restorations have proven to be among the leading trends in golf architecture today, as old classics attempt to recapture the strategic genius of their original design. The majority of new golf course designs, meanwhile, are everywhere else around the globe in some of the most far-flung international destinations.

Yet, during a period of time when golf course architecture is as slow as it has been in 50 years, APDC is staying busy with an active project list numbering more than 20, including a handful of new "firsts": First golf course the company has designed in Mexico (El Anhelo), first in Brazil (Fazenda Boa Vista), first in Uruguay (Las Piedras) and the first in eastern Europe, this one in Romania (Hida).

APDC has earned a reputation for designing courses that attract the high-profile events for PGA, LPGA and European, including the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club in Ireland. In addition, the company is recognized as one of the experts in the field of renovation work, highlighted by its remodeling of such renowned venues such as Pebble Beach Golf Links and Bay Hill.

With a combined total of nearly 150 years experience, members of the APDC staff are students of their trade, including an in-house irrigation designer and an agronomy services expert, both considered among the industry's most knowledgeable. In addition, Executive Vice President and Senior Golf Course Architect Erik Larsen, who joined APDC in 1983, serves as president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA).

"All of us work very well together," says Palmer. "I give them my feelings and thoughts on a particular hole or course and they fit it in. We respect and try to preserve the existing terrain and environment on every course as much as it will allow us to do so and still stay within the framework of playability. Put simply: We do not force or design unnecessary grade work or features. I believe in traditional, straight-forward design that produces courses with lasting quality and that are exciting and enjoyable for all players."

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