Gil Hanse at work.

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If you love golf course architecture, and who among us doesn’t? – it will not be news: this Gil Hanse is all over. Last year’s US Open at Winged Foot? Resto ‘by Hanse. This year’s US Open (women’s edition) at the Olympics? Another Hanse seal. Southern Hills, where PGA 2022 will be played, and The Country Club, site of the 2022 US Open? G. Hanse, G. Hanse. The Yale course remake? The nip-and-tuck Merion East? The # 4 Pinehurst Reinvention? Yada. Yada. Yada.

So you can imagine our collective surprise when we, a handful of Redan-o-philes, learned, during an on-site Ryder Cup walk with Hanse as a shepherd, that the man was making his first trip to Whistling Straits, the must see. -see the expensive and spectacular American golf resort. Golf Oceanside in Wisconsin, although the body of water along its shore is technically a simple lake. Redan, you may know, is a term of war and also a term of golf architecture. It’s a meaty word although I can’t say I’ve ever really understood it.

The 7th par-3 at Shinnecock Hills.

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“I’ve never been here before,” said Hanse. “But I played with Pete once at Hilton Head. He carried his own bag, played fast and very well. Hanse’s Pete was the late Pete Dye, who built Whistling Straits, the Harbor Town Golf Links (aka Hilton Head) and many other courses. In a way, Hanse (reserved) and Dye (scandalous) were opposed. As architects, ditto. But Hanse’s reverence for Dye, during our walk, became evident.

One of our group, a style writer and golf blogger named Michael Williams, wore a golf hat of his own design with a stenciled word on its brim: redan. The first letter was lowercase and a period after the m – and these things made all the difference.

There was also in the group a slender young man by the name of Ben Boscovich, editor at Squire, the stylish magazine that coined the phrase “The Man at His Best”. Boscovich wore a hat with the name Aimé Léon Doré. You know, the New York-based street-meets-club fashion brand. OK, yes: I watched. But I can tell you something about Jos. A fall collection from the Bank.

In recent years, Hanse has got his hands on Winged Foot West, Merion East, Southern Hills and Pinehurst No. 4, among many other models.

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To keep the theme here, Hanse wore a Southern Hills baseball cap, various Peter Millar golf misfires, and, on his wrist, a heavy Rolex. It wasn’t a coincidence. Our little walk was organized by Rolex.

When I first met Hanse almost 30 years ago he was wearing LL Bean overalls and boots and stepped out of a bulldozer to say hello. Today, Hanse and his co-workers use a name which, in its own way, comes from Man at this Best: Caveman Construction. This is the jostling side of Hanse Golf Design.

“Wearing a Rolex and a golf cap at the same time is a great place,” Boscovich told me later, when I asked him to measure Hanse’s style sensibilities. “It shows where golf is at the moment. I played golf with guys in denim shorts, and I played golf with guys dressed like Tour pros. We all love the game.

It’s always neat to have a new perspective on anything, and it was. Golf needs more players in denim shorts and more people who use golf as a verb. As for the golf hoodie, that’s not even a question anymore. You’ve probably seen American gamers wearing them at Whistling Straits. Wear, do not tip over. Please. That’s how it was in 1996. Collin Morikawa was not even born.

I first met Hanse in 1992, when he was just starting out in the business and working for Tom Doak. Doak, in his early days, worked for Dye. There’s a lot of that in golf course architecture, a lot of Mungo sired Old Tom and Old Tom sired D. Ross and D. Ross sired – just about everyone.

Six degrees, golf style.

Hanse shared a list of his favorite courses with GOLF Magazine last year.

And since Gil Hanse once played golf with Dye, Dye played golf (pick it up with my editor) with Donald Ross. And while Dye was studying the great Scottish courts, Hanse did the same. By the way, Hanse spoke of Dye’s use of railroad ties, a common way to maintain bunker walls in the homeland, and easy to find there. The wooden ties were lying around, rubbish from the Scottish coast railroad tracks. Many trucks once traveled the course of the Strait, in its embryonic stages. At Whistling Straits, the railway ties were trucked. Hanse’s trick is to use what Mother Nature gives him as best he can. Dye’s thing was something else.

