Monday, 15 December 2014

The Year in Review - Part Three - Golf Architecture

The Year in Golf Architecture

Larry Packard Passes

January began on a sad note when ASGCA member and past president Larry Packard died. He began his career with Robert Bruce Harris in the 1940’s and worked on approximately 600 courses in his lifetime, including Innisbrook, where he was living at the time of his passing.

The Donald - Part One - Buys Doonbeg

After a long and drawn out battle trying to build a second course and fighting new wind turbines, Donald Trump took his bag of marbles to Ireland and purchased the Doonbeg Resort. He planned a major rebuild of the course.

Pebble Beach – To rebuild the 14th and 17th greens

I’ve always found the 14th to be one of the more interesting and iconic greens I have seen. I understand the need to have more pin locations, but I’m fearful of the results since the recent bunker work seems to be driven by easing maintenance rather than preserving or restoring architecture. If the right side is indeed softened to for pin locations, the fear of a ball backing up that same slope and going “around” the front bunker will be lost. The hole will not be the same after. [i]Please be careful with this one![/i]

The Donald – Part Two - The Meltdown in Miami

There was no question that Doral had lost its teeth. So the Donald after buying the resort decided that it needed an update. He made sure to mandate Gil Hanse to return “The Blue Monster”. What nobody anticipated was the combination of 30 mph winds and the early firmness that made the course tough as nails. The golf course was still young, which meant that the greens were as hard as a rock and the wind was clearly redirecting the approach shots. Add some young turf on the banks of the ponds and anything close to the water went in. Only 14 guys were under par after the first round, then only four after the second round. Trump triumphantly said, “They haven’t even set it up hard.” The Monster was back...

George Bahto Passes

George Bahto was a friend. He wrote a remarkable book on the life and architecture of Charles Blair Macdonald called The Evangelist of Golf. He was in the middle of writing another on the life and work of Seth Raynor which I hope to see published with help from friends. He was also a wonderful architect in his own right who preserved and restored numerous works by Macdonald, Raynor and Banks. He is missed by all of us.

Water – The New Oil

The California Drought made a clear statement of how scarce the resource is in certain regions. There are clear limitations to how far this resource can be stretched when storage along the Colorado continues to decline. We did see some closures, mostly through economics, but water was brought up in closures for the first time that I can remember. It’s not a stretch to see a future where “water” limits the new development of golf and that excess run-off or rain become the only source. It’s quite likely that water – and not a real estate crash – that will end China’s golf boom.

Tree Replacement? – Part One - Ike’s Tree

News flooded out pre-Masters that Ike’s Tree on the 17th had come down. Many pointed out that the tree’s relevance had pretty much ended when technology allowed the ball to carry the tree on all but the coldest or windiest days. But traditionalists like Gary Player said, ”Purchase the biggest replacement known to mankind & replace it. The hole is not the same without Ike's Tree.” I honestly thought they would, but I love the fact they have not.

The R&A’s Lead Architect Dawson announces his Retirement

I should be nicer to him because this is for all the right reasons (family and health), but his constant tinkering with the Open Courses and not addressing the ball has driven me nuts for the last 20 years. His organization – and the USGA shares blame – has failed to address the problems that impact everything from safety through to cost. They had a simple answer called the ball, but instead he tinkered with the Open Courses in the name of relevance – while telling us there was nothing was wrong with technology.

The Donald – Part Three – Let the Threats Begin

One of the things many of us remember about the original build of Doonbeg was the environmental restrictions created by a microscopic snail found in key sections of the property. The Donald plans to rebuild the golf course, but none of that will make sense unless he can persuade the Irish government to overturn the current environmental status of the property. I never could figure out how he got it done in Scotland – so anything is possible – but I don’t believe lightening will strike twice.

The Donald – Part Four – Trump Turnberry

Donald Trump continues to expand his presence in golf by purchasing one of the most famous and highly ranked courses in the UK. There are more than few critics who have suggested that this was the only way he was ever going to see any Open on any of his properties.  The Donald talked about how much he revered this golf course, “Some of the greatest championships in the history of golf have taken place at Turnberry,” Trump said. “And the golf course itself is considered one of the greatest in the world. Some rate it as the best in the world. I’m not going to touch a thing unless the Royal and Ancient ask for it or approve it. I have the greatest respect for the R&A and for Peter Dawson. I won’t do anything to the golf course at all without their full stamp of approval.”

