Monday, 22 February 2016

Business Lesson from My Father

I was thinking about a recent project that I missed out on. The reason they said was that I did not have an in house shaping crew. This approach is the most common methodology for new golf development, but is becoming a popular for renovation work too. It got me thinking about whether I should change my approach or not.

One of the things you will likely not know about me is the fact that my father is a biggest influence on how I run my own design business. He bought, sold and restructured businesses for other people. He mainly dealt with businesses that could not grow beyond their initial success. I remember him saying the key to being successful in business was being known for delivering high quality product, always on time, for a fair price. This created long term customers.

My father believed that it a company rushed out a new offering to diversify and it failed, this would undermine the original business. I have seen competitors reinvent themselves by offering more services. Their original reputation was excellent, but because their work is inferior to the experts in that industry their original business is facing questions of quality. If I add a shaper that in any way poorly represents me, I’ve hurt my business.

Many of my direct competitors offer or have gone to design / build. It’s clearly popular and I certainly appreciate the quality control that is developed from this arrangement. The fact that a contractor still finishes 95% of these projects points out it’s a question of in house versus contractor based shaping. I considered this arrangement, but that would change my business. I would need one US based shaper and another in Canada to meet the needs of my clientele, but this would undermine some great relationships with contractors where I do get their best people. And more importantly I would have to take on more work which reduces my ability to be selective.

Most of my contemporaries suffer from the ups and downs in the market. I have no overhead, so while I face ripples many of them face waves. My method means I’m not ever forced to take on anything for financial reasons. I’m never overbooked. I service my clients right away. While I’m sure this removes some opportunities and leaves some income on the table, I find my clients to be loyal to me. Because of this I'm never forced to take work I don't want..
The choice not to go to design / build might hurt my business opportunities. But it won’t stop them from coming in either. I'm recommended by contractors, historians, agronomists, irrigation designers and even other architects. I'm in a good place.

I thought about making changes for a while this winter, but in the end I know my father would have recommended staying the course you're on. It's already exceeded your expectations, so be patient and it will do so again in the future.

Friday, 11 December 2015

2015 The Year in Review - Part 5 – Ian Andrew Golf Design


The year started slow. After a ridiculously busy year in 2014, I was happy to have some time off for family and golf. But around August 1st the year took off with a number of one month projects coming out of nowhere. 2 set of plans for Green Rebuilding, an expropriation issue, putting two bunker projects out to tender filled my evenings and week-ends. That was because at the same time the Fall Construction Season began and I had lots to do.

Fall Construction went till early December this year

By The Numbers


Miles Driven for Work: 22,600 km. (not including rental car miles)
Flights Taken: 56
Flights remaining: 2
Total Miles Flown: 54,359 miles to date
Nights in Holiday Inn: 40
Rental Cars: 27

My Business

American Clients: now 33%
Last 10 Clients: 9 are American Clubs
Interviews: 5 - all in US
New clients: 1
Waiting to hear from: 3
Calls about new projects: 2
Interviews Declined: 2

New Client

Springdale's Short Par 3 - 13th

Springdale Golf Club which is on Princeton University Grounds. It is a course built by William Flynn which remains largely intact except the bunkers which will need restoration. Wayne Morrison and I put together a Master Plan and began to work on the course this year by altering all the grassing lines.

A New Course for Weir Golf Design?

We are currently in talks about a potential new Canadian golf course project. We’ve submitted a proposal after being contacted about our interest, and are waiting till the New Year to hear back from the Development Group. The site is large, quite interesting and the golf course would be part of a much larger development. I wish I could share more, but we have not yet been signed on to do the project.

Openings - Part One - Islington

Islington's punchbowl style 9th green

Islington opened all there 18 greens in the Spring. The project was a third restorative, a third minor renovations and a third significant change with some new ideas brought into play. That decision was based upon the fact that only seven Thompson greens remained and the club encouraged me to explore broader ideas. The major work addressed safety, drainage issues and making better use of valley drop off. The biggest change was the relocated 15th green set further away from Kipling and out of the flood plain.

