Stuart Rennie

Date: Mon 20 Apr 2020

10 Questions for ... Stuart Rennie MEIGCA

The latest in the popular series of Member Profiles where you can get to know our members better.

1. Why did you want to be a golf course architect?

If I had been asked this question 30 odd years ago when I first picked up a golf club I would have said, ‘I want to be an artist’. The passion for drawing, painting, sculpture and photography developed through primary school, secondary school and then to University. I was fortunate to be offered a place at one of Scotland’s premier art schools, and after one year studying a BA hons in fine art I decided it wasn’t for me, and applied to study Landscape Architecture with a view to progress into the Golf Design industry. I took a year out between studying art and going to Edinburgh College of Art to study Landscape, and at this point I managed to reduce my handicap to scratch. I turned down an offer of a golf scholarship in America with a fairly driven decision to study Landscape Architecture and become educated in Scotland. I played golf for the University and studied at the same time, what more could I ask for? I now use a lot of my artistic skills in my day to day job.

2. Which golf course architects do you admire and why?

I admire a number of historical and modern day architects but if I had to choose one it would have to be Donald Ross given he came from Royal Dornoch in the Highlands of Scotland where I have been a member since I was a junior. I have only had the opportunity to play a couple of Donald Ross courses but hope to one day visit the Tufts Archives, Pinehurst and other courses. To take a risk and travel to America by boat over a hundred years ago must have been extremely daunting, and then go onto design and be involved with over 400 courses and be involved with the establishment of the ASGCA is phenomenal.

In some respect I have a small similarity, I quit my Landscape Architect job in Glasgow to travel to Australia to work for Ross Perrett at Thomson Perrett in Melbourne and would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Peter, Ross and, in the UK, Tim for giving me opportunities to work and learn from their wealth of experience. Australia is the first place where I started to appreciate works of Alister Mackenzie.

3. What is your proudest design achievement?

Whilst working as a Landscape Architect for Keppie (Architecture Practice) in Glasgow I was heavily involved with a 5million landscape scheme for a new business park from inception to completion which was a huge achievement. In the golf industry it would have to be my first solo 18-hole project which opened in 2019 within 20 miles from where I grew up, the new Kings Golf Course Inverness. To build a public accessible 18-hole course so close to home was special but to play the course with both of my uncles (golf fanatics) who introduced me to the game is even more special.

4. What are your favourite three golf courses in the World from a design perspective, and why?

This is not really a question I tend to answer because I feel that so many golf courses have their own unique qualities with different sequencing of holes, landscape typologies, playing characteristics etc. but from a design stand point I can only pick from the courses that I have played/visited.

My first biased answer would undoubtedly be Royal Dornoch for its relatively natural historical layout, firm and fast playing conditions, large softly contoured greens, crisp bunkering, fantastic par 3’s, surrounding views and the local Highland hospitality.

I have been fortunate to have played numerous sandbelt courses but the Royal Melbourne Composite course was a firm favourite although Victoria across the road was also exceptional. My no 2. Royal Melbourne has lovely strategic playing qualities, is visually impressive, nice use of topography and plays firm and fast. The outside of bunkers merge in to the surrounding landscape context with crisp clean edges butting against the green side. The natural aspect of many sand belt courses is inspirational.

I love the qualities of the heathland courses in Surrey and the free-flowing shapes at Deal but as an experience my no 3. is playing Jack’s Point in Queenstown New Zealand surrounded by the Remarkable mountains and views across Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. It is just a phenomenal place to enjoy a round of golf on an interesting layout nestled into the landscape with complementary rugged bunkers, rocky outcrops, fescue roughs, wetlands and a nice simple modern clubhouse. I have a list as long as my arm of places I would like to visit and play in the future.

5. What are the greatest challenges you face as a golf course architect?

When working in the golf design industry you have to learn that there will be peaks and there will be troughs but if you’re good at what you do and you aspire to be better something will always fall upon your desk. I believe my challenge as a relatively young ambitious architect will be broadening my brand internationally in a difficult and in some instances a saturated market.

6. What environmental or sustainable initiatives have you incorporated into your designs?

Whilst studying Landscape Architecture I put a lot of emphasis on studying environmental and sustainable subjects and have philosophies to design with nature and bring together landscape and ecological design principles. I fully believe that golf and the environment should coexist and be designed, managed and maintained to protect, enhance or create biodiversity. As a GEO Golf Environment Sustainability Associate, I am seeing more and more clubs championing a much more educated way of practicing with regards to the management and maintenance of their overall facilities where they encompass sustainability, resource and community.

7. How do you see the golf course design industry changing in the next 20 years?

I honestly don’t know what the future holds but most things in life are cyclical, whether there will be big golf booms or not all I can hope for is to be lucky enough to stay busy and to be able to work in the industry that we all love.

8. What makes a golf course great rather than just good?

I think for me it’s got a lot to do with the natural environment, visual and playability aspect.

9. What advice would you give to an aspiring golf course architect?

Don’t sit on your hands and wait for it to come to you, go out and chase your dream and doors will open.

10. What do you enjoy about being a golf course architect?

When working with an existing golf club I really enjoy the analytical process of understanding the golf course, how it has evolved and where best to take it. The main hurdle on these kind of projects is that you have a few hundred members who have differing views with emotional attachments. There is nothing better than being given a blank piece of property to look at evaluate and get to work on.

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