The Donald – Part Five - Pinehurst

From the @RealDonaldTrump, “I think Pinehurst is Ugly”

Sustainability - The US Open at Pinehurst

This was the singular most important moment in golf course architecture. The USGA – to their credit - was presenting a course where sustainability was a critical element in the redevelopment and restoration of this famous course. For those like myself that think sustainability is now a critical factor in any golf project, this was the landmark moment we need to help steer our clients towards the future. We needed it to look good, play well and hoped to have the media to support the “bigger picture” on this one. While the Augustafiles were aghast, there were lots of great articles written to explain and support what was accomplished. It still ran headlong into old and tired ideals of what golf should be, but it remained a great moment for golf architecture.

Is the China Golf Boom Over?

We all knew that things had slowed down, but as Dan Washburn (credit him for most of the information below) pointed out, that still meant China was building more courses than anyone else. Then very recently the slowdown became almost a shutdown with very few new projects proceeding. The government began to actually enforce the moratorium placed in 2004. They began to use satellite imagery to find projects and have even turned a number of illegal projects back into raw land. The banking industry became a lot stricter about the rules for lending on real estate developments. Speculating on real estate has begun to decline. Administrators in smaller provinces, who allowed the projects to happen assuming the distance from Beijing would insulate them from being noticed, became fearful when courses began to disappear. Finally, China has seen severe water shortages in particular regions and are becoming more serious about reducing any unnecessary consumption - golf is an easy target moving forward.

Will a Reversible Course stay reversible?

Tom Doak and Brian Slawnick of Rennassaince Golf have been commissioned to build a reversible course. It’s an interesting challenge for the two designers who will both concentrate on a single direction. The concept is not new. Westchester by Travis was among those that were designed to be reversible. Intrestingly, even the Old Course eventually ended up played in one preferred direction.

Happy Birthday Eden Course

After seeing the front nine greens at the Eden Course this year I could help but think that they were in the discussion for the best set of greens in golf. One of the clear standouts was the 5th green. So what do you do to celebrate the 100th anniversary – rebuild the 5th … @#%#

Oh Canada – Part One - Cabot Cliffs will be Stunning

Bill Coore has said, [i]“If we don’t deliver a great course on a site like this, then it’s our fault.” [/i]All bets are on this one being a course of a generation and by a longshot the greatest course Canada has. Like everyone else, I can’t wait to see and play this course.

New Neighbors for Old Courses

Hey USGA, question for you … What’s the other impact of a ball flying too far? …that is flies further off line too! I expect the high profile court at Quaker Ridge could see a new precedent for an American clubs. The Islington ruling has had an impact on Canadian golf clubs. Imagine if it becomes the responsibility of the club to keep the balls on their own property… it’s a frightening thought.

Oh Canada – Part Two – Mickelson National Club of Canada … seriously?

OK, I laughed at the name. I laughed even harder at the idea of an 8,000 yard course [i]“for members play every day”[/i] It’s not completely Phil’s fault since he inherited the water filled layout and project from Johnny Miller, but in an era of “Tee it Forward”, this feels like a dinosaur.

Baltusrol Designated a National Historical Landmark

The designation was bestowed by the Department of the Interior for both of Baltusrol's courses. They have been deemed important designs of Golden Age golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast. It’s nice to see courses recognized as being important cultural landscapes because they are. My only question becomes, should there be any restrictions placed on a designated course. In my case, I have always believed Highlands Links should get the same designation and be frozen in time after restoration, but that’s because the people of Canada own the course.

Olympic Golf Course – Part One - Fazio Consults at Kasumigaseki

The club’s comments,“He has a great reputation, as we know from his role at Augusta National. He emphasized that he would respect what we have here. He will balance the natural feeling here with the improvements needed to challenge the best players.” It’s interesting that the club controls the agenda and not the International Golf Federation.

TPC Scottsdale Renovations

This was Tom Weiskopf`s original design (one which I liked), so it was his course to alter as he saw fit, but the Augustaification of this course was truly confusing to me.