Openings - Part Two - St. George's

St. George's 3rd hole

St. George's re-opened in the summer. The work there was green rebuilding and a little fairway re-contouring done in collaboration with Tom Doak. There were a couple of replicated greens, others have minor tweaks for either drainage or speed. But all the Robinson greens were completely renovated to become more like the Thompson greens. The biggest change was the 3rd which was restored to the original design.

Openings - Part Three - Maple Downs

The Redan - 8th Hole at Maple Downs

They wisely waited till Fall to open the greens. I was asked to rebuild greens, tees and bunkers. I also took the opportunity to rethink and widen the fairways lines. The golf course has a very clear Seth Raynor influence. The feedback from members has been overwhelmingly good. They are enjoying all the new ground based options. 

The 12th may be the best hole I have built in my career

The 12th at Maple Downs

All the Options
The approach from the right

Fall Construction – Part One – Oakdale’s 5th Green

5th completed Fall of 2015

This was a chance to prove a point to many people. The members have been frustrated over the years with most of the renovations that have taken place, so this was my chance to prove I can come through. Where this project was unique was we moved an iconic green site away from a road and rebuilt the exact same green site with a slightly revised backdrop to address the new location and cart path alterations.

Fall Construction – Part Two – Laval-sur-le-lac’s Green Course

2nd Hole at Laval-sur-le-lac Green Course

By far the largest project is taking place at Laval-sur-le-lac on the Green Course. I found some 1920’s aerials ad once again pitched my desire to take the architecture back to its roots. The club was supportive this time and we are recreating the grass faced bunkers and square green sites of Willie Park Jr. The intention is to rid the course of the modernizations and return some of the old world elegance that it once possessed. Throw in some large scale tree removal and this course is in serious transition.

Construction – Part Three – Summary of Remaining Work

Huntington - was a forest behind the green a year ago

Each time I say bunkers, I’m referring to as few as one and no more than ten. These are all small projects that range from a week to a month’s worth of work.

Cedar Brae – 7th and 17th Bunkers
Glens Falls – Grassing Lines
Huntington – tee work and tree clearing
Huntington Crescent – Grassing Lines
Islington – Remaining 8 Fairway Bunkers
Pinegrove – 15th hole Bunkers
Quogue - Bunker work on 6th green
Spring Brook – 3rd hole Bunker and short grass work
Springdale- Grassing lines
St. George’s – Bunker Restoration on 12th Hole
St. Thomas – 13th Hole bunkers
Wheatley Hills – Bunkers on 11th, 12th 13th, 15th and 16th Holes

The Year Ahead

The only work that I know is going to happen is at Laval-sur-le-lac in the Spring where we will finish remaining bunker and green work. After that, I’m not sure what is to come, but this is pretty typical for me.

I expect to be rebuilding a few greens at Penn Hills and a full bunker restoration project at Park CC in Buffalo.

And if I’m short of work, I plan to play more golf …   : )

Thursday, 10 December 2015

2015 Year in Review - Part 4 – In The Media

My Own Writing

Jasper Park's 9th

Jasper Park History – Golf Club Atlas

“This piece began when I purchased a collection of original Jasper Park photos taken just after opening. The bunkering that I loved was not the bunkering found in the photos…”

Ian McQueen on left - picture by Brent Long

Green is Beautiful – Building Steeper Greens

“I’d rather the golf superintendent try to manage speed than try to manufacture it.”

Opinions and Interviews

8th at Maple Downs - The Redan

Interview with Ian Andrew – Geeked on Golf

How do you know when you have hit the sweet spot in your work?

“As strange as it sounds, it’s when you leave your comfort zone and build something that tests the boundaries of what’s acceptable to the average player.  You immediately find yourself questioning whether people will accept that feature or that concept.  And you know there’s no guarantee that everything done in that context will work, but greatness lies in that uncomfortable place.  Playing it safe has never furthered any art form.”

photo by John Michael Sillivan

Architectural Q&A – Part 1 – Augusta National

“It was originally a course full of width and options. Competitors had the opportunity to play for positions that made certain pin locations much easier to access. For many of the holes, the addition of rough and trees have removed these options. Those holes are less compelling to watch.

