Who is Scott Hoffman?
In January 2022, a popular golf podcast “The Fried Egg,” posted an architecture conversation with Tim Jackson and David Kahn. Together the duo had built one of their industry’s up-and-coming design firms, producing prestigious courses like Scottsdale National.
Late in the hour-long interview, the podcast host asked Jackson and Kahn an intriguing question: Who would you put on your Mt. Rushmore of modern golf course architects?
Kahn mentioned Coore-Crenshaw, Pete Dye and Mike Strantz, all titans of the trade. Then he referenced a surprising name, an old colleague and design partner.
“The fourth person is very well-known to us and not to everyone else, but honestly I gotta put Scott Hoffman in that category,” Kahn said.
“He has never gotten the credit he deserves. He worked a long time under Tom Fazio. … I think he is hands down the best router of a golf course. He is absolutely the best at grading a golf course.”
Jackson chimed in: “He’s doing something in Nebraska right now that is going to be really, really cool. Scott is a pretty modest guy, he doesn’t want the limelight. … But he is one of the most talented people that no one’s ever heard of.”
Those comments were eight months before the grand opening of Hoffman’s debut solo design in his hometown, Lost Rail Golf Club, which recently earned best new private course in America, according to Golf Inc.
It’s no wonder that Mapletøn Golf Club sought Hoffman for Sioux Falls. But why did Hoffman say yes? He hesitated to pursue another project after Lost Rail, where he has a home. But after hearing Danny Amundson’s vision and making several visits to Sioux Falls, Hoffman was convinced that Mapletøn was a special opportunity.
The following is our short Q&A with the course designer.
What’s the key to a great golf course property?
SH: “Variety in the environments, movement in the land and ground that doesn’t need to be over-manipulated in order to create great golf. This property has all of that, and it comes with an ownership group that prioritizes the golf experience.”
What style do you envision for Mapletøn? Are there comparisons we might find elsewhere?
SH: “A natural, prairie course that looks and feels like it’s been there forever. Good comparisons would be the old courses on Long Island, like Shinnecock and National Golf Links.
“The bent-grass fairways will be wider than normal. Rather than bracketed bunkers at landing areas, the strategy utilizes slopes and angles. The greens will have subtle movements with a lot of surrounding short grass, which allows for creative recoveries. The bunkers will have natural, fescue edges.”
One of your highest priorities is walkability. How do you accomplish that?
SH: “A big part is hole-to-hole connections. At Mapletøn, the distances from green to tee will be as short as any I’ve done or seen, making this one of the easiest walks in all of golf.”
You were Tom Fazio’s point person on several elite courses, most notably Gozzer Ranch in Idaho (No. 37 in America, according to Golf Digest). Obviously rankings are subjective and unpredictable, but what’s the potential for Mapletøn?
SH: “It can be the best course in South Dakota and on par with the best courses in the country. It will have the necessary quality of holes, shots and different looks. No two holes will look the same and the course will play differently from day to day.
“We want to test the best players but just as importantly — if not more so — it will be extremely playable and enjoyable for the less accomplished player.”