Thursday, June 7, 2012

Golf Course Architects- Where do they come from?

Suny, Zokol Design's bunker top-line for a current renovation

Having spent my formative years listening to stories of the great golf course architects and later getting to know many of the modern golf architects and designers along with a lot of time spent on great golf courses, it's probably not a surprise that eventually I got into the design business. A great friend of mine that I consider to be the "best" golf course residential community developer in the US asked me a couple of simple questions when we were discussing my formally entering the golf course design business. His questions were-

How many world class sprinters have children that grow up to be world class sprinters?
How many golf course architects have children that grow up to be architects?

You can answer those questions yourself and draw your own conclusions.

It's interesting to me, how people have become golf course architects. In the classic era of golf in the Americas, there were the great first time amateur designers, along with those that were greenkeepers and or pros. There were standouts in each of these groups. Its tough to beat Hugh Wilson, George Crump, and William Flynn. It's not very difficult to figure out where I grew up and what I like.

Today's routes to become a golf course architect are to be born into the family business, be a PGA Tour player, like my partner Dick Zokol, study landscape and golf course architecture, there are even a couple of greenkeeper types like me, there are operator types that started in the golf construction business, and then there are today's amateurs...the golf writers and golf architecture historians.

In each of these groups there are those that just seem to have it and then the rest of them. I'm not talking about marketing ability, we all understand that there have been some brilliant marketers in the golf architecture business. But what sets the others apart? What sets them apart is the gift that they were born with. Golf course architecture is not a science or a math that can be learned solely from a book. The talent required to become a golf course architect/designer is based on the artistry that you are born with and develop and more than just a touch of common sense.