The Shaper, What do you do?
Mickelson National Golf Club is a Mickelson Design product. The stamp of approval comes from Phil Mickelson, Rick Smith, design consultant and Mike Angus, design Director. Down the road, those will be the names on the architects list. All, have had a massive impact on what Mickelson National will be, but from an everyday, every man perspective, the place of the shaper is completely under the radar.
The best way to understand what these dirt movers do is to imagine a painter only telling its paintbrush what to do through body language, the art of hand gestures, replicating how the roll of the land should dip and flow. Articulating a philosophy, elevation changes and viewing areas interspersed with adventure golf, it can be a delicate thing. Now the paintbrush or the shaper takes all that vision, all that passion and pushes dirt around to form art on earth. In this case, art is unfolding in the foothills of Springbank, Alberta.
Driving bulldozers or backhoes is a physical, masculine type job. Moving earth from one place to another and shaping it to the specifics that are required while working the iron. Shapers bring a fascinating skill set to the job, comfortable and battle tested on the machinery. But with vision and a creative touch of an artist, shapers are different. Good different, but not common. And if they see how a course will evolve and play, considering maintenance practices and playability, then you may end up with something special.
Golf design requires dirt to be moved, some courses move a little, some much, much more. It really depends on the natural gifts of the land and surroundings. And what the end game is? Mickelson National is on the large side when it comes to dirt movement. When I say large, I mean behemoth. The site has been moved down and up, with hills and valleys that look like they have always been there. The site was originally flat with no trees. So it really is a blank canvas, a 3d canvas with viewing areas to watch 4 and 5 holes at once. This really is big league sculpting with huge machinery.
The relationship between designer and shaper is a fascinating one. Communication and understanding while still allowing for the artist and the paintbrush to have a creative collaboration. Watching the course evolve from week to week is exhilarating but it gets me to thinking, will building courses from the ground up be a thing of the past? I’m sure the golf course reno business will be booming but new builds, a blank canvas, that, I’m unsure of.
Come for a tour before its complete!