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10 Great Modern Regional Golf Course Architects

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Pete Dye. Tom Fazio. Tom Doak. Robert Trent Jones. Donald Ross. Even if you’re not big into golf course architecture and history, you have probably heard these names associated with some o the world’s best golf courses. Courses that span the U.S. and the globe.

But not all golf course architects have had worldwide opportunities to ply their trade. Not by a long shot.

For those five household names mentioned above – not to mention Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, whose exploits in competitive golf launched them into worldwide architecture careers of their own – there are multiples more golf architects whose work is and was much more confined, geographically.

In fact, there are enough notable regional architects that we’re inclined to break this into Modern and Classic sections.

You may not have heard of these modern regional golf course architects, but you should seek to discover their work.

To me, it’s the traveling golfer’s version of going to a new place and seeking out the best local cuisine, rather than the chain restaurants.

Here are some modern (active since World War II, or thereabouts) regional architects you should know:

Jim Engh

(Fossil Trace Golf Club)

(Fossil Trace Golf Club)

Region: Rocky Mountains (esp. Colorado)

Notable Courses:
– Fossil Trace Golf Course – Golden, Colo.
– Golf Club at Redlands Mesa – Grand Junction, Colo.
– Lakota Canyon Ranch – Newcastle, Colo.
– The Club at Black Rock – Coeur d’Alene, Id. (private)

Geographical Exceptions:
– Tullymore Golf Club – Stanmore, Mich.
– Awarii Dunes Golf Course – Axtell, Neb.

With a strong hand for earthworks, Jim Engh has created some of the most distinctive looking courses. It’s appropriate that so many of his courses are in mountain settings. Per his website, Engh prides himself and his firm on being “the industry leader for creating spectacular golf on tremendously rugged and difficult land.” Whereas mountain courses tend toward the tough end of the difficulty spectrum, Engh’s work often features ample places for the wayward shot to find some relief, especially on his many greens with punchbowl-type shaping.

Davis Love III/Love Golf Design

Davis Love III has courses all over the south, including at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach. (Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday)

Davis Love III has courses all over the south, including at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach. (Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday)

Region: Southeast (esp. the Carolinas)

Notable Courses:
– Love Course at Barefoot Resort – North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
– Kinderlou Forest Golf Club – Valdosta, Ga.
– River Hall Country Club – Alva, Fla.
– Retreat Course at Sea Island – St. Simons Island, Ga. (renovation)
– Atlantic Dunes Course at Sea Pines Resort  – Hilton Head Island, S.C. (renovation)
– Brunswick Country Club – Brunswick, Ga. (private; restoration)

Geographical Exceptions:
– Dunes Course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

The 1997 PGA Champion and World Golf Hall of Famer has made a strong regional mark in his home state of Georgia and elsewhere in the South. His firm’s classical design sensibilities make them equally talented ad new course work and restoration and renovation of existing designs.

Geoffrey Cornish

(Stratton Mountain Resort)

(Stratton Mountain Resort)

Region: Northeast (esp. New England)

Notable Courses:
– Bethel Inn & Country Club – Bethel, Maine
– Farm Neck Golf Club – Martha’s Vineyard., Mass.
– Atlantic Country Club – Plymouth, Mass.
– Stratton Mountain Resort – Stratton, Vt.
– Sugarloaf Golf Club – Sugarloaf, Penn.
– Stow Acres Country Club – Stow, Mass.
– Pines Course at The International – Bolton, Mass. (private but playable by overnight visitors)

Geographical Exceptions:
– Zoar Golf Club – Dover, Ohio
– Pipestem Resort – Pipestem, W.Va.
– Marchesa Course at Golf Club Villa Carolina – Castelletto d’Orba, Italy

Canadian by birth, Cornish lived to the ripe old age of 97 and spent much of the 20th century designing solid, playable golf courses for the masses. In fact, no one designed more courses in New England than Cornish. You can expect straightforward golf, some long par fours, and pitched greens on a Cornish course. His Hop Meadow Country Club in Simsbury, Connecticut, where I learned the game, is no exception. Modern architects Brian Silva and Mark Mungeam, each with their own successful design careers, got their starts working for Cornish.

