Sir Nick Faldo On Course Design: "Every Site Is A Different Challenge"

Faldo tells us about his design philosophy, current projects and more.

Sir Nick Faldo On Course Design
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Faldo tells us about his design philosophy, current projects and more.

Sir Nick Faldo On Course Design: "Every Site Is A Different Challenge"

After an immensely successful playing career which included Major victories, Ryder Cups and 97 total weeks as World Number One, Sir Nick Faldo turned to golf course design with the creation of his Faldo Design company.

The England-based firm has created layouts all over the world on five continents and in more than 20 different countries, a number which is only set to increase.

We recently caught up with Faldo to pick his brains on his design philosophy, the challenges of course design, the impact of technology and also he tells us about one of his current big projects in Pakistan.

What are the design processes you go through for each Faldo Design course?

"Well there’s lots of processes, for sure. We get invited to pursue a project - I send architects in, there’s all of that to start the process.

"Initial concept designs, that’s how you win a contract, and then I like to get involved. I like to, if possible, get to the site early so, as we often describe it, ‘go and find a golf course; go find golf holes’.

Lough Erne was designed by Faldo and opened in 2009 (Getty Images)

"We’ve had a couple of projects when they have been absolutely dead flat. So, you’re dreaming up ideas and an architect will come up with a routing – I then look at plans and then I add my strategy to it, whichever way the holes are turning, where the hazards should be, which way the greens should be running, all sorts of things like that.

"One of the major decisions we have to make is what we want the course to look like, what the visual look of it is going to be.

"Usually we get inspired by something that is there on site or locally that gives us a theme that we like to work on.

I suppose aerial imagery and drones have really helped in the most recent projects?

"Well it does, and it’s going to even more in the future.

"It’s more of a visual tool at first but then technology can be used to adapt the project information and plans to present ideas to the client, which can be very cool.

"The tech is there, drones, GPS mapping and CAD software, so why not use it?"

What are some of the most common issues you face in terms of designing a golf course?

"We face many changing boundary lines, power lines, restricted areas around ancient kings burial grounds!

"Probably too much rain or too little rain are the latest issues."

Has your approach to design changed over the course of your design career and if so, how?

Faldo's design at Amendoeira Golf Resort in Portugal (Getty Images)

"Well there’s a couple of things here: firstly, we are trying to accommodate.

"I have definitely changed my idea for professionals. Pro’s hit it…and if they’re playing well, all they are worried about is distance control, so you’ve got to fly it over something, or stop it short of something.

"Whereas the club golfer hits it left and right and is actually not in control of hitting it left and right a lot of the time!

"So, it’s almost got to be the other way around; help them out."

How hard is it not to replicate holes and course designs you know have worked on in the past?

"No at Faldo Design we pride ourselves that every site is a different challenge.

"I never go to a site with any preconceived ideas, I have some strategy ideas which on short medium or long holes that we may use as guidelines but it’s way more fun to be inspired right there on site to create something that fits the landscape."

One of your most current projects is Rumanza Golf Club at The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Multan, Pakistan. What was the thought process behind this and how will it benefit golf in Pakistan in general?

Faldo Design | Pakistan | Multan | Rumanza Golf Course

"Yeah, this one will be huge because they only have one other, 18-hole, tournament golf course – this one will really set a new standard.

"It’s a very cool design. Obviously, it was dead flat, but we had mango trees and we are on a sand base, pure pure sand, so we are able to dig down.

"We are taking the golf holes down from the original level and so each one will be framed by existing trees and contoured surrounds, so that will give it a very cool look.

Faldo surveys the Rumanza course site with Andrew Haggar of Faldo Design

"It’s going to be very different and from what I saw recently, the work process is great. Dave Matthews is the construction manager who did Cyprus for me and Vietnam, so he knows me and what is quite cool is walking with him because he talks strategy."

What has been your greatest course design success and why?

"Well the one I get good reviews from is Laguna Golf Lang Co in Vietnam because the site is so diverse.

"We play through the rice fields to start with, then we go through some jungle, then we pop out through some dunes and then onto the beach, then we come down the river, then we go in the rocks, then we go back in the jungle and then we come to the end, which is like three miles of sand! 15, 16, 17 and 18 is just sand, sand and more sand!"

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Sam Tremlett
E-commerce Editor

A golfer for most of his life, Sam is Golf Monthly's E-commerce Editor.

Working with golf gear and equipment over the last six years, Sam has quickly built outstanding knowledge and expertise on golf products ranging from drivers, to balls, to shoes. 

He combines this knowledge with a passion for helping golfers get the best gear for them, and as such Sam manages a team of writers that look to deliver the most accurate and informative reviews and buying advice. This takes the form of buying guides, reviews, supporting gear content as well as creating deal content.

This is so the reader can find exactly what they are looking for, at a good price.

Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website, whilst he is also responsible for all content related to golf apparel. 

Additionally Sam oversees Golf Monthly voucher/coupon content which seeks to find you the best offers and promotions from well-known brands like Callaway, TaylorMade and many more.

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a single-figure handicap. 

Sam's What's In The Bag: 

Driver: Cobra LTDxLS (9 degrees) 

Fairway Wood: Ping G430 Max (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees) 

Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2 

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚ 

Putter: Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5 

Ball: Srixon Z-Star Diamond

Shoes: G/FORE Gallivanter/Nike Air Zoom Victory Tour 3/Cuater The Ringer
(For off the course he goes for Nike Jordan 1 Low G shoes as well)