Mark Rathert, ASGCA, (and Rathert Golf Design) has made quite the positive impact on the game of golf during nearly four decades as a golf course architect, including course designs in Las Vegas. Las Vegas Golf & Leisure recently profiled Rathert and his work in Nevada.
The publication wrote:
Mark Rathert is a golf course architect’s golf course architect, if you get our meaning. He comes across as an everyday guy doing a dream job and as the type of designer who will pour every ounce of his golf soul into a project.
He’s been in the business for about four decades and began his journey by working with Robert Trent Jones II in 1977. Since then, Rathert, a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects since 1981, has designed courses all over the world, including a couple of projects right here in the city that glitters. Rathert created Boulder Creek Golf Club, a 27-hole facility, and also helped modernize The Las Vegas Country Club, which opened in 1967, originally designed by Ed Ault.
Here are Rathert’s thoughts about the projects in his own words:
Question: What is the first thing that comes to mind about Boulder Creek?
Answer: I am very proud of the golf course at Boulder Creek. It was our vision to create a golfing experience for the municipal golfer that would emulate traits found at the exclusive clubs in Las Vegas. The course design took advantage of the natural sandy terrain and was accentuated with lakes, streams and waterfalls providing an oasis feel on many holes. The design promotes long-term sustainably for maintenance requirements while offering quality conditions at affordable price per round.
Q: What is your favorite Design attribute?
A: The design concept for Boulder Creek embraces each nine having three environments that include desert, arroyos and water hole oasis. That keeps the holes from becoming monotonous. With that said, my favorite holes are those that offer choices from the tee such as #2, #7 and #9 on Desert Hawk and #4, #7, and #9 on Coyote Run. One feature incorporated into my green designs was taking advantage of the site scale where putts often look uphill or downhill, but are actually much less severe than they look or feel. The good player has to keep in mind the site slopes toward the dry lake far off in the distance and has a great influence on what is level or not.
Q: What is the first thing that comes to mind about the Las Vegas Country Club (LVCC) renovation?
A: I try not to bring a preconceived design philosophy to a project as I find my best work comes from first gaining a good understanding of what the membership, usually expressed by a committee, wants me to do. A big question the Green’s Committee was struggling with was; did the project need to “restore” the course to its former state, or “renovate” using new ideas?
As I surveyed the Las Vegas Country Club grounds for the first time, I was struck by the course’s mature park like setting in the desert environment where fairways were tree lined with turf in abundance. The course featured runway style tees, push-up style greens with subtle contours, shallow clamshell bunkering and smaller ponds set back from the greens and fairways, all from a popular 1960’s design style. The Club has a mature membership who liked the course the way it was as many had been playing it for over 30 years.
The course underwent a greens surfacing restoration five years prior, which unfortunately was unsuccessful. From comments received, I felt the best way to proceed was to propose a feature renovation that invoked a design philosophy for keeping a “classic design style” while improving individual hole strategy by adjusting the green contouring and bunkering to account for improvements in club and ball technologies while greatly improving course agronomics and infrastructure deficits.
Q: How did you modernize LVCC while staying true to the original design?
A: Staying true to a “classic” style of architecture relies on maintaining playability, sustainable maintenance and overall player enjoyment; not introducing overt difficulty and trendy gimmicks. The course layout remained intact as the renovation focused on adjusting all green and bunker complexes and about a third of the tee complexes with some fairway re-contouring.
Keeping the rhythm of how the course played was an important consideration with what was considered an “easy hole” remaining a birdie opportunity while difficult holes stayed a hard par or easy bogey. I found some holes were modified or changed over the years from the original layout by different architects. Restoring the course’s cohesive look or style was very important so the end result focused on restoring “quality conditions” that had gradually diminished over the years.
I felt by carefully crafting plateau style greens and a bit deeper bunker complexes it would add more variety and excitement thus creating strategic challenges making the course more engaging for the players.