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The Challengers Gil Hanse & Jim Wagner

  • On screen text: Charles Schwab Presents

    Gil Hanse: When the pros say, “Oh, that golf course is great. It was right in front of me.“ I mean, I think if anybody ever says that about one of our courses, we might quit.

    On screen text: The Challengers

    A series about people who QUESTION. ENGAGE. SUCCEED

    Hanse & Wagner

    Gil Hanse: My name is Gil Hanse, chief bulldozer operator for Hanse Golf Course Design. I think we’re fortunate in that we have had tremendous opportunities in both branches of our business—you know, the restoration of existing great old classic courses and then building the new ones.

    I think every golf course architect would prefer to do things from scratch, but we learn a lot from the restorations. We learned a lot from trying to figure out what Tillinghast did at Winged Foot, what Ross did at Aronimink, or what Raynor and Macdonald did at Sleepy Hollow. So I think we take an awful lot out of those projects that helps us with our own individual designs.

    Jim Wagner: My name is Jim Wagner. I’m a golf course designer. We are at the Ohoopee Match Club in Cobbtown, Georgia, one of our most recent designs. It’s 22 holes, so you can have different forms of golf.

    We have the main golf course which we’re on now, which is 18 holes, 7,000 yards; and then we have an afternoon or whiskey routing, which takes the 4 extra holes and kind of adds that into 14 of the other holes for an afternoon routing of roughly 5600, 5800 yards.

    So it’s fun. It’s interesting.

    I mean, I always ask myself, like-

    Spoken on screen text: Why does a golf course have to be 18 holes?

    Jim Wagner: Why does it have to be nine? Why does it have to have returning nines? And I think the ability just to get people to go out and play, enjoy the game of golf, whether that’s, you know, 5 holes, 9 holes, 12 holes—I don’t think any of that should matter.

    Gil Hanse: That’s perfect.

    Jim Wagner: I think the no par came about through Michael Walrath, the owner. Michael wanted to do something different and did not have a problem with unconventional golf. If we can call it unconventional. It’s really about finding the land to create fun and interesting golf.

    Gil Hanse: I think people are rethinking “What is quality golf? What is the experience?“ I mean, people talk so much about golf being too difficult and too long. But I think actually, the fact that you get four hours detached from your cord and your phone is something we should celebrate for the game, instead of apologizing for it.

    And I think a lot of what’s happening now is an appreciation of the simpler form of the game that we started off with. And then it just got so complicated and lost along the way. And I think we’re kind of getting back to where it should be and where it had been.

    Jim Wagner: All right. Thank you.

    Gil Hanse: My grandfather introduced me to the game. I idolized him; he was great, and he was the only person in our family who played golf. And so I think the opportunity to be with him out in that special landscape always intrigued me. But then I went down reality’s path and studied political science and history, but then switching to landscape architecture. First summer I worked golf course maintenance; second summer I worked construction for Tom Doak. I was really lucky. It wasn’t a straight line in any way, shape, or form. Tom taught me a lot about construction and the role of the architect in construction and, you know, the kind of design-build process that Jim and I have always employed.

    It’s an interesting dynamic.

    Spoken on screen text: Really I work in both construction and boardrooms.

    Jim Wagner: It’s long days, six days a week, and it’s anything but glamorous when you’re out there in the field.

    But when Gil shows up at 6:30, 7 o’clock in the morning, he’s the first one out on the bulldozer and most likely one of the last ones in at night.

    Yeah, I think that’s something that challenges us all.

    Gil Hanse: You know, we’re outside in the dirt, working all day, and then you go in and you’re sitting in front of a board at a very conservative club, and you’re having to present to them the sort of vision for the future of a club that maybe has been in existence for over 100 years and obviously has very strong traditions and a very strong background. And you’re crossing that. But I feel very comfortable in both worlds. I obviously respect a lot of the work that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw do. Tom Doak was a mentor to me. I worked for him for four years. I think David Kidd and Mike DeVries do really exciting work.

    But then about five years ago, I just realized, you know what, the best golf architect in the world and the guy that’s had the best and biggest influence on me is the guy that’s sitting next to me for 25 years.

    Jim Wagner is just an incredible talent. The work he did in Merion—I mean, every single person on that job was just gobsmacked. And we were just standing there looking and going, is that possible? Can you actually make a machine do what he just did? I’ve been the luckiest man for any number of reasons: great wife, great family, great life, wonderful career. But the fact that somehow Jim Wagner walked into my life 25 years ago—I can’t imagine how much worse our work would be without him being involved.

    And so it’s just, yeah, it’s been a great ride, and I’m hopeful it keeps going for a long, long time.

    On screen text: When it opened, Ohoopee match club was named best new private course by both Golf Digest and

    Hanse & Wagner courses will host more than a dozen majors over the next ten years.

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    [Charles Schwab logo] Own your tomorrow

    Gil Hanse: One of the nicest compliments we’ve ever gotten was when Bill Coore said, “I love walking your courses because I’m never sure what I’m going to see next.“

    And when somebody like that says that, that’s amazing.

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    Onscreen text: Thanks to Michael Walrath

    Ohoopee Match Club

    Pat Worsham

    Todd C. Sapere, PGA

Why does a golf course have to be 18 holes?

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