Even at 94, Pete Dye never got old.

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Hanse told us something I should have known but didn’t: when Dye and Herb Kohler, the plumbing mogul and golf fanatic, started talking about a golf course on the Shore of Lake Michigan in rural central Wisconsin, all of the land was flat agricultural overburden. All known evidence of this origin story has disappeared. Hanse spoke of a small Dye Mountain built at the end of the Whistling Straits property, beyond the 5th hole, to block views of the plains and nearby farmland. It made an impression on Boscovich, both what Dye did and Hanse’s description. Boskovich’s interpretation left an impression on me.

“When Dye put that mound over there, it was his way of saying, ‘You’re on the course now, and you don’t want to be anywhere else. “” This comment made me think of Augusta National as a golf oasis. For the lucky few, you pass the chaos of Washington Road, pass the imposing club wall, then find yourself in a dream landscape for golfing.

The Old Course, come to think of it, is like that too, but in a different way. You start in town. You are leaving town. You end up in town.

There are many ways in the heart of golf. They are all good. Still, there’s a reason Grand Slam events are hardly ever played on house-lined courses. There is not a single house on the course of the strait. Golf is, among other things, a form of escape.

If you think of the Whistling Strait as an American version of Scottish Linksland, you’ve probably transported yourself to the west coast of Scotland, where the land heaves, and not to the east, where it doesn’t. . Hanse said Whistling Straits might look like a real bond run, but it doesn’t play out as such. The ball does not roll. He doesn’t tumble. Hanse, tall and measured, stood on an artificial hill, gazing out at an artificial course, the shimmering Lake Michigan (literally) beyond.

Hanse imagined a course that he could have built there, a course with a a lot lower profile. Nothing grand. Hanse is a minimalist. Dye was a maximalist. Old Scottish architects often spoke of the hand of God at work on the great courses. Dye was an archetype of the American course designer, as Hanse described it. A golf course builder, really. Hanse said he also sees himself as a builder, but his aesthetic is totally different.

Hanse said Whistling Straits might look like a real bond run, but it doesn’t play out as such.

As we walked the course, Hanse discussed this and that. He started out as a major in history in college (he went to the University of Denver) and moved on to landscape architecture. But history still pulls him on him. He said that in his experience, Merion and Yale had the best archival material on their courses, and he comes back to it over and over again. He cited Ben Crenshaw and Geoff Ogilvy as two elite players who were world class in their knowledge of golf course design and history. The two go hand in hand, up to a point.

Dye passed away last year, and this year has honored him. Justin Thomas won the Players at TPC Sawgrass, a dyeing class. Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship at Kiawah, a dye class. Stewart Cink won at Hilton Head. The United States won the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. Next year will be a good year for Hanse, if you are talking about senior golf. Of course, golf is more than that. Dye’s iconic courses are the ones you could play once in a lifetime. This is not where Hanse is going.

“Listening to Gil, you could hear how architects want to innovate, they compete with each other, and it’s good for the game,” Boscovich told me. “They are artists. They are innovators. That’s why not all golf courses are the same. Excellent insight and observation.

The walk was about 90 minutes, then lunch was served. You can imagine the scene: red or white wine, your choice. Tom Watson, investigating judge. Before entering, Hanse, his wife Tracey, at his side, looked at a large electronic filing. “We are up in three, down in one,” he said. American victory was coming.

Kohler wanted a destination golf course and hired Dye to build one for him. They got what they wanted. The Ryder Cup was at Whistling Straits. Gil Hanse took it into account.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at [email protected].

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Michel bamberger

Golf.com contributor

Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. Before that he spent almost 23 years as senior editor for Illustrated sports. After college he worked as a journalist in a newspaper, first for the (that of Marthe) Vineyard Gazette, later for The Philadelphia Investigator. He wrote a variety of books on golf and other topics, the most recent of which is Tiger Woods’ second life. His magazine work has been featured in several editions of The best American sports writing. He holds a US patent on The club, a utility golf club. In 2016, he received the Donald Ross Award from the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the organization’s highest honor.