Hazards form the basis for the strategy of golf holes. They can be obvious, such as bunkers, out-of-bounds, trees, long rough, and water, or less so with wind and the natural elements, contour, and slopes which accelerate or deter balls from going places. They influence the intensity with which a player can attack the hole or the type of shot he can play. The diversity of hazards and their effect on play, both physical and mental, is what makes golf courses unique and endearing.
For DeVries Designs, bunkers are an integral part of the artistic expression of a golf course. Bunkers have the ability to excite, delight, intimidate, and penalize golfers all at once. From an artistic standpoint, a bunker is a sculptural masterpiece that is carved from the landscape and enhances a landform. They delight opponents when you land in one. They intimidate golfers of all levels by their magnitude and depth. And they are the original hazard which evolved to penalize poor execution.
Bunkers provide a continuity throughout a golf course, whether they have grass-faced banks, high flashy sand, convoluted fingers, or islands of turf in the middle. They can set an otherwise ordinary golf course apart from others of a similar caliber. Mike DeVries believes that it is very important to spend a great deal of hands-on time edging bunkers to achieve just the right look. It is not something that can always be drawn very accurately and requires dedication to be at the site to ensure that the bunkers are correct.
Traditionally, water did not have a large part in the strategy of the game, with only a few ‘burns’ on the original links courses to play as a hazard. Today, lakes, ponds, streams, wetlands, and creeks are quite prevalent on golf courses throughout the world. And often the most dramatic views and holes are located next to the cliffs or shore of oceans and lakes.
For the sake of playability, DeVries Designs prefers smaller scale creeks and streams to serve as strategic hazards. Often, these provide for an opportunity at recovery from the hazard with a skillful shot or at least recovery of one’s ball. Large bodies of water can be quite sensational and often serve as a practical source of irrigation for the golf course.
The natural elements, especially wind, influence the golfer in his quest to find the cup. On some holes it may help the golfer and, on others, it may thwart his most valiant efforts to find a playable spot on the golf course. Its constant variability makes this factor one of golf's most refreshing attributes because it ensures that each hole plays slightly differently depending on the direction and strength of the wind and gives the golfer a different course to play every time.
Trees are, without a doubt, one of the most difficult and controversial aspects on golf courses. Most everyone loves trees and has certain connections to them, whether a specific tree or trees in general, and trees play an important part in golf course design.
Trees provide many benefits to a golf course. They are a beautiful aesthetic addition to the environment. They provide shade when it is hot. And they can be a good hazard that defines the boundaries of the hole and forces golfers to carve shots a certain way.
Some of the problems with trees is that they are a continually maturing live element that grows and dies in a certain time period. Therefore, their impact on the design will change over time and affect the play of a hole. A beautiful, mature specimen tree that blocks half of a hole may suddenly die or be damaged in a storm and the result is a loss of a significant part of the hole. Turf near trees is always stressed and suffering due to nutrient competition from the trees. And some tree species tend to litter more than others or are susceptible to windfall or disease and should be avoided.