As an architect when I am approaching a new course design I do not have any pre-meditated vision for how the golf course should look or play. I allow the terrain and the surrounding environment to guide my work and to dictate the layout to a large degree. Golf course design is an art and like any other artistic expression the final product should feel effortless and never reveal the enormous amount of work that went into its making. Failing that will result in work that looks contrived and unnatural.
There are basic design principles that an architect has to pay homage to, Playability, shot values and visual aesthetics are the corner stones of great golf course design. I do not believe in a preconceived "signature” look or style. I strive to design every course and every individual hole as “one of a kind” experience that is truly different, unique and memorable. I take a lot of pride and joy from creating “boutique” courses, while avoiding the “franchise” approach to golf course design, where the architect reuses the same layouts and design elements over and over again.
Dragon’s Fire is a great example of my design philosophy. I allowed the gently rolling terrain and the abundant vegetation found on the site of the former tree nursery to guide the overall look and feel of the course. Dragon’s Fire represents the best in a classic parkland layout. Every hole is cut in its own tree envelope providing spectacular visual frames amidst majestic towering trees. Carved with great care out of the terrain, all course features are very subtle and fit in effortlessly with the existing vegetation and natural contours. A myriad of thoughtfully incorporated flowering shrubs create a rarely experienced “gardens” like appearance for most holes. I am confident that from its very unveiling Dragon’s Fire will look, feel and play as though it has been in play for years.
Dragon’s Fire has been designed to cater to golfers of all abilities and in the best tradition of classic “risk-reward”, target golf courses. The course will be navigable by a high handicapper, and remain a challenge for the scratch golfer. We have achieved this by introducing five sets of tee decks, offering varying lengths and angles, and by strategic hazard placing. While shot making is not a prerequisite to get around the course, it is a shot-maker’s course. Shaping your shots is the key to a low round and a chance at slaying the dragon.
The course has a wonderful rhythm and draws its strength from a superb variety of short and long holes offering strategic options. There are no forced carries on the course other than a couple of par 3’s over water, and even then one can chose to aim at a bail out area and not challenge the water. Fairways are relatively wide and gently undulated, providing different subtle lies and various playing angles to the greens. Specimen trees and intricately carved bunkers guard landing areas providing the best approach shot angles – thus choosing your line of play of the tee is critical. Greens are large but closely protected by bunkers and generally sloped from back to front making it easier for a high handicapper to hold and tougher for the better players as they can easily spin the ball off the putting surface. They are approachable both from the air and by low running approach shots from the preferred fairway angles. Gently contoured, but with no abrupt ridges, the greens are hard to read and a lot of fun to putt on. Plenty of bail out areas allow for recovery shots and should help keep the big numbers off the score card if one plays smart. The course will ultimately provide a venue for a true test of golf for the most accomplished of golfers, yet it will remain playable and enjoyable even for the novice players, as long as they think their way around it, play from the appropriate tee decks and don’t try to overpower the course.
I believe that Dragon’s Fire offers a pure golf course experience in the tranquility of the unspoiled countryside setting. It is a true walking course, which is so rare to find nowadays. I hope that you, the playing guest, will come to enjoy and cherish your Dragon’s Fire experience time and again.
Boris (Bo) Danoff, Golf Course Architect