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Mike_Young

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In the last 25 years of being in this business there are a few things I have learned that never change:
1.  The average member has an attention span to discuss architecture of about 5 minutes and for four of those minutes they really are not listening.
2.  Once a board or a club staff have been around a renovation/redesign/  general contractor scene for a month or two...they have learned just enough to be dangerous ...it is amazing how enamored some staffs and committees are with some of the GC's....and the GC's take it to the bank....that's why we are getting so called "celebrity" GCs now.

3.  If that contractor happens to have worked for one of the Big signatures then whatever he tells them is gospel...and it will spread from one club's committee to another club's committee like wildfire...all the time with the GC grinning because each future club wants to pay more than the last....

Thus one learns quickly to ignore these discussions and do their best not to talk about such even when it really pisses you off...

BUT...shaping is the one thing that I really don't think 99.5 percent of the golfers/committees/staffs will really ever understand.  I was having a discussion today with a golf professional and it was clear that he was very impressed with an average GC shaper because he had shaped for some of the big names and was shaping a big golf pro's home green...
Now when someone like me says that they do not use a GC and only want to use their own shapers it is always taken as sour grapes....yet there is no way to hold the attention span long enough to really tell someone the difference.  

The last 25 years have saturated  us with "signature" housing development courses shaped with 10 ft dozer blades.  

My feeling is that as we enter the next phase of golf design there are going to be two segments:

1.  One segment will be the general golf course where no architect is used... but the GC that was working for al the sigs over the last 20 years will go in and design and build a good solid golf course that will be practical and will work for years.....  AND

2.  we will see the architects that have their own guys and who design/build....

I can't think of many of the great courses (I AM NOT TALKING OF RANKINGS..PLENTY OF THOSE ARE GC BUILT) built recently that were completed start to finish by a GC....most I really like had the architect's crew involved....Is this true???
And how does one explain good shapers vs... guys getting on a dozer and making some waves while they have their deer rifle on the dozier in case a buck crosses a fairway?   Any ideas??  I say it hopeless.....
« Last Edit: July 25, 2010, 08:56:58 PM by Mike_Young »
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Bill Brightly

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Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2010, 03:51:06 PM »
Shaping is one of those skills that really fascinates me. I am sure there are many times where the shaper does pretty much what the architect wanted, some times when the shaper has to re-do the work, and then a small percentage of the time when  a shaper completes the work in a fasion that surpasses the architecht's expectations (but the archy takes the credit :) )

 

Don_Mahaffey

Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2010, 05:57:33 PM »
Mike,
Outside of a very few people, I just think most don't know good construction from average to poor construction. To most if it functions, if the drains drain, the sprinkler heads work like they are supposed to, and you can grow good grass, then it's good to the laymen. That's all nice and I like things to work as well, but there's a lot more to it then just making it function. 

The more I see the more I realize how huge the gap is between the really good craftsmen and the ones who just push it around but smooth it out real nice (usually by hiring a high priced finish crew).

Tom_Doak

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Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2010, 06:14:25 PM »
Mike:

I've had the same problem for 20+ years. 

I don't think we will ever be able to explain what those guys are really worth, but that might be because if we did, the client would realize that they are more valuable and we designers are LESS valuable.  So, the only way I've been able to get guys paid what they were worth was to do the shaping as a lump sum, and/or supplement the shapers' pay with some of my design fee.

I was just finally coming around to getting those guys paid what they are worth when the depression hit.

Randy Thompson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2010, 06:41:00 PM »
I am fortunate not to have any GC in South America, so I donīt have the problem. In thre mid to late 90īs we worked with a shaper that was earning 15,000 per month. He trained a local for me durinmg a four year process and now after more than 12 years is excellent. He earns half of that rate but still more than me on 90& of the projects but he puts in more time and is on site full time and lives a gypsy life style and deserves to earn more based on his sacrafices and talent. He also has learned a lot about construction and his eyes are mine. Its a long hard sell I agree but in the end its not a flexible point and I show flexability in all areas minus shaping, so if the client can not be educated and I canīt get through to them the importance of the shaper, I look for the door because your only as good as your last project.

Don_Mahaffey

Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2010, 08:15:42 PM »
Mike,
Isn't part of the problem no one takes the time to describe in detail what good shaping is or isn't? Maybe it's because they don't want to divulge their secrets or maybe its more like pornography, you know it when you see it, but I hear about good or bad shaping but I never see anyone go in to detail.
So, I'll go first with what I see a lot of and think is very poor shaping.

I don't like to look at a bunker and instantly recognize where all the dirt is that came out of the hole. I guess there could be exceptions like if your working in sand and you want it to look like the sand blew out to create the hole. But, if your going to do that can they at least pile the sand up down wind instead of all around? If your building a blow out would there be extra dirt, or "fat" on the up wind side?

