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Lost in Cyberspace

Course designer turns hobby into sideline, Web site

This article was originally published on July 19, 1999 by SignOn San Diego and Copley News Service.

For more than 10 years, Brian Silvernail has been designing virtual courses for computer golf simulations. A graphic artist by profession, Silvernail (along with Scott Chesney) is considered one of the better course designers within the virtual golf community, and his 21 courses to date have been among the more popular since "Jack Nicklaus Signature Edition" came out early this decade.

Silvernail even managed to turn his passion for creating courses into a contract job, having teamed with Chesney to create the six courses included with the latest version of Nicklaus' golf series, "Golden Bear Challenge." (Of course, he quickly returned to hobbyist status by designing a couple of free add-on courses available from his Web site, Brian Silvernail's Golf Course Designs.) That work even led Silvernail getting to meet Nicklaus during development of "Golden Bear Challenge."

In an e-mail interview, Silvernail said he first began designing courses for computer golf for Accolade's "Mean 18" a dozen years ago.

Brian Silvernail's Golf Course Designs"I've always had a strong interest in art and design," Silvernail wrote. "Add to this the fact that I grew up with computers in the home and my father introduced me to golf when I was young, and I guess it was natural for me to be immediately drawn to creating golf courses on the computer."

Like many hobbyists, Silvernail invests more hours than would seem possible into his chosen love.

"I'd say that I spend on average between 10 and 20 hours a week designing," he wrote. "I've never actually calculated or tracked the total number of hours it takes me to complete a golf course. As long as it generally takes, I probably wouldn't want to, since it would be a scary figure."

Even with all the time spent working on simulated courses (on top of his job and family life, where he and his wife, Leslie, recently welcomed their first child, Christopher), Silvernail says he does still get out on the links to play real golf, "but not too well."

"I probably play about once every other month. I don't have a handicap at the moment, but I generally shoot in the mid to low 90s."

Still, Silvernail says the hours spent in front of a computer either designing or playing his courses does pay off when he's holding a club in his hands.

"Designing and playing golf on the computer helps me to notice design aspects of a real golf course and formulate better strategy for playing the hole."