New 2nd green bunkers - image courtesy of PGA or Australia

Architectural Q&A – Part 2 – The Old Course

“The Old Course changes were where they crossed the line for me. They were inconsequential to the outcome and defiled the most  important piece of golf architecture the game has. They were arrogant to think they could improve upon what was there.

Writing About My Work

courtesy Ian McQueen

Reintroducing Islington – Jason Logan – Score Golf

“Without question, Islington has emerged from two natural-disaster-filled years as a better course. Short-term pain for long-term gain indeed.

1st at St. George's - image by Clive Barber

St. George’s Restores It’s Lustre – Lorne Rubenstein

“The club choose wisely in hiring Andrew, a Thompson student through and through, and Doak, who made his way through hundreds of courses in the U.K. before getting into his career.

In Pursuit of Practice – Lorne Rubenstein

“Weir’s creative juices were flowing. I wasn’t surprised to learn that he and architect Ian Andrew have used the ground effectively in their re-do of Laval-sur-le-Lac’s Blue Course. I’ve not yet seen the course, but by all accounts their work is impressive.”

fav. image - by Mark Alexander

Year on Twitter    @ianandrewgolf

My favourite five tweets from 2015:

Opportunity never comes from wishing. It comes from action Take a chance, say something important and give someone a reason to gamble on you

A better Environmental answer is not that hard, but support from Municipalities and golfers would make it far easier

I struggle playing in competitions, not because I'm judged as a player, but because I HAVE been judged as an architect based upon my play

Biggest recent news was being asked to become a Golf Magazine Panelist. I participated in this year’s Top100 and consider this a big honour

Golf Architects are judged on the chances and risks they take with their art. Taking none is a choice and that work is rightfully dismissed

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

2015 Year in Review - Part 3 – The Year In Golf

Robert Allenby - Part One

courtesy Sky Sports

Robert Allenby began everything by saying, "I didn't think I was going to survive this one" An unbelievable story of kidnapping, burglary and salvation by homeless Hawaiians...

Then came the revelation from someone there, Moments before Australian pro golfer Robert Allenby injured himself by passing out and hitting his head on a lava rock early Saturday, he told a homeless man that he was depressed and had been drugged at a strip club where he went to get some "action."

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club adds Women

On February 10, 2015 The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews announced the addition of The Princess Royal, Dame Laura Davies, Renée Powell, Belle Robertson MBE, Lally Segard, Annika Sorenstam and Louise Suggs as honorary members of the Club.

Jay Morrish

In sad news we all learnt of the passing of a terrific architect and even better story teller Jay Morrish


Course continues to take some criticisms and get some tweaks, but all in all Doral seems to have found its teeth … frustrating Rory Mcilroy to the point of throwing his club on 18.

“Felt good at the time … if it had been any other club I probably wouldn’t have but I didn’t need a 3 – iron for the rest of the round, so I thought why not?”

Palmer to build second course at Castle Stuart

The Palmer course will start upland and behind the existing front nine, near the castle that is within view of the current par-3 fourth hole. The new course will stretch west along a little bay formed at the bottom of the Moray Firth. The site is sandy and elevated, offering long views of the lower firth and Inverness.

Sharp Park Saved

A four-year-old lawsuit brought by a collection of environmentalist groups to close Sharp Park Golf Course by Alister MacKenzie came to an end when a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal.

Pasatiempo - courtesy golf digest

California and Water

There`s a really strong possibility that Golf in the Southwest may see a moratorium on new construction if the droughts continue and the pressure to preserve water increases.