If your building a scar type bunker that mimics water erosion, any extra material should be tied in on the low side, right? Not spread all around creating a little raised ring around the bunker. I see this on renovations where I guess they either didn't know what they wanted the end result to look like or didn't want to disturb too much ground so they just created a nice little ring around their scar bunker. 

If you just have to build cap and bay, shouldn't the material be shoved to the high side to tie into native since most cap and bays are on the perimeter? Why do they leave material on the low side where it just blocks sight lines and deflects balls?

I don't like seeing extra material left around a bunker. Blend it in, tie it in, or move it somewhere else, but don't dig a hole and then  hide it with the dirt you just removed.


Mike_Young

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2010, 08:41:06 PM »
Don,
I know what you are saying there.....and I agree unless they take the time to tie it in with long earth forms....but often a generic shaper will be told by an architect that he wants a particular shape and he will go to every bunker and do the same basic thing....

But for me the big difference between the generic GC shaper and the really good ones is their golf IQ.....when you get one with no golf IQ it can be a complete nightmare....there are some very good GC's out there that build some very high end golf courses for hign end clinets and the overall basics are there ...but they might use five different shapers on 5 different jobs and it all looks about the same....

If a shaper can play/ or has played golf competitively or if he has been around it enough to understand why he is doing something then in most cases he can shape a green and the archie can come around and make very few changes....but when you get the  generic guy that tells the client " I did it this way for Jack or I told Arnold we need to do this"  and then the client starts listening to him because he is there everyday....you have a problem....

There are some very good GC's out there that do a top notch job and then it gets finished off with generic shaping.....and because most clients may only encounter the construction experience once they feel as though this generic shaping is really special because the GC has done work for some of the big signatures....you just can't argue it with them because they can't argue it....but then the same person will see a course like a Cuscowilla and really like it and think that the same generic shapers could shape it....while we all know the genric shaper will be telling you that no one should shape like that....it's a hopeless thing.....a lot of classic work has been erased by GC's with generic shapers.  oh well.....
« Last Edit: July 25, 2010, 08:43:18 PM by Mike_Young »
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

paul cowley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2010, 08:43:53 PM »
I have never had a course where I didn't have to first shape the shaper [I don't care who they had worked for].....and then most of the time we do good.

It's a heads together thing.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2010, 08:46:50 PM by paul cowley »
paul cowley...golf course architect/asgca

Mike_Young

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Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2010, 09:00:13 PM »
Mike:

I've had the same problem for 20+ years. 

I don't think we will ever be able to explain what those guys are really worth, but that might be because if we did, the client would realize that they are more valuable and we designers are LESS valuable.  So, the only way I've been able to get guys paid what they were worth was to do the shaping as a lump sum, and/or supplement the shapers' pay with some of my design fee.

I was just finally coming around to getting those guys paid what they are worth when the depression hit.
TD,
Agree 100%
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

paul cowley

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Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy..... New
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2010, 09:12:30 PM »
If a shaper is good...its easier...if he's not, then it takes more effort to get what you want.

Unless you're just working from a plan and aren't around to see the finished product before it goes to press.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2010, 09:59:00 AM by paul cowley »
paul cowley...golf course architect/asgca

Randy Thompson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2010, 09:39:05 PM »
The best shapers...shape and donīt talk to clients!

Mike Nuzzo

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Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2010, 11:28:49 PM »
Generic shaping is when they try to do the rough and finish shaping at the same time.
(those are often 2 separate billable tasks)
It is production.

In-house shaping is getting it as right as possible whenever possible.
Craftsmanship.
Thinking of Bob, Rihc, Bill, George, Neil, Dr. Childs, & Tiger.

Joel_Stewart

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Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2010, 12:50:22 AM »
Generic shaping is when they try to do the rough and finish shaping at the same time.
(those are often 2 separate billable tasks)
It is production.

In-house shaping is getting it as right as possible whenever possible.
Craftsmanship.

Mike:

Not sure what you mean by "in house shaping".  To me that means a superintendent who thinks he is a shaper and is really a butcher.  I observed this first hand for about 5 years and it was god awful, some of the worst finish work I have seen is by a superintendent who either thought he was a shaper or was just trying to save money.

I've studied shaping for many years now and can't for the life of me put my finger on it.  It is an art and some shapers just have a better feel than others.  It also starts at the top (architect) and direction.

With that said, I've seen the same construction companies do a great job on some courses and terrible on other courses.  Wadsworth may be the best example of this.  MacDonald & Sons also. 

Randy Thompson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2010, 01:13:03 AM »
Joel,
In house means Mike uses one of his shapers not the contractors. Superintendents shaping would not even be classified as, Generic!

