What distinguished Arnold Palmer as a golf-course designer


It’s time to talk about The King, specifically the golf courses of Arnold Palmer Design Company.

For more than 45 years, Palmer’s design company has built highly entertaining and beautiful courses worldwide for clients who were proud to display the Palmer name. But was there a cohesive design intent behind the hundreds of courses the firm produced?

Principal Thad Layton, who has been with the company for 20 years, shares stories with Salon hosts Jim Urbina and Golf Digest associate editor of architecture Derek Duncan about working with Palmer (who passed away in 2016)—how the firm’s style has and hasn’t changed through time and how Palmer reacted when he took certain design elements too far.

Annika Sorenstam left and Thad Layton golf course architect looked over a fairway at the newly designed The Royal Golf Club Thursday September 29, 2016 in Lake Elmo, MN. ] The new King and Queen Golf Club is being constructed with high hopes, courtesy of
(Photo By Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Annika Sorenstam (left) and Thad Layton golf course architect, principal architect of the Arnold Palmer design company, look over a fairway at the newly designed The Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo, Minn., in Sept. 2016.

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Folded into the discussion about the courses of Palmer is an examination of the unwritten rules of golf architecture: Have there ever been binding rules that govern the direction of architecture (par must be 72; each nine should ideally return to the clubhouse), which of these “rules” are superfluous, how to recognize the creative line-in-the-sand, and when it’s permissible—and even desirable—for designers to break convention.

Click below to listen to the latest episode of the “Feed the Ball” podcast, brought to you by Golf Digest:

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