John Strege talked to Craig Kessler, who says courses have done a lot to cut back and prepare for this day. Most water providers, especially the biggest among them in Southern California, have mechanisms in place to deal with large landscapes,” Kessler said. “They’re already in a reduction mode. To meet what the government is asking for will require an additional five percent to what they are saving now. So in terms of process it’s not going to be particularly difficult. There are mechanisms that make sense in place for the reduction.”

In can see a future where the existing facilities must meet very particular criteria in regards to water to continue operation. Others are simply forced to closed a access is removed for not meeting the requirements. It only makes sense.

Masters Recap

From Scott Michaux of the Augusta Cronicle, 
"The numbers – as crazy as they are – almost don’t do Spieth’s performance justice. His 64 was the lowest first round by a Masters champion. His 14-under was the lowest 36-hole total. His 16-under was the lowest 54-hole score. His 18-under tied Woods’ all-time mark. He was the first player in Masters history to post a red “19” on the scoreboards. His 28 birdies were three more than Phil Mickelson’s record in 2001."

Fox Sports and Golf

I guess it takes one to know one. Greg Norman said, Ì never watch golf” in a promotional video tweeted by Fox Sports, "because the coverage is so boring." And quickly Greg proved he obviously can't do any better.

“The Drop”

A rules official was with the group as Bradley and his caddie Steve Hale were explaining their drop but Jimenez did not agree. He came over and questioned the drop. When Hale said something to Jimenez, he told Hale to "shut up," which prompted Bradley to go face to face with Jimenez in one of the more odd exchanges on the course. 

Sawgrass Changes to 12?

More changes coming to Sawgrass, the short features a small green and large mounds that create a blind approach shot. The plan is to make the hole a drivable par 4 by knocking down the mounds, creating a water hazard, and re-positioning the green. Players will prefer the idea, architects will miss the clever little hole.

Solheinm Cup - “Concessiongate”

In hindsight I just realized I actually don’t know who won, but I sure as heck remember the conceded putt that wasn’t conceded. It was egregious in what is supposed to be a friendly competition for the good of the game and left Suzanne Petterson scrambling. But to her credit she said,“I've never felt more gutted and truly sad about what went down Sunday on the 17th at the Solheim Cup. I am so sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle and competition.” We make mistakes ... if we admit that with honesty, then we should be forgiven for them.

US Open - Chambers Bay - Part One

courtesy golf week

I really like Mike Davis, but he overthought the 1st and 18th. Why mix the par on the opening and closing holes? Jordan Spieth’s comment about how the 18th didn’t work sort of summed things up. “And if it's going to be a par 4 and you're going to bring that other bunker into play, I think the tee should have been moved up more. . . . I just didn't know where I could hit that tee shot. . . . I wasn't going to hit a 3-iron off the tee and then hit 3-wood. . . . So all in all, I thought it was dumb hole today."

US Open - Chambers Bay - Part Two

Gary Player calls the design a "tragedy," "devastating" and not a model for public golf.” I do agree with the costs being ridiculous and the difficulty of the walk on the upper holes very questionable in the routing, but the course is fun and playable.  Robert Trent Jones Jr. responds to Gary Player: “He has not demonstrated an ability to design courses of championship quality." Awesome comeback … +1 to RTJ Jr.

US Open - Chambers Bay - Part Three

It may not have looked like a US Open course as some players said. It may not have had the best playing greens. But boy did it bring is some great drama. Whether that was the course or circumstance, it was a fun US Open to watch. Two Thumbs up from me.

World Golf Hall of Fame – AW Tillinghast

He should have been among the first four architects inducted on the first day the Hall of Fame existed. The quality and importance of his courses should have been enough, but then the writing and all the other roles he played make him a first ballot Hall of Famer. It took way too long.

courtesy of bleacher report

British Open – St. Andrews

Zach Johnson won showing intelligence and positioning still can still be more valuable than power. It looked for a while that length had a clear advantage until set-up and some windy conditions levelled the playing field.