Albert Warren Tillinghast – enters the World Golf Hall of Fame

It was about time! I’ve long been a fan of Tillinghast’s approach of building golfscapes. Whether he found holes, or completely created everything, he always managed to meld this back into the surroundings. His visions were often bolder and brasher than his contemporaries and often took an average site and created something magical. He among the best of the best in golf architecture and in my opinion should have been recognized the very first year.

Dr. Bradley Klein named Donald Ross Award Recipient from ASGCA

Brad's writings and books have helped inform and shaped opinions about golf architecture. He has done an excellent job of drawing attention to the history of architecture as well as push and prod the present golf architects for better answers and an improved vision for the future of golf architecture. Congratulations Brad.

The Donald – Part Six – Turnberry Renovations

The Donald announces major changes to Ailsa's ninth, 10th and 11th holes - which will see the ninth become "the most spectacular hole in all of golf" I think we`ve all looked at that cove and seen the possibilities, but I also think we easily underestimate the qualities of the ninth and how it fits into the flow of the course. I get this change, but don’t think it’s as necessary as other do.

The Donald – Part Seven - Tiger Woods Design

Dubai, Cabo, Houston … he may be one of the busiest architects in the business. But the combination of Donald Trump and Tiger Woods in Dubai is as intriguing prospect. Particularly when they provided lines like this,“Bringing Tiger Woods to Dubai is a testament to the luxury and quality that can be anticipated at AKOYA Oxygen – where fashion meets the outdoors, and green really is the new black.” what? ... I have no idea what that supposed to mean, but it made me cringe instinctively.

Olympic Golf Course – Part Two – The course can finally be built …

Judge Eduardo Antonio Klausner said in his decision that there are no new facts justifying a stoppage to the construction of the course … other than they’re done. The bigger question is how long after the Olympics will this course become development. My over/under is five years. Glad I saw it, even if only during construction, because it’s really good.

Tree Replacement – Part Two – Pebble Beach’s 18th Fairway Trees

Nothing made me happier than seeing that one of golf’s stupid trees on the ground. I’ve never been able to comprehend how anyone at any point thought this was good architecture when all of the greatest architects have described this type of tree as anything from fluky to nuisance to ridiculous. Come on wind, blow the other dumb tree down too.

From “0” to Hero in one Commission

David Kidd has seen his share of criticism of the years, including Tom Doak’s “0” for his Castle Course, all the while his career has progressed steadily along with a series of interesting projects. The end of the year brought praise for Gamble Sands and the awarding of the most anticipated commission - the second course at Sand Valley. You could argue that this was his year

... or was it the Year of Donald Trump?

Friday, 12 December 2014

2014 Year in Review – Part Two – The Courses I Saw

2014 Year in Review – Part Two – The Courses I Saw

13th at Chicago Golf Club

Lots of great golf, but almost no casual golf in between. Highlights were St. Andrew's, Prairie Dunes and Chicago. If you truly understood every aspect of these three courses, you would have the perfect foundation to become a great golf course architect. These courses still inspire me and open up new and exciting alternatives each time I see one of them.

Trump International's 3rd - where the course meets the sea

Scotland – early April

Day One
St. Andrew’s Old – the back nine may be the best in the game
Lundin – only a few holes around the clubhouse were inspiring

Day Two
Elie – brilliant greens surprised me, lots of great golf
Crail – great site ... disappointing architecturally
St. Andrew’s (Eden) – front nine – one of the best set of greens in golf … then the back starts… still a must play while at the Old Course

Day Three
Murcar – so many impressive holes, but far too tight on a windy afternoon
Royal Aberdeen – a three act play: one of the finest nines in golf, the renovations to the middle are really disappointing, but a nice finish at the end was a pleasant surprise

Day Four
Trump International – great site, pretty solid routing, weakness was overdoing it when restraint would have yielded superior results ... worth playing
Fraserburg – plenty of amazing holes mid round worth seeking out, 13th is one of the great gems in the game

Day Five
Castle Stuart – really impressed with how interesting and varied the holes were, largely because of how the routing was assembled
Fortrose and Rosemarkie – interesting site, but not very interesting golf, unless you like pedestrians and cars!

