I believe in the last dozen years social media has played a role in shaping the direction of golf architecture. The emergence of social media has seen the rise of new writers, dedicated architecture web sites and new breed of architect who has been media savvy enough to understand the change. I personally believe social media played a role in ending the era of Modern Architecture and popularizing Minimalism.
The internet has changed golf architecture itself. It gave us a new and more efficient resource to search for information on any living or dead architect, a source of photos of their work and a list of articles written about them. It even provided a way of directly contacting them for more information. Golf architects and golf architecture has never been more easily accessible to the average person.But it goes beyond what is available. The internet has given the average person a voice. Anyone with interest in golf architecture can share their own opinions and associate with others who share their same passion. Since the internet allows people with similar interests to associate easily, we have seen the emergence of architecture discussion groups. Originally populated by people from the golf industry but it wasn’t long before passionate enthusiasts found the sites providing a much more dynamic presence.
The good was the amount of new information that became easily available as people who loved architecture as people shared research, experiences and images of what they had seen and what was being built. Since golf was in a transition period from Modernism to Minimalism it was a very exciting time to be able to watch change and new ideas coming forth in almost real time. Everyone was hooked by the fact they learnt about what was new at the same time as the insiders did.
But like everything good on the internet it had its down side too. Everything about golf architecture was slowly broken down into black and white and heroes and villains. Their heroes never make mistakes and have been deified, the villains never do anything right and should be driven out of business. And the vast majority of work being done is being missed because people perfer to concentrate only on the names they know well.Initially golf architecture writing was enriched by the addition of some wonderful new thoughtful and resourceful voices. But they too are being drowned out by the volume of web sites and web based writers. The quality of writing has dropped as there are fewer and fewer professional writers who able to make a living since a lot of content is generated for free by enthusiasts. Even worse is the blatant plagerism seen on many golf web sites.
Even design has been influenced. One of the stranger things I have watched emerge is “populist design.” For perspective we have seen this in the past when architects in the 1960’s copied Trent Jones or in the 1980’s copied the work of Pete Dye. But in the last ten years I’ve watched architects routinely “lift” the aesthetic of another architect and use it on their latest work. They go online, see what they think is cool and copy the technique. Some go as far as hiring the same shapers. Nothing hurts a style or movement faster than being overwhelmed by insincere versions of the original.
The worst aspect of this is that architects are trying to capture the attention of golf discussion groups and golf writers by being "current". I cringe particularly at the firms who directly lift one style after another, year in and year out, trying to keep up with “fashion”. The internet has made this easy and I think golf design is paying the price. I knew Modernism was dead the day when all but one significant Modern Architect opened their latest course with “Minimalist looking” bunkering.
The influence of Social media is here to stay. Some architects have already adapted and made themselves far more accessible by participating in social media. They post in public forums write for internet publications and some even write their own blogs. This has become part of a modern media strategy because they recognize the mainstream media follows social media sites looking for new and refreshing ideas to write about.
The power of social media is the illusion that fame is just one click away…