While I would like to blame the R&A for what happened with the plan and delays regarding wind. I think the pressure to play and the new higher green speeds were an unexpected problem. Peter Dawson’s comments showed clear regret so I felt sorry for his predicament. It did lead to a poignant question from one of the reporters, You said the 11th green a few weeks before the tournament is now puttable in high winds with the changes you've made. You've also said today that the green speed is on that green treated differently. Might you be willing to reconsider what you feel is the championship green speed that you discussed earlier? Is that something that would seem reasonable in light of what's happened?” He had a reasonable response, put in an impossible situation, but the point was clearly made by the reporter.

Canadian Open – The Return of Robert Allenby - Part One

The most interesting moment at Glen Abbey came when Allenby fired his caddy mid round. The high drama of threats and counter threats was really funny. But the hits continued as the caddy was now open to talk about Hawaii, so he shared, Allenby simply fell over and injured his face after drinking too much wine and tequila and not eating enough food.” Which we all knew….

Canadian Open – “It’s the Ball” - Part Two

Yes I’m a broken record on this issue, but Jason Day and Bubba Watson both had under 75-yard shots into a 456-yard par-4 Sunday. It’s why I don’t watch much beyond the majors, the game is “compromised” by the ball.

courtesy golfweek

Canadian Open – Glen Abbey - Part Three

The only good news is the one dimensional Glen Abbey is going to be housing, meaning the Open will see more of courses like St. George’s. Buh-bye ...

PGA - Whistling Straights

I was impressed with Jason’s Day’s combination of raw power and skill, but the ability to go to 20 under essentially proves that Pete Dye’s “later” version of tournament golf doesn’t work with how the game has evolved. Worse is the fact those courses are unplayable for everyone else.

I found the event watchable “only” because I was actively rooting for Jason Day. I found the course and the event frustrating at times because it became only about length and overpowering a golf course.

Quote of the Year - Brandel Chamblee

I’m certainly not in agreement with him, but wow, I was kind of shocked by what he said in regards to Tiger and Phil, “I don’t really think it’s appropriate to give players a leadership role in an event that they didn’t show interest or passion for when they were competitors.” What was Brandel's record in these events anyway? ...

Open Goes to Royal Portrush

courtesy Geoff Shackelford

This is good for society. In an era where sides are being drawn everywhere, this thrills me for what it says about the R&A.

“As for the two new holes, the downhill seventh will be a 572 yard par five, restoring the yardage lost with the elimination of the 17th, which features the much loved Big Nellie fairway bunker on the right. Fear not, there will be a new Big Nellie on the new seventh for The Open, which will almost certainly be held in 2019 now that planning permission has been granted by the local authority. It is proposed that ‘Big Nellie’ from the existing 17th hole is recreated to the right of this new hole,” the architects explain. “It would fit in very well into the huge dune bank.”

Tweet of the Year – Donald Trump

I bet you thought I would touch the scandal he set off with his racist comments. I decided that he wasn’t worth the words on the blog…

But this gem is “Both Aberdeen and Turnberry in Scotland, and the soon to open Doonbeg in Ireland, blow Bandon Dunes away. Bandon is a toy by comparison!"

The Donald proves once again he deserves the Foot in Mouth Award ... saying it doesn't make it fact ... kind of like his net worth.

China – The Golf Boom that Isn’t

I said for years the Black Swan Event for golf architects will be a complete stop on work in China. Well it’s here and I’m curious to watch the fall out as it goes from a short break to perhaps a decade …now that golf’s socially unacceptable in the higher levels of society, the development boom is dead.

courtesy Seattle Times

Morning Drive's Water Week coverage

Kudos to Matt Ginella and Golf Channel. I may have other complaints about telling the same stories at times, but this was great. They covered advancements, techniques and even projects with Poppy Hills. Lots of great information and interesting people.

Olympic Course

The course will be great, the biggest question is “will it survive.”

The cynics view from Wall Street Journal, “The sure winner is probably the developer Mauro, who is building the course with private money. It follows the pattern of other Olympic projects in Rio, where large real estate interests have moved in. Another is the nearby Athletes Village — 3,600 high-end apartment units — that will be sold off after the games.”