11th at Southern Hills - no place to miss... as usual

ASGCA Meeting - early May

Prairie Dunes (36) – no course blurs the line between nature and golf better than PD, still remains in my personal Top 10 in "all" of golf
Hillcrest – great layout and great set of greens brought a major surprise
Patriot - I've walked 36 at Highlands Links, I’m not sure if this course could be walked
Southern Hills – it’s very well done, but the greatness is largely built around the challenge - it's a  one dimensional course to play except close to the clubhouse
Tulsa CC – just too "Modern" (style rather than new) for my taste

Laval's 16th, inspired by Riviera's 10th

Summer Rounds

Laval (Blue) – twice – still find it fun to play all those running shots around the greens
Cutten Fields – back nine needs more work
Huntington - love the combination of scale, templates and ground game

2nd green at Chicago Golf

Chicago Trip - mid- October

Oak Park – enjoyed it, but found it was lacking ... something
Chicago – one of the most impressive courses I have ever seen because of the scale and aggressive features, one of the best courses I have seen.
Shoreacres – in my opinion grassing changes brought this up another tier

Planned for 2015

This will be a great "playing" year. I've already arranged and paid for my trips to come. I may even join the local Private club this year and try to recapture my old golf game. 

Burnham and Barrow

Southwest England - Spring

Burnham and Barrow
Royal North Devon
St. Enodoc (36) - been on the top of my wish list for years

Royal Cinque Port

Southeast England – Fall Matches

Sunningdale (New)
St. George’s
Royal Cinque Port - want to see those greens

Maple Downs 8th Hole

Openings to Attend

St. George’s

Maple Downs

I plan to play a little more unless I become too busy. I do expect a couple of rounds in Boston this Spring, but no extended trip planned ... yet. If luck comes, I plan to explore the great courses of New Jersey next year. I expect to play more this year....

Thursday, 11 December 2014

2014 My Year in Review – Part One - Ian Andrew Golf Design

New 15th at Islington GC

New Clients

Huntington Crescent Club (Deverault Emmet), Huntington, NY
Thorny Lea Golf Club (Stiles and Van Kleek)
Wheatley Hills Country Club (Deverault Emmet), Long Island, NY

Continued Growth in USA

My current growth is in the US. Nine of the last 10 new courses were American clubs with half of them being in New York State. The area of largest growth has become New York City. I’m thrilled that my name comes up for renovation or restoration work in the Northeastern United States. I continue to get new opportunities and even new architects to work with.

Master Plans

Thorny Lea Golf Club (Stiles and Van Kleek)
Quogue Field Club (Bendelow), Quogue, New York

3rd at St. George's mid construction


This was the year like no other, from May to October I was involved in the rebuilding of 59 greens! I don’t expect to see another year like it…

Islington GC – April - Relocated the 15th hole
Islington GC – May/June - Rebuilt remaining 17 greens and bunkers on 8 holes
Beverly G&CC – May/September - Rebuilt the bunkers
Pheasant Run GC – June - Rebuilt one green
St. George’s G&C (w/Tom Doak) – July/Sept – assisted with rebuilding 20 greens and 2 fairways
Maple Down G&CC – July/October – Rebuilt 20 greens, all bunkers and most tees
Cedar Brae – October - Rebuilt the bunkers on the 6th and 16th holes
Onondoga – October - added new fairway bunkers

Potential Projects for Next Year

Kawartha G&CC – Build two new holes
Penn Hills – two new  “Travis” greens
Oakdale – Relocate a hole
Laval – Rebuild bunkers on Green Course
Ashburn – Rebuild 8 greens
Knollwood – Rebuild remaining bunkers

New 13th green at Maple Downs

State of business

I had a really good year set in place from the outset.

I had one substantial project in the Fall with the rebuilding of greens tees and bunkers at Maple Downs. It was my opportunity to channel my inner “Raynor” and take a great property and solid routing and turn it into something even more substantial.

I also relocated the 15th hole green at Islington to address the safety issues of the adjacent road along with addressing the miserable growing environment. It was an excellent project involving everything from creek work to golf construction.