Mike_Young

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2010, 06:53:35 AM »
GC (generic) shaping is where a general contractor is used for a project and you use which ever shaper they hire for the project...can be good or bad and often some archies request a particular guy but IMHO most of the time you ate getting a guy that will work for the General contractors price where , as TD pointed out earlier,  some of us may have shapers we would be paying significantly more....

I think an example would be a sculptor who had a sketch of what he needs a statue carved....IN_HOUSE: one sculptor has his own guys that have been working with him and GENERIC  the other takes bids from a few really good carvers and accepts one....
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Jeff_Brauer

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Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2010, 09:02:27 AM »
Since the golf course contractors have more money and can pay more, I wonder what it is that makes people think that the best shapers work for the generally lower paying gca's?  In the real world, it doesn't work that way. And I can name many architect supported shapers who I wouldn't even allow on my jobs, so it is all a matter of perspective.  In general, I think there is a lot of talent out there, whether working for gca's, contractors, or independents, after the last golf course boom.  Where they end up is a matter of their own personalities, ability to tolerate their boss (whether gca or gc) etc.

I also recall that Tom Lehman came on here and had hired two Doak shapers, who Tom promptly labeled his "6-7 guys" out of his then 8 stabled shapers.  While that may be true, it means he hired for need when he was busy, too.  And, there is no company I know that doesn't sort of mentally demote its guys who have left almost immediately, preferring then to remember the screw ups rather than the good stuff.  Human nature, really.

Mike Young makes a good point, but all things can work both ways.  For contractors I have worked with mulptiple times, they try to give me a shaper that I have worked with well in the past, and then maybe one new guy.  In reality, sometimes the new guy and I get along better.  They do vary in talent of course, and on a job it usually works out that I can direct the contractor to use the one I prefer for the more critical areas if not all the basic shaping while the other guy pushes topsoil, makes the first bulk pushes or cuts, etc.

In short, whether you are working with your own guys or someone else's, it all comes down to people skills......which is why I would probably be screwed either way on shaping, since I have soooooooo little of that!  I started a recent job with a highly touted, reputedly egotistical shaper by telling him I had heard he was the "best ladies tee guy in the biz."  That put him off balance and he hasn't let me forget it, either.  But, we actually worked quite well together and got good results.

And, in some cases, having a new shaper who has worked for others has its benefits.  Its a pain to hear that someone did it this way for Faz, Doak, JN, etc., but sometimes, the joining of perspectives yields even better results than working with a shaper who has conditioned himself to do it the bosses way only.

I will submit that whether the shaper works for the gca or the contractor (or the owner as an independent, also a common occurrence) that at some point, the time factor precludes the "endless shaping by the gca to get it "just right" that is a supposed advantage of that method.  After all, the grass needs to be planted by Sept 15 or so, either way.  I doubt many gca's would put off grassing a year to get that last green just perfect, or that it would be an advantage to anyone in 99.9% of the cases.

Lastly, most contractors have two shapers plugged in from January to September and don't fight shaping changes until they get the sense that the overall schedule is compromised.  Sometimes, you get in a fight if you ask for endless long pushes, or more work that isn't shown on any plan in any way, but as noted by the gca's with shapers, who really designs golf courses in such an uneconomic manner anyway?  Not I or anyone I know.

Lastly part two, if the gca was really going to draw plans and hand them off, I gather the quality of the shaper wouldn't matter.  But this forum as a whole has misrepresented a whole bunch of gca's as CAD and no site visit guys.  Again, my firm draws CAD plans, (using the same software as Mike Young, for which he willingly shares all the info he has....thanks Mike!) but it doesn't mean I don't care enough to visit on site.  It is just the most efficient way to draw stuff that needs to be drawn to get most projects bid out to a qualified contractor.

Just pre coffee, Monday morning thoughts.
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Tom_Doak

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Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2010, 11:36:29 AM »
Jeff:

I'm sure you know that one of the problems with the best shapers who work for contractors [at least in the boom years] is that they wanted them to shape three courses a year in order to justify their high pay ... didn't want them to stick around and finish their own work.  The one time we worked with Landscapes, I had to get my client to tell them if they moved out Jerame before the job was finished, they could all go with him.  [Which worked out pretty well for him, since he's now an associate for Nicklaus.]

I think I've paid my guys pretty well for what they do, whether we are allowing them to learn on the job, or whether they are at the top of the profession.  The only reason there are shapers who make more than my associates is that there are guys who are willing to go anywhere for however long someone wants them, whereas my guys have a family and a lifestyle they like, even if they aren't making as much.  The best guys really want to feel like they are involved in the design, instead of just a hired gun, and some of them are willing to work for a bit less in those conditions.