Joe Lee

(Walt Disney World Golf)

(Walt Disney World Golf)

Region: Florida and Georgia

Notable Courses:
– Abacoa Golf Club – Jupiter, Fla.
– Bonaventure Golf Club – Weston, Fla.
– Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course – Orlando, Fla. (former PGA Tour site)
– Pine Lakes and Indian Mound Courses at Jekyll Island Golf Club – Jekyll Island, Ga.
– Okefenokee Country Club – Blackshear, Ga. (private)
– Palm Beach National Golf Course – Lake Worth, Fla.
– Bent Pine Golf Club – Vero Beach, Fla. (private)

Geographical Exceptions:
– Musket Ridge Golf Club – Myersville, Mary.
– Laguna Course at Oceanico Golf Club – Vilamoura, Portugal
– Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club – Grand Blanc, Mich. (private; former PGA Tour site)

What Geoffrey Cornish was to New England, Joe Lee was to the Sunshine State. His no-nonsense, solid courses typified mid-20th-century golf course architecture of the sort popularized by Robert Trent Jones,. Sr., though Lee is more closely associated with Dick Wilson, whom he assisted in building the likes of the original Blue Monster at Doral, the original Bay Hill course and Cog Hill’s No. 4 “Dubsdread” course, all long-time PGA Tour venues. No less a figure than Jack Nicklaus once said, “Joe Lee has never built a bad golf course.”

John Fought

(Sand Hollow Resorts)

(Sand Hollow Resorts)

Region: Pacific Northwest, Southwest

Notable Courses:
– The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain – Marana, Ariz.
– Founders Course at Verrado – Buckeye, Ariz. (w/Tom Lehman)
– Players Course at Indian Wells Resort – Indian Wells, Calif.
– Sand Hollow Golf Resort – Hurricane, Utah
– South Course at The Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club – Aloha, Ore.
– Trophy Lake Golf & Casting Club – Port Orchard, Wash.

Geographical Exceptions:
– Wilmington Municipal Golf Course – Wilmington, N.C. (restoration)
– Somerby Golf Club – Byron, Minn. (private; w/Tom Lehman)

John Fought’s (last name rhymes with “boat”) career in golf started as a player; he played the PGA Tour full-time from 1979 to 1985. Back and neck injuries prompted him to trade his staff bag for a drafting table, and he jumped into design in the late 80s, working for Bob Cupp before striking out on his own. Though Fought was an accomplished competitive player, his courses remain playable for the full spectrum of golfers.

Thomas McBroom

(Links at Crowbush Cove/Rodd Resorts)

(Links at Crowbush Cove/Rodd Resorts)

Region: Canada (esp. Eastern Canada)

Notable Courses:
– Le Géant at Tremblant Resort – Mont Tremblant, Que.
– Chippewa and Ussher’s Creek Courses at Legends on the Niagara Golf Club – Niagara Falls, Ont.
– Bell Bay Golf Club – Baddeck, N.S.
– The Links at Crowbush Cove – Morell, P.E.I.
– Tobiano Golf Course – Kamloops, B.C.
– Rocky Crest Golf Club – King City, Ont. (private)

Geographical Exceptions:
– Royal St. Kitts Golf Club – Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis
– Kytäjä Golf – Hyvinkää, Finland

The Toronto-based McBroom has an impressive list of courses to his credit, spanning his golf-mad home country. In addition to the public and resort layouts he’s crafted, he’s also responsible for two of Canada’s most exclusively private courses: Memprémagog and Domaine Laforest, both located in Quebec and owned by the influential Desmarais family.

Jeff Brauer

(Cowboys Golf Club)

(Cowboys Golf Club)

Region: Texas, Great Plains

Notable Courses:
– Cowboys Golf Club – Grapevine, Texas
– Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course – El Paso, Texas
– Firekeeper Golf Course – Mayetta, Kan.
– Sand Creek Station Golf Club – Newton, Kan.
– Colbert Hills Golf Course at Kansas State University – Manhattan, Kan.

Geographical Exceptions:
– Wildhorse Golf Course – Davis, Calif.
– Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation – Myrtle Beach, S.C.
– Giants Ridge Golf & Ske Resort – Biwabik, Minn.
– Wilderness at Fortune Bay – Tower, Minn.

A past Presdent of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, Brauer has excelled at bringing thoughtful, playable courses to some of America’s wider-open spaces. Low on superfluous flash but high on strategic content, Brauer’s courses are everyday gems.

Ault, Clark & Associates

(Worthington Manor Golf Club)

(Worthington Manor Golf Club)

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Notable Courses:
– Baywood Greens Golf Club – Long Neck, Del.
– Cahoon Plantation Golf Club – Chesapeake, Va.
– Nutters Crossing Golf Course – Salisbury, Mary.
– Piney Branch Golf Club – Upperco, Mary. (private)
– Stonehaven and Woodhaven Courses at Glade Springs Resort – Daniels, W. Va.
– Worthington Manor Golf Club – Urbana, Mary.

Geographical Exceptions:
– Isabella Golf Course – Hot Springs Village, Ark.
– The Landings Golf Club – Warner Robins, Ga.

This firm, like so many, is an example of how golf course design can be a family business. Edmund Ault started designing courses in the 1950s, passed the family business along to his son Brian in the 1980s, and Thomas Clark became a partner in 1989, having worked for the firm since 1971. Their work is well-known and well-regarded by public and private golfers from Pennsylvania down through the Virginias and beyond.

Mike DeVries

Greywalls, on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, hints at what Mike DeVries' capabilities.