The third project was the rebuilding of the bunkers at Beverly Golf & Country Club. This project involved some relocation to make bunkers more strategic, better detailing for long term stability, but mostly removals and a style change designed to address the long term stability of the golf course.

But once spring arrived, everyone knew this was a winter like no other and the year went into overdrive. Islington was devastated and quickly committed to rebuilding their greens. St. George’s would follow soon after and I spent my year going from course to course rebuilding greens.

I won’t see another year like that. There are lots of potential projects on the books for next year, but nothing is set in stone. This is like most winters for me, no clarity, but I do know that clubs will move ahead with projects and I will fill a good portion of the year with planning and construction. I always do. Or I’ll play a little more golf for a change…

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Minimalism and Impressionism

Sunrise - 1873 - Monet

The foundations or Minimalism were laid in the early 1960’s with the earliest work of Pete Dye. It’s well understood that he was trying to draw attention by creating something polar opposite to founder of Modernism Robert Trent Jones. While Pete moved on to different ideas a short decade later, a small group of architects took note at the early work with interest and the movement survived in thought.

In the 19th century art was dominated in France by the Royal Academies of Art which not only ran schools of instruction, but held an annual exhibition where the latest art could be seem and hopefully create critical notice for the painter. These institutions through their power and influence essentially established institutions public taste and official patronage. People bought and supported the artists that they made popular.

Interestingly in the 1970’s and 1980’s Golf Magazines made certain architects celebrities and created a scenario where you needed to hire one of the celebrity architects to keep up with the Jones’s.

In the middle to late 1800’s an important artistic movement was emerging, but the critics who ran the Salon generally ignored the work declaring it incomplete or poorly executed. They felt that most works were illustrative rather than finished pictures. The standard for the day was a very regimented and realistic composition based largely around themes of military and religion. The critics of the day simply excluded the Impressionist pieces, or if they allowed it they would place it well up the walls to limit the accessibility for the public.

Sand Hills - canvas by Josh Smith

In the early 1990’s the Minimalist Movement was still largely ignored until Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s were commissioned to create Sand Hills. Not only was the work spectacular, but their philosophy and approach caught many people’s attention including critics. The incorporating of nature, the minimal earthmoving and the idea of giving players greater opportunity for self-expression all hit a cord with a new generation of architects wanting to express themselves differently than the popular architects of the day. They had their example and this became the game changer for golf design, but society remained focused on Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Stadium Golf.

The Impressionists, including Monet, Degas, Pissarro and Sisley, eventually decided to organize a group called the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc. They organized their own exhibition in Paris to showcase their works without the same limitations and politics found in the Salon. Change did not come overnight, but a few critics like Edmond Duranty described the collective works as a revolution in painting.

 In 1999 Mike Keiser started Bandon Dunes which would be the tipping point with the work at Pacific Dunes ushering in a new era of design.

The Impressionists paintings stood out from their contemporaries for their use of bright colors instead of sombre tones. They dared to use colour to create light and shade rather than the established technique of applying white and black. Even the darkened finish of heavy lacquer was often not used leaving the brash and exuberant hues and colours on full display. New paints had brought in a richer colour palette which were not only embraced but featured in works. But the real change was the subject matter. They revelled in modern Paris life capturing the excitement in the air of a city in flux. The painters captured life around Paris in all its moods and intrigue.

Modern Architecture evolved into a game played against an architect who controlled not only every aspect but also demanded the course be played as they had set out, whereas Minimalism gave the player the freedom to choose their own path and create their own experience through self-expression.

By 1886 the Impressionist movement had exploded out to include new forms of exploration and new techniques. More artists pushed the boundaries and the Impressionist movement blossomed.

The critics and public have clearly embraced Minimalism to a point where the leading Minimalists are now the darlings of the press. Their peers and their protégée’s have also ascended to gain key commissions and gain recognition. What’s interesting is a new group of younger architects have redefined the roll of an architect and are pushing the definition of Golf Course Architect. The Golden Age grew out from people like Colt to include Mackenzie, Tillinghast and Thomas. But it also provided room for more eccentric artists like Raynor, Thompson and Strong.

With the emergence of the internet and the slow death of magazines and newspapers, careers can now come from almost anywhere.
The Impressionists no longer need the Salon!


