Golf's Land Sculptors
Cigar Aficionado picks the top ten course designers in 2004
From the Print Edition:
Greg Raymer, Sept/Oct 2004
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If there was a knock on him in the early '90s, it was that his fairway bunkering was boring and repetitive and tended to be peanut-shaped. But he has broadened his scope on all aspects of design, which he will gladly tell you since he is so accessible. Among his new courses that get raves and awards are Ocean Forest on Sea Island, Georgia; Cascata, near Las Vegas; the Huntsville Golf Club in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania; Nantucket Golf Club in Siasconset, Massachusetts; and the Golf Club at Briar's Creek on Johns Island, South Carolina. Jones has been extraordinarily busy during the last decade. You could say that the Doctor is always on call.
7 Robert Trent Jones Jr.
You've seen the commercials. You know, the Titleist ads with John Cleese and a beleaguered golf course architect who is terrorized and kidnapped. That would be Robert Trent Jones Jr., who is donating his fees from the ads to Refugees International. Jones Jr. resembles his father in his design, although with an extra flair. Like his father, he is an international gallivanter. He designed the first course in Russia, the Moscow Country Club, which took 20 years from beginning to its opening in 1994. He has courses in 38 countries and on six continents, including Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. He even built a few in the United States, such as Southern Highlands in Las Vegas and the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, and he's all over Hawaii like a blanket of leis.
"I'd like to think that I've evolved," says Jones. "I've gone from what my dad did to being one of the first environmentally friendly architects, to being very bold like Dye and Nicklaus in the '80s, to making things that are more playable in the '90s. I'm very much a strategic architect, not a penal one. And I've become very sensitive to what equipment has done to courses. I don't use length just for length. I use angles."
A good example of his contemporary work is a course he built for the Oneida Indian Nation in Vernon, New York, called the Kahulyat Golf Club at Turning Stone Resort. The Oneida Nation built the outstanding golf complex near its casino operation, and is the host to the New York State PGA Championship. The club pros rave about the place. It's the sort of project that Jones looks for. "I can choose what I want to do and I look for the quality of the land and the commitment of the owner to the game of golf," he says. "I'm not interested in doing something so that someone can build houses around it."
8 Tom Weiskopf (with Jay Morrish)
Unlike the longtime pairing of Crenshaw and Coore, this twosome has split up. Both have gone on to design fine tracts, but their work together was splendid: big, bold courses on big, bold sites, which somehow befits Weiskopf, who was a big, bold player in his PGA Tour days. He won the 1973 British Open and 15 PGA Tour events, but he could never get out of the shadow of his fellow Ohio State alumnus, Jack Nicklaus, something he has managed to do as an architect.
Weiskopf had a wonderful golf swing, but didn't have the head to match. He was a land mine waiting to go off, and he exploded on too many occasions. At the age of 41, Weiskopf quite the PGA Tour to become an architect full-time, a decidedly bold move, and the right one.
He clearly has a head for golf courses, and in conjunction with Moorish he did some real beauties in Arizona where he lives—The Rim in Payson, Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, Troon Golf and Country Club in Scottsdale. Elsewhere there is the very neat Double Eagle Club in Galena, Ohio, and the pristine Loch Lomond Golf Club near Glasgow, Scotland. He was nearly swallowed up by a peat bog on the latter property while walking over it late at night.
Weiskopf's favorite architect is Alister MacKenzie, especially his work at Cypress Point and the Ohio State University Golf Course. He laments that because so much of golf course work is residentially driven, he can't design walkable courses anymore. But he gets to do what he loves, which is considerably better than playing tournament golf and watching his mind explode.
9 Jim Engh
What? You haven't heard of Jim Engh? Well, you just have.
The Colorado-based Engh is emerging as one of the brightest and edgiest architects in the land and he has a bunch of awards to show for it, such as 2003 Golf Digest Architect of the Year.
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