From the desk of Phil Smith, Golf Course Designer
Growing up in the central plains of Kansas can have its advantages. While Hutchinson, Kansas may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of the ideal place to learn the trade of golf course architecture, it had a huge influence on my career.
I had the greatest job any youngster could have. Working summers on the maintenance crew at Prairie Dunes Country Club gave this curious kid a great chance to experience what many of us know as one of the truly great golf course designs of modern time. I remember hearing a story of Perry Maxwell’s famous quote after first walking the raw site that consisted of majestic sand dunes making up the hallowed grounds of Prairie Dunes. He said, “Today, I found 118 great golf holes, my job is simply to eliminate 100 of them.”
I’ve kept that famous phrase in the back of my mind over the last 35+ years as I’ve traveled the world looking at nearly 100 sites with my mentors Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf. Never have I been able to find a site that reflects those words as succinctly as I did in 2012.
In my opinion, Flying Horse North sits squarely on such a site. Rarely, do we as golf course architects find a combination of scenic distant mountain views, majestic trees, open prairies, undulating terrain, natural drainage-ways and rock outcroppings. It became paramount in my mind that above all, the land would need to dictate the flow and strategy of each hole.
In 2012 I began visiting the site dozens of times to be certain each hole at Flying Horse North was placed properly. Jeff Smith, Doug Stimple, Fredo Killing and Dan Hawkins have been by my side every step of the way, ensuring each hole’s proper placement in the overall Master Plan. Above all, the vision of Flying Horse North is that each golf hole will appear as though it always existed… all we did was clear a few trees and grass the fairways. Simply put, the purest form of golf should pit player versus nature. No more … no less.
Today, we see the fruits of our labor. Construction of the golf course is running smoothly. Most of the holes are shaped, and we can now see the flow of the golf course. I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress of the design.
The course will stretch over 7,150 yards from the tips as a traditional par 72. The fairways meander through the natural contours and the greens are merely an extension of each fairway. The bunkers will have an informal naturalistic form that enhances the natural look of the site. Grassing will begin the spring of 2019 with the final completion and grow-in projected for the 2020 golf season.
I hope you have the opportunity to come witness the progress and maybe you’ll even be able to find some of the 100 holes that got away!
-Phil Smith, Phil Smith Design
About Phil Smith Design
After 10 years designing with Jack Nicklaus and 14 years working as Tom Weiskopf’s exclusive architect, Phil’s design career has been shaped by two of the top names in golf. Drawing inspiration from these two great legends, Phil has had the opportunity to absorb a lifetime’s worth of knowledge while contributing to some of today’s premier golf course developments. Phil’s philosophy of design has been shaped by the traditional values of golf. Whether designing a new 18 hole course, updating existing features, or restoring a historical classic, Phil’s 25 years of experience designing many of the world’s top golf courses has given him the skill set to meet the real challenges associated with any new golf course design or restoration project.
To learn more about Phil Smith, visit www.philsmithdesign.net. Click here to view his portfolio.