Thursday, 14 November 2013

NEW Advice for Future Golf Architects

Highlands Links Crew
For years I’ve suggested a combination of practical experience and a degree in Landscape Architecture as a pretty solid combination which would provide you with an opportunity to join a design firm. Well guess what, design firms are a thing of the past and are likely never to return. This is the era of independent contractors where the vast majority of future architects are building or renovating the courses. To succeed in the current climate, you must be able to build what you design.
Some like me have enough of a legacy to practice the old fashioned way, but the truth is we are a dying breed. I’m lucky to have a very specialized niche and have been around long enough to be on most radar screens for my style of work. I’m not sure if someone like me will exist twenty years from now.

The Firms are Essentially Dead in a Generation

So how do you become an architect now?

The future is Design/Build. Therefore any University of College education is no longer a necessity to break into this business. If you want my advice on how to break into the design field, I would say go work in construction. It won’t cost you anything and if you’re good, the experience will pay you as you go.

If you want to be a designer then you better become a really terrific shaper. I believe the future designers will mostly start on bulldozers. There is a romantic notion that all shapers are creative genius which you can draw from. It’s also far easier to survive building what you design while you wait a decade or more for enough of a turn in the economy to get your opportunity because you have two ways of getting paid!

17th at TPC - done in the field ....

There’s more to it than that. You need to be able to generate business because it doesn’t come to you. You need to be comfortable speaking to large groups. You need to know how to run a business because many great golf designers went bankrupt. I can go on, but all of that is the second part of the initial question.

So how do you start?

Don’t go to school … go work in golf construction.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Misguided Quest for Perfection

Mike Weir playing the lower route on the 12th before opening day

I attended and played in an event this fall at Laval-sur-le-lac. I spent time talking about various holes on the Blue Course with the players and a few of the members that were at the club that day. I found the most surprising aspect of the conversations was how popular the 12th hole was. Many members called it the club’s signature hole (not a fan of the term) and the guys playing in the event talked about how much they liked playing that particular hole.

I’ll be honest I was surprised.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, this was the hole that I personally struggled with the most during construction. I loved our concept of a short hole where you needed an aggressive drive to open up options and visibility. But the limitations of fill in the area created by the extensive rock shortened up the landing area making the upper section harder to reach off the tee when into the wind. I tinkered with this landing and green for about a month, but was never able to get exactly what I wanted.

In the end I just stopped tinkering, accepted that I would never be one hundred percent happy and internally brooded over the thought that perhaps another design might have been better.

That’s a window into what it’s like to be me.

The hole was designed with two clear options. I’ve played it a couple of times and I always take what I thought would be the ideal/upper route. My playing companions all seem to like the alternate/lower route. I know this stems from the carry from the Blue Tee being is a little too long and an additional Blue Tee will eventually solve this and make the option easier to attain. But that issue didn’t bother my playing companions because they loved the freedom to not follow any of my intended plays.

One of the great aspects of having all the bunkers inside the fairways and short grass running between the bunkers is players can go wherever they like. And they do!
I finally came to the conclusion that it was the freedom to select any route they wanted and the options to play any style of shot that they have embraced. While I see imperfection related to the fact they have trouble attaining what I thought was the ideal route, they see a completely different hole than I do.

The hole is not perfect, but it sure is still really interesting to play.

The lesson of the 12th is that the freedom to choose is far more interesting to players than a clearly defined route of play. They have found a myriad of ways to play included my intentional routes and some of their own. And that is fun … even if its not exactly what was originally “planned” or perfect.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Are Your Bunkers Too Perfect?

I wrote an article for Green Master Magazine this month.

It begins:

"I was speaking about the Future trends in Golf Architecture at a USGA seminar in Boston this winter when I shared the following thought, “Bunkers have essentially lost their strategic value,” The sucking in of breath was audible, but I meant what I said.

I have spent the better part of the last two decades coming up with ways to keep bunkers playing consistently, avoiding contamination and getting the ball to the bottom of bunker for playability. While this may receive a resounding thumb up from golfers, I’m starting to wonder if I’m doing the right thing."

Here is the rest of the article: