Golf Architect: Benjamin Warren, Artisan Golf Design (2022)

In 2018 US non-profit Learning Links invited Artisan Golf Design to interview for the commission to redesign the ‘Chaska Par 30’ golf course, in Chaska Minnesota. The nonprofit–city partnership immediately caught Benjamin’s attention. Ensuring the long-term health of city golf courses needs creative fund-raising strategies. Every golfer knows a muni that has been lost to redevelopment.

Golf’s intergenerational appeal is a superpower. Adaptive golf is in that same ballpark. Why shouldn’t a kid in a wheelchair be able to tee it up with their able-bodied buddies as ‘just one of the foursome’?

Society has reached a point where accessibility is a pillar of every publicly funded building or infrastructure project. There are thousands of munis out there in need of investment. With golf on track to become a Paralympic sport why wouldn’t cities step up and offer a few places that are designed specifically to cater for golfers with disabilities?

Benjamin’s beliefs about what constitutes fun golf are all rooted in his childhood experiences in North Berwick, Scotland. Putting courses are the lowest common denominator in this game. Anyone—regardless of skill or physical ability—can enjoy the feeling of trundling a ball across a putting green towards a target. There’s no better entry point to golf. Chaska Par 30 has a beautiful frontage on Hazeltine Boulevard. What better place for a town putting green??

Urban green spaces that welcome golfers are vital to the the future health of the game. There will never be more golf in cities than we have today. With rapid urbanisation and the changing recreation patterns of city dwellers any space that provides an ‘outdoor sport’ experience within the city limits shouldn’t struggle to find a customer base. Golf facilities can be quite unwelcoming. Goat Hill Park in Oceanside is an example of how to do it right. Embracing the character of the local community is a winning formula.

Courses that are truly accessible for golfers with disabilities are somewhat of a new frontier. Some efforts have been made in this area—notably Bobby Jones Golf Course in Atlanta—but a budget running into tens of millions diminished its value as a showcase project.

In Chaska we’re keenly aware that we are stewarding taxpayer funds and charitable donations. Bringing in Tom Mead to help with sustainability and construction specs, Don Mahaffey and Ian Williams on irrigation, and Brian Horgan on turfgrass selection helped to keep material costs as low as possible without sacrificing playability and ease-of-maintenance.

Missouri-based contractor Mid-America Golf & Landscape started construction in late 2020.