Greywalls, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, hints at what Mike DeVries’ capabilities.

Region: Michigan

Notable Courses:
– Marquette Golf Club (Greywalls) – Marquette, Mich.
– Mines Golf Course – Grand Rapids, Mich.
– Pilgrim’s Run Golf Course – Pierson, Mich.
– Diamond Springs Golf Course – Hamilton, Mich.
– The Kingsley Club (private) – Kingsley, Mich.

Geographical Exceptions:
– Cape Wickham Golf Links – King Island, Tasmania, Australia
– Meadow Club (private; renovation) – Fairfax., Calif.

DeVries is an example of an architect in the process of transcending the “regional” designation and becoming a household name. In its first year, Cape Wickham has vaulted onto world-top-100 lists and seems sure to open lots of doors for this incredibly talented architect.

Donald Steel

(The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle)

(The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle)

Region: United Kingdom
Notable Courses:
– Bracken Course at Woodhall Spa Golf Club – Lincolnshire, England, U.K.
– Palmerston Course at Brocket Hall Golf Club – Hertfordshire, England, U.K.
– Stapleford Park Country House Hotel – Leicestershire, England, U.K.
– Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle – Dornoch, Scotland, U.K. (private; accessible by overnight guests)
– The Gower Golf Club – Swansea, Wales, U.K.
Geographical Exceptions:
– Primland – Meadows of Dan, Va.
– Abaco Club on Winding Bay – Abaco, Bahamas

Steel’s name does have some cachet in the U.S., mostly due to the exclusivity of courses like Carnegie Abbey in Rhode Island and Cherokee Plantation in South Carolina, but the 84-year old Brit’s influence on U.K. golf has been much greater. Not only has he designed a number of new courses, he has served as a consultant for many of the Open Championship rota courses as well. His courses tend toward minimalistic bunkering, but each of those hazards is well-placed and challenging to escape.

What golf course architects have left their mark on your home state or region? Let us know in the comments section below, and be sure to stay tuned for our “classic” list to come!

14 Comments

  1. Mike McKenna

    October 17, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    What about Tripp Davis?

  2. Gregg Lewis

    October 17, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    How about Gordon Lewis, SW Florida (of course we are related!)

  3. GS in Edmonton, Alberta

    October 17, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Rod Whitman has designed and been part of the design team for several great golf courses, including Cabot Links, Wolf Creek (Alberta), Blackhawk (Edmonton).

  4. JH

    October 17, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Fought also designed Windsong Farm in Minnesota with Lehman. It’s a great track.

  5. Jim DeLay

    October 17, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Bobby Weed, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. Designed The Olde Farm in Abingdon, VA. Renovation of the Ocean Course at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club among his many notable credits!

  6. Mike Marshall

    October 17, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Robin Nelson has produced some wonderful courses through the state of Hawaii

  7. Tim Gavrich

    October 17, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    GS–
    Thanks for the suggestion of Rod Whitman. I went back and forth on including him, but ultimately thought he might be bigger than “regional” due to his work in Europe, Asia and the U.S. as well as Canada. He’s someone whose courses I’d love to see, wherever they are.
    –Tim

  8. Pete Smith

    October 17, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Jim Engh designed The Creek Club at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, GA. Most of the greens have punchbowls.

  9. Butch Byrd

    October 17, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    Please consider Bob Cupp/ Billy Fuller who made a great team of designer and builder for many years including the re-design and construction of the NorthRiver Yacht Club in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where I was the Director of Golf at that time. Thank you!

  10. Tim Gavrich

    October 17, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks Butch! I’ve enjoyed the Cupp courses I’ve seen. He’s another architect whom some could definitely consider “regional,” but his body of work made me personally think of his career as more national in scope. Thanks again for the comment!
    –Tim

  11. Bob Neptune

    October 17, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    Not sure, but you might have forgotten to give Jim Colbert some credit for Colbert Hills and the same for Notah Begay at Firekeeper.

  12. Alexander

    October 18, 2017 at 6:02 am

    Donald Steel:
    you forgot to mention: GardaGolf, Lake of Garda, Italy

  13. JJ

    October 18, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Geoffrey Cornish designed Bowling Green in New Jersey which is a top NJ public course in my opinion.

  14. Dave Larrivee, NH

    October 19, 2017 at 7:48 am

    How about Martin Hawtrey. He is a third generation architect who has renovated some of the great Irish courses, He is the UK equivalent Ito Rees Jones, the “open Doctor” as he has prepared many a UK track for the Open (most notably, Portrush for the 2018 Open). In a recent trip to Northern Ireland, I ran into him at Ardglass Golf Links, where he was presenting his renovation plans to the members of this friendly links course. The course is good, but can become REALLY good as the clubs changes holes, and grows with the increasing volume of travelers who come to the wonderful links courses in Northern Ireland.

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