Richardson | Danner’s New Design Concept

Conceptual image showing two par-three holes as envisioned for Duel On the Hill, a proposed design by Richardson | Danner.

Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States: When Richardson | Danner sat down to work on a re-routing project with ASGCA Member Mark Fine, the opportunities could have taken on a variety of directions.

The existing 18-hole course they were studying needed extensive changes due to alternative development plans for a portion of the property. The challenge was to find a way to incorporate the new development while preserving as much open space as possible.

In the process, the golf facility was to take on a fresh golf theme to attract families moving to the suburbs near Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“Mark made extensive studies of the land,” said Forrest Richardson, who led the collaboration with Fine. “Together we put on our thinking caps to come up with alternatives that would be fun and engaging. We were looking for a routing concept that was new – something that would be ‘outside the box’ and exciting.”

Their canvas for this new idea was Southmoore Golf Course, a 20-year-old layout winding its way across gentle hills and valleys in Moore Township, Pennsylvania. The original layout had aged over the years, opening the door for the design team to breathe new life into the property, a measure that would help ensure a sustainable financial future – not to mention saving golf.

The plan is to transform the course while preserving a majority of the golf acreage, continuing to provide tee times for public play and operating a fun ‘entertainment’ oriented practice range.

The result is ‘Duel On the Hill,’ a nine-hole concept, but with an innovative twist: Each hole has a ‘twin’ that plays alongside its counterpart. Each of the nine holes has been routed side-by-side with an equal-length hole, 18 in total.

But, as Richardson points out: “They’re definitely not identical twins.” In fact, the pairs of holes – each pair referred to as ‘left’ and ‘right’ – are often a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ of one another.

While each pair of holes has been planned nearly identical in length, the routing often has one playing more downhill while the other may be slightly uphill. The left hole of one pair may be heavily bunkered, while the right hole might have a creek penalty area.

Under this ‘left’ and ‘right’ concept, the design team envisions a ‘parallel’ nine-hole routing where players will have the opportunity to select which hole of the two they prefer to play once they have left the green of the previous hole.

But there’s a catch. With simultaneous start times carefully monitored, the opportunity of deciding whether to play the ‘left’ or ‘right’ hole becomes dependent on which group completes play of the previous hole before the other.

“I suppose you could call it a race,” added Jeff Danner, Senior Designer with Richardson | Danner, an Associate Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation. “But more than anything, we’ve engineered it to be fun and engaging. The pace-of-play benefits are secondary, but let’s not forget them.”

The team has managed a nine-hole yardage of 2,300 and a par of 32. When two loops of nine holes are played, the layout forms an 18-hole, precision-length of 4,600 yards with a par of 64.

Routing plan for Duel On the Hill showing how 18 holes are planned side-by-side allowing groups to ‘race’ to see who gets to select the forthcoming hole during a round.

Depending on which holes – ‘left’ or ‘right’ – your group ends up playing at each of the nine hole pairs, the routing variation becomes exponential. “Even if you just play nine holes, there are 512 unique combinations you can end up playing for nine holes. It may take a player several rounds, as an example, before they ‘get to play’ what we call ‘8-Left’… and, if you play 18 holes, the routing combinations exceed 1,000,” said Richardson.

“We are empowering the golfer to finish quickly and the reward is getting to decide their own destiny,” added Fine. The design is organised so each hole will have the same ‘pace rating,’ meaning that each hole of a pair should theoretically take the same time to complete. What that allows, notes Fine, is an even table where groups are envisioned to play as quickly as possible in order to ‘claim’ the next tee of their choice.

The planning and concept, however, does not preclude a straight-forward tee time system without the element of choice. Richardson is quick to point out that the format of allowing groups to select from side-by-side holes at the subsequent tee might be reserved for weekends when play may be at its heaviest.

He said: “Independent of the concept to allow groups to flip back and forth between left and right holes, we envision two very solid nines where the pairs of holes follow the same general routing from start to finish. The ‘left’ and ‘right’ paths can even be managed independently – the ‘left’ being 1-9 and the ‘right being 10-18’. It’s flexible.”

Richardson | Danner says it has applied for US Patent protection, officially as: A Method for a Golf Course Design with Pairs of Golf Holes Enabling Player Choice Based on the Order of Arrival at Subsequent Golf Holes.

The project’s developer, Water’s Edge at Wind Gap LLC, is in process to gain approvals and work to satisfy the Township’s rules and regulations. They are currently working with the community on matters such as buffering, traffic studies and open space preservation.

Richardson summed up the goals with the following: “We all want the same thing at the end of the day – a golf facility that will continue to provide open space, give people a place to recreate and socialise, and can remain in financial health for the long term.”

Indeed, the group’s plans downsize the golf to create a more efficient facility, yet preserve a majority of the holes and corridors with a fresh and fun approach to playing the game. Perhaps it will even become a solution to the age-old problem of pace-of-play, which has been a ‘duel of its own’ for many decades.

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