I do agree completely that it's good to have new blood on a job, and we've usually tried to do that, whether we added someone from the outside or were teaching someone new.  At a minimum, I like to mix up the crews enough that it isn't the same exact group that worked on the previous course.  Of course, that's harder to justify right now when you barely have enough work to keep your main guys busy.

As it happens, I played golf over the weekend with Kyle Franz, one of those young guys who we couldn't keep busy, and wound up working at The Prairie Club for Tom Lehman.  He's a really talented guy, although he's one of those who I always had to be on top of to tone him down.  [Kyle built a lot of those bunkers at Stone Eagle that would supposedly freak out Huckaby's dad.]  He'd still be high on my call-back list if we got busy, and I think he'll keep getting better as he continues to mature.  There are at least 4-5 other guys on that list, too; so there is an awful lot of shaping talent out there for architects who want to go in that direction.

Don_Mahaffey

Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2010, 11:37:30 AM »
In the end I think the really good golf courses have excellent design and construction, and shaping is probably the only real construction task that is inseparable from either area. Is shaping design, or is it construction? I think itís both and I think some architects have recognized this and worked very hard to find the best and brightest to form their shaping crews.
When I see bad work like poor tie in at the base of slopes or bad bunker work like that I mentioned earlier I donít think if it as just bad shaping, its bad design as well. If you canít tie in a slope because you donít have enough material, thatís bad design. When architects take the time, and responsibility, to train and nurture shapers so they can take on bigger roles like PM or Design Associate while they are shaping, then I think you see less of those kinds of errors.
There is no doubt we have some great construction companies out there. They can well out a cavity and compact a trench and lay pipe perfectly. But, they are not great architects, IMO. They do high quality construction work, but when design work gets left to them I just donít see the same quality as when you have excellent design guys who happen to be great operators as well.
A weekly or monthly site visit is just not the same as having one of your own building the key features and keeping a watchful eye on everything else.


Jeff_Brauer

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2010, 12:01:45 PM »
TD,

I know having shapers pulled is a potential problem, although I suppose a gca might be tempted to send his most talented guys to a hot new project, too.  Years ago I put a penalty in my specs for pulling shapers or foreman.  On a recent city project where LUI got the bid, they did respectfully ask me if it was all right that their foreman was going to be replaced for the birth of his first child mid project. Of course, I agreed.  Who wouldn't allow that kind of lifestyle choice these days?  Everyone has some personal life issues/expectations in the nine months it takes to build a golf course.

In another LUI incident years back, I got home from church one Sunday, and had an urgent message from Bill Kubly.  It turns out out his shaper had a heart attack that week.  My associate made a field visit and used that opportunity to dock LUI the penalty to help balance the budget, which is clearly wrong and not the intent of the clause.

I have docked contractors for just taking the shapers off to go finish some other job, including one you worked with and asked a reference on.  If it rains, and they send them to a job somewhere else, inevitably, they miss a few prime days of shaping and it seems like they get back in time just for the next rain.

For the most part, the shapers at all the bigs are talented and willing to please and make the product better than I envisioned with their skills.  I gladly take suggestions from shapers if we appear to be on the same page, and enjoy having them be part of the collaborative process.  I am not sure we want them to be too architecturally oriented, though.  They tend to look at art and drainage, but how could they be expected to know (other than the gca telling them) about what bounces I would expect. 

But again, I guess I am just saying that it is quite possible to get great results using a big contractor.  While they do have to watch costs to a degree, the best ones have gotten that way by trying to be an extension of the architect and his ideas.
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Jaeger Kovich

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Explain "in-house" shaping vs GC (generic) shaping to a guy.....
« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2010, 08:45:58 PM »
I have been working for a full service golf course construction company for 4 months.
I have worked at 8 different golf courses. All renovation.
I have seen 1 architect.

Our mission statement might as well be: hurry up and wait; if you are standing around we are losing money. We do things by the book.

some jobs I (personally) have done: build irrigation/drainage, haul material on site, load, build cartpaths, finish tees/approaches/bunkers, cosmetic grass repair, rough shape mounds, cap/rough shape dumps, mix top-soil, tree removal

equipment i have used: JD 650 dozer, Cat d3 dozer, 6/7 different trackhoes w and w/out knucklebucket, backhoes, loaders, dump trucks, sod cutter, compactors, saws, and done plenty of shovel/rake/hand work

Of those involved in field work, I play 99.9 percent of the golf

are there things I wish could be different, of course, but as someone who has "been in the business" for 4 months, I am getting an unbelievable education. I cant imagine ever building/designing a golf course without being where I have been. It is extremely difficult to run a small business these days, when you are keeping track of aprox 100 pieces of equipment and 10 full time employees, sometimes things need to be done a certain way to stay in business.

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