Crofton Man's Course Designs Can Drive Golfers Mad

Lindsay Ervin Easy Choice To Do Lothian Club's Course

June 06, 1991|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff writer

Lindsay Ervin of Crofton works at giving golfers tough times in scenic places.

He might stretch a green way out to 170 feet, make it roll like an ocean swell and ring it with a moat of sand bunkers. He might narrow a fairway to the width of a country road or perch a greenon a steep, verdant mound and pity the poor soul who overshoots the target.

Ervin is no more a sadist than the average golfer is a masochist.But, as a golf course architect, he has a duty to make the game interesting.

"It should be beautiful, challenging, fair and enjoyable,and that's what I try to do for every golf course, every golf hole,"said Ervin.

He's done it well enough to have one of his courses -- Hog Neck in Easton -- named among the best public courses in the country several times by Golf Digest magazine, including a slot in the top 25 last year.

So when it came time to hire a course architect,the three founders of the recently opened Old South Country Club in Lothian didn't shop around.

"We did not consider anyone else for course architect," said Bill Chaney, of Lothian, who founded the club with Gil Hardesty and Butch Katski. "I'd say the reputation of Hog Neck drew us to Lindsay as much as anything else."

The second nine of 18 is scheduled to open this month at Old South, a private club where members pay $15,000 to join and $1,800 a year in green fees.

The club is a $12.5 million venture forthe founders and the 100 people who bought a share of the club with their membership. The 18-hole, 72-par course alone cost about $3.2 million.

The club site was nothing more than 267 acres of woodland and cornfields off Route 408 when Ervin first drove around it three years ago in a Jeep with Chaney, Hardesty and Robert Fretwell, now the course golf professional.

"I didn't get any ideas right away," said Ervin. "I usually don't."

The founders had ideas of their own: They knew where they wanted to putthe clubhouse, they knew they wanted one island green and they knew they wanted grassy mounds to shield adjoining fairways from each other. With those spare guidelines, Ervin went to work.

"I usually start with the clubhouse, everything centers around that, unless there'ssome particularly spectacular (natural) feature that you want to work around," he said.

In this case there wasn't. It was a rolling landscape dotted withwetlands. The golf course architect's job, Ervin said, is to design a challenging course while maintaining the best natural features of the site.

"You end up sculpting the earth, but ifyou have a site that has features you can work with (they are best left alone)," Ervin said.

"Part of the enjoyment of a golf hole is to be visually stimulated by the landscape. That's what I try to do, is take (the player) through the landscape . . . . You want to make 18 different holes, 18 differentpersonalities. It's like meeting 18 different people."

At the drawing board, Ervin said he tries to put himself in the golfer's place. He figures he could not do his job if he didn't play.

Ervin, a young-looking 49, has been playing the game since he was a kid growing up on an Air Force base outside Dayton,Ohio. As he has spent more time designing courses and less time playing, he has seen his tidy 2-handicap swell to a 9.

After graduating from high school, Ervin didn't know what he wanted to do with his life, but he knew he loved golf.

He talked to his brother-in-law's father, who was a professional golfer, about careers in the sport. After attending night school in New York, Ervin studied landscape architecture at Purdue University in Indiana with the thought of becoming a golf course designer.

He started designing golf courses for a Chicago firm after he graduated from college in 1968. He established Ervin & Associates in 1979. Two years later, Hog Neck, which Ervin designed while working in Chicago, was named among the nation's top 50 public courses by Golf Digest. Last year, Hog Neck made the top 25.

Ervin also designed the Birdwood Golf Course in Charlottesville, Va.,site of this month's USGA Women's Amateur Public Links Championship,and Queenstown Harbor Golf Links, due to open next month in Queenstown, Md.

Ron Whitten, Golf Digest architecture editor, said 300 volunteers rate the public courses every other year based on six criteria, including beauty and maintenance. Courses also are judged on how well they test different shotsand whether they challenge the advanced player while allowing the average golfer "to play and not lose a dozen balls," Whitten said.

No statistics are available yet at Old South, but the fourth hole, the par 4 with the green on an island, and the 10th hole, a par 4 with a water hazard in front of the green, should boost local golf ball sales.

Then there's the 18th hole, the par 5 with the 170-foot-long rolling green surrounded by sand bunkers. If your approach lands to the right in front of the green, you wind up shooting blind to the flag. If your approach falls to the left, youcould land in a bunker.

"I wanted to make it a hard finishing hole," said Ervin. "That's why we put all those sand traps in here, to screw (the golfers) up visually. It's intimidating. Plus the green is undulating. When these greens are fast, it'll be a bear to putt."

Golf course superintendent and general manager Craig Reinhardt said frustrated golfers can take their complaints straight to the source oftheir misery.

"We put Lindsay's phone number at the end of every green," he said, smiling. "If you three-putt, you can call him."

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