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Civil engineering senior tees off in Links Magazine design contest

Golf is a popular sport, one that many participants play well into their old age. But what started out as a hobby for one Lehigh senior may prove to provide more than a way to ruin an otherwise perfect Saturday afternoon.



Doug Wright

Doug Wright ’09, a senior majoring in civil engineering is the winner of a golf course design contest sponsored by Links Magazine. Wright drew plans for the thirteenth hole on an Arthur-Hills designed course at the Westhaven Golf Club in Franklin, Tennessee.

He beat out nearly 1,200 other applicants including landscapers, engineers, and architects to have his hole used in the golf course that will open in July, 2009. The competition was judged by the magazine and by the firm who created the rest of the course.

Not only was Wright’s design innovative and challenging, but it meshed well with the other 17 holes.

Applicants were given a picture of the course, an overhead of the hole that was to be designed, the dimensions of the area, and the specification that this was to be a par-4 hole. All other elements were left up to the designers.

“The first issue was to look for something that fit the rest of the course,” says Wright. “It needed to be similar to what they already had, and half of the design is dictated by the dimensions of the area. The rest is purely imagination.”

His finished sketch included details on the slope of the land, addition and removal of trees, and a close-up of the green. Although he didn’t have to consider it for this particular project, Wright points out that architects are also limited by the economics of changing the land to fit their ideas.

Wright has already been on location twice since he won the competition to make sure that the hole he designed is being constructed in accordance with his plans. This spring, he will visit Westhaven Golf Club one more time to see the finished product.

“Each time I traveled to Tennessee, I was able to see a number of different phases of construction,” Wright says. Each of the eighteen holes is built at a different rate, so while some holes are finished, others are in their initial phases.


Green detail from Doug's winning entry



“They give me a full tour of the course when I visit, so I’ve been able to see the evolution of the whole course, including my hole,” he says. As of his last visit, contractors had built the features of the course and shaped the dirt so that only minor elements—such as seeding the course—were left to be completed.

A history in golf

The Links competition wasn’t Wright’s first attempt at golf course design. Inheriting a love of the game and its design from his father, Wright learned to play golf at the age of six and began drawing courses when he was about 10 years old. “I’ve been interested in design and architecture for a long time,” he admits. “I took art classes in high school, but other than that I just rely on my creativity.”

When he was a junior in high school, Wright decided that he wanted to be a golf architect, so he shadowed one as part of a high school program in his hometown in Maine. “He recommended that I pursue civil engineering,” says Wright. “An engineering education would provide a vital asset to a variety of golf course design companies.”

His love for the game doesn’t stop at course design. Wright played on the Lehigh varsity golf team until he went abroad as a junior. Upon return, he finished the year with the club team.

Life at Lehigh

“I chose Lehigh because I love the environment here,” says Wright. “I came from a relatively small high school and I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd. Plus, Lehigh has a great reputation for engineering.”

Wright has had the opportunity to tailor some of his classes towards developing skills in golf course design. He wrote a term paper for his professional development class about water resource issues and has taken a class about ground water contaminants in water and soil.

For his Capstone Hydraulics project, he worked on designing the irrigation system for the proposed golf course to be built on Goodman campus and this semester he is performing an independent research project in which he will design the drainage system for the same golf course.

In between his studies, Wright found the time to study abroad in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh. Although he didn’t join a golf team, he did find the time to engage in some exciting outdoor activities through the Lehigh Mountaineering Club. “I like hiking, camping, and skiing in my free time,” Wright says. “The Appalachian trail is nearby, so that’s where I can go to do those things.”

This summer after his May graduation, Wright will take on a construction intern for Tom Doak of Renaissance Golf Design, one of the world’s foremost golf architects.

-Christine Rapp

Posted on Monday, March 02, 2009

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