Robert Allenby – Part Three

Like the gift that keeps on giving .... late in the year this gem from Robert Floyd, “You kind of need to accept responsibility for your own actions on the golf course,” said Floyd, who caddied for Allenby for about nine months starting in 2011. “He never has and never will."

The Year Ahead?

The Olympic Course and golf receives massive attention when a player goes four under in the last three holes to win.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

2015 Year in Review - Part 2 – Ian’s Golf Travels

I turned 50 this year and I used that as an excuse to make a lot more effort to play golf. I joined the 4th oldest club in North America - Brantford G&CC - so that I could spontaneously play whenever I liked … and I did often. I also arranged to play matches in the South of England and Boston and finally I made my traditional Spring golf trip to the UK. It was a great golfing year with lots to talk about.

The Best Course I Played - Royal St. George’s

The famous 4th - image courtesy of  Sterling Golf Tours

The golf course is great in many aspects, but it's the greens that floored me, St. George’s has one of the greatest collections of green contours I’ve had the privilege to play. I was absolutely flabbergasted on occasion by the shear audacity of those greens. I want to go back and spend a day walking the greens without playing the course.

The Next Best – St. Enodoc

St. Enodoc's famous 6th - image courtesy of Planet Golf

There were at least eight “outstanding holes” and the 6th is truly iconic. Even the “other” holes impressed me with their variety, balance and fearlessness in how they attacked the terrain. It’s an exceptional course and got a vote for the Top 100 from me (I’m a Golf Magazine Panelist). 

Bethpage Black Award -– Part One – Sunningdale New

6th at Sunningdale New - courtesy of Golf Club Atlas

(The award is given out when exceptional architecture is ruined by a ridiculously oppressive set-up that only identifies precision and removes all the delicious options that the architect has originally baked into the design)

Sunningdale New is a truly great layout, full of great architectural decisions and some sublime holes. The use of terrian is exceptional and the green sites are brilliantly pieced together. The 12th hole was my selection for the best hole on the golfing study tour. 

But the combination of narrow fairways and oppressive heather managed to reduce the round to a test of precision and little more. It’s not awful, but it does lesser the potential enjoyment of this landscape because of how they choose to set it up.

Harder is Better Award – Saunton East

This club desperately wants to host events. And unfortunately, some of the decision making is clouded by this objective. The course is good, but will never be great with their myopic focus on difficulty.

I’ll never understand the concept of reeds lining the immediate fairway edge as a hazard. Fescue works fine with its multitude of good and bad lies and arbitrary results. But an unplayable, or worse lost ball six feet from a fairway edge is stupid. 

Golf course is good, could be very good, but the reeds limited my respect for this links.

Biggest Surprise this Year - Boston Golf Club

15th at Boston Golf Club - courtesy Golf Course Guru . com

I was excited to play, but had no idea of how strong a golf course this would be. It has two stunning runs (4-7) and (12-16) where hole after hole is exceptional. I was super impressed with many of the decisions and ideas presented for play. 

Best part was my partner for the event was Gil Hanse and we were low group for that particular day.

Future Trips:

Don’t expect to go overseas this year.

The given: 

I will see Sand Hills this year. I simply have to make the arrangements with a kind friend who has asked me to come his way.

The very likely: 

I have work in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. And I plan to see: Eastward Ho, Myopia Hunt in Mass, Somerset Hills, Plainfield and Ridgewood in NJ and get out to Piping Rock in Long Island. I think this is all in the cards. A Cleveland trip may also fall into place too.

Three Cool Standing Invites

Pine Valley, Myopia Hunt and Sand Hills

Three Invites I Don’t Have … but would appreciate  :  )

1. Augusta National
2. Swinley Forrest
3. Hirono

What’s the Next Big Trip?

Ganton Golf Club - courtesy of Global Golf Links

Likely 2017: Manchester/Liverpool with side trips to Ganton and other remote links courses in the midlands