1. Why did you want to be a golf course architect?
My step grandfather altered and upgraded a few courses during his career as a teaching professional and club manager. My father was a successful golf course architect from 1946 until the mid-eighties. Our whole family was heavily involved in golf and my training was in landscape architecture. I must admit that I have always been fascinated by the greatest game in the world and I started playing at the age of six with a little push from my father. Quite honestly, the fantastic opportunity of actually designing courses for the enjoyment and frustration of many players was an opportunity I could not miss!
2. Which golf course architects do you admire and why?
I admire Robert Trent-Jones Senior, not necessarily for his style but I think that he was one of the first qualified golf course architects to introduce comprehensive and detailed specifications, detailed drawings and itemized bills of quantities which laid the base for contemporary golf course architecture. Such well-defined and detailed documents allowed contractors to bid realistically for the construction of golf courses limiting the dreaded occurrence of variation orders.
There are of course, many other architects who produced great golf courses because they had the benefit of great sites and sufficient budgets.
Personally, I think that the real unsung heroes and back bone of the golf course industry are the architects who produce good courses on difficult sites with very limited budgets. Unfortunately, such architects do not belong to today’s celebrity syndrome and they are destined to remain in total obscurity as today’s ludicrous PR and marketing machines hardly ever mention them.
3. What is your proudest design achievement?
This is a very tricky question and I never answer it as all members of every club think they have the best course and they are rather annoyed if you don’t mention their club. Furthermore, a “proudest design achievement” can be measured by various factors such as great clients, a great site, a great working atmosphere, a great contractor, etc. and not necessarily the actual golf course. I therefore always answer that I have two proudest design achievements: the course that I have just completed and the one I’m going to start next.
4. What are your favourite three golf courses in the World from a design perspective, and why?
I like them because they are integrated in to great sites and you still need to use your brains to play them, instead of just playing power target golf.
5. What are the greatest challenges you face as a golf course architect?
It really depends where you are. Central and Northern Europe have become a nightmare due to the strict and often farcical requirements laid down by environmentalists, ecologists and national legislations influenced by the green lobby. In other parts of the world where golf courses are built to sell houses, we have a constant battle with the developer as he wants as much land as possible for the real estate whereas we need minimum buffer zones for the safety of the houses and buildings.
Another challenge is the total misinformation supplied by the PR and marketing lobby which has brainwashed many clients into thinking that a golf course is not worth anything unless it is a PAR 72 and 7,500.00 yards long. This is utter poppycock but it is very difficult to fight that attitude.
6. What environmental or sustainable initiatives have you incorporated into your designs?
As I said before, we design under very strict environmental and sustainability rules and regulations laid down by legislation which in some cases is mostly justified. We are therefore obliged to follow rigorous directives otherwise we do not obtain a building permit, although they have become more and more elusive in many countries despite our adherence to their requirements. We have abandoned many projects due to the impossibility of building a playable course under such circumstances. We do not want to build unplayable monuments to ecology.
7. How do you see the golf course design industry changing in the next 20 years?
I think it might be invaded by “gimmicks” to try and appeal to the wider public. We have already seen a few of those gimmicks appear on the market and I think it is a great shame. Golf is golf and the spirit of that great game should not be tampered with. I sincerely hope that we can get away from this ridiculous PAR 72 “championship” syndrome and return to strategic courses where players have to think rather than just bombing a drive down the fairway to obtain a shorter approach to the green. I also hope that we will see more and more easier and fun-to-play 9-hole courses so that people can enjoy the game!
8. What makes a golf course great rather than just good?
The site, the site, the site and the site … and what you do with it. It is very difficult to build a great course in a mediocre site. Most of the great courses are older layouts with great sites where they did not have to contend with the restrictions and influence of modern-day legislation.
9. What advice would you give to an aspiring golf course architect?< strong>
Make sure that you learn the practical aspects of golf course construction and do not just rely on theoretical and academic teachings. Site experience is extremely important as it allows you to understand the problems faced by contractors while they are building a course.
10. What do you enjoy about being a golf course architect?
I enjoy the challenge, and the various and varied people I meet as I think that the golf industry produces, and has produced, extraordinary characters! And what a game! What an opportunity of frustrating so many people although it is not our fault if they are frustrated! It is just an incredibly difficult game!
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