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Peter Bowman

  • Karma: +0/-0
I have a curious question for the golf course architects here on GCA:
How did you become a golf course architect?  What's your story? (As I ask this Q I feel like there's probably already a thread about this that I haven't found)

These kinds of stories interest me, especially those that had a different career beforehand. Tom Doak wrote a segment in his Little Red Book titled "I Get Letters,"  describing he gets hundreds of letters from successful individuals expressing a desire to be a golf course architect someday.  I was one of those guys to do just that.
I'm a dentist and I love doing it.  As a teenager I had 2 dream jobs: Dentist and Golf Course Architect.  Being a dentist has been perfect for this phase of my life.  I enjoy doing it and interacting with the thousands of patients each year as the practice grows and grows.  It's allowed me to live where I want and have ample time with family and to travel.  Yet, as much as I love doing it, and I'll likely choose to retire fully from dentistry later in life (because I like doing it), I can't help but continue the dream of designing and constructing a minimum of one golf course before I die.  In a perfect dream world I can limit the days a month I do dentistry while I do golf course architecture. 

To say the least, getting into dental school had serious odds stacked against me and that's a separate but interesting story.  Perhaps that's why I feel becoming a GC architect isn't unreasonable. 

So again, How did YOU become a CG Architect?


Jeff_Mingay

  • Karma: +0/-0
Peter,


Tom Doak got a letter from me; decades ago now, before he was "Tom Doak"  ;)


Growing up playing golf from a young age, I developed an interest in golf course architecture early in my life. Tom Doak was one of a handful of guys who advised me (back in the early to mid 1990s) that I needed to learn how to build golf courses if I was ever going to be a successful designer. (We hear a similar version of this story from a bunch of people, over and over, nowadays.) I was studying history and political science in college at the time. This lead me to track down Rod Whitman, who I'd learned worked with Pete Dye (and, coincidentally, Doak on a Dye project or two), and later Coore and Crenshaw, and was the type of architect who literally built the courses he designed. He was also a fellow Canadian. I pestered Rod and he finally allowed me to come work for him on a project about 2000. Over the next decade, I was with Rod at Blackhawk, Sagebrush, Cabot Links and other lesser known projects/courses. Along with reading all of the great books and visiting every great course I had an opportunity to see and play, working with Rod not only got my "foot in the door", but it was a huge part of my education in design and construction.


Writing to Tom Doak also lead to Renaissance Golf Design's involvement at my home club: Essex Golf & Country Club in Windsor, Ontario. Bruce Hepner handled the work, and Donald Ross' Canadian Essex is the best it can be as a result.


That's my story, in a nutshell.
jeffmingay.com

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +0/-1

Tom Doak got a letter from me; decades ago now, before he was "Tom Doak"  ;)



I've been getting those letters since I started my first golf course - or before, actually.  I think Gil Hanse may have been the first to write, seeking advice to win the scholarship at Cornell that I had won.  But I had already run into plenty of people in my travels who were interested in pursuing the field, as Peter is.  I still probably get 10-20 letters per year on the topic.


I don't know what to tell them anymore.  On the one hand, there is nothing stopping you from doing it, if you have the right skills and you are able to market yourself somehow.  You don't have to pass a test or join the ASGCA or have any gate-keeper tell you that you are "qualified," thank God.  [Because the only purpose of gate-keepers is to protect the people on the other side, and not to help the community as a whole.]  You just have to convince someone to hire you, or go out and develop a course on your own.


On the other hand, there are now dozens if not hundreds of people at the margins of the business who are just as qualified as I ever was, and there is not enough work to keep them all busy, unless we keep re-restoring good courses, or go even further down the list of what's worth restoring.  And it's hard to encourage anyone new [no matter how good they think they are] when you see really talented people struggling just to stay in the business.  I'd like to think I have a pretty good eye for talent, but if so I can say that the ones who are succeeding are not necessarily the ones most likely to do something really cool and different.

Mike_Young

  • Karma: +0/-0
After watching a RTJ course being built neat ATL while at 15 I started to think of trying to do such.  Went to see the one architect I could find that would talk in my area, Ron Kirby.  Decided working for another archie did not suit me and went the route of working for a Toro distributor so that I could be in the filed and actually see the older courses on someone else's dime while forming a network of guys actually doing the work as well as supts etc.. 

I also was born at the right time and when I had the right network and had watched it done enough I quit and started my own.  Really pissed off a lot of the "gatekeepers" in doing so since I got a good many course they would have gotten. 

But as TD says; learning to build is a much better way than sitting around drawing for some dude who had drawn for the dude before him.   

I'm a firm believer that trying to create a "professional" environment instead of a "craft" environment placed golf design in the dark ages form the mid 1940's until late 1980's.
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Peter Bowman

  • Karma: +0/-0
After watching a RTJ course being built neat ATL while at 15 I started to think of trying to do such.  Went to see the one architect I could find that would talk in my area, Ron Kirby.  Decided working for another archie did not suit me and went the route of working for a Toro distributor so that I could be in the filed and actually see the older courses on someone else's dime while forming a network of guys actually doing the work as well as supts etc.. 

I also was born at the right time and when I had the right network and had watched it done enough I quit and started my own.  Really pissed off a lot of the "gatekeepers" in doing so since I got a good many course they would have gotten. 

But as TD says; learning to build is a much better way than sitting around drawing for some dude who had drawn for the dude before him.   

I'm a firm believer that trying to create a "professional" environment instead of a "craft" environment placed golf design in the dark ages form the mid 1940's until late 1980's.


Wait, I don’t “Need” a license like I do in dentistry?? 😒
I can see the point about gatekeepers.  Makes a lot of sense just as long as you know what you’re doing and you’re more costing others or yourself unnecessary money—which, I assume, is where a lot of self-proclaimed, ungate-kept archie’s go wrong.


I like your story, Mike. You pursued the dream at about the age I wanted to be one too.  I can’t say enough about networking.  It’s taken me to heights in the dental field well beyond what I thought I could earlier in my career.  Similarly there’s a brand and a craft you have to market yourself for in order to stand out.  Look to see what the herd does then find a way to do things differently and/or better.  Just being different goes a long way. 


I figure over the next 15 years I’ll fact find my way into the field and dabble in this and that to find what works.  Hooper GC is in need of a restoration I can’t wait to have a hand in its transition back to what Wayne Stiles originally created, all the while gaining a deeper understanding of how Greens complexes should be respected and contoured to allow drainage etc and appear in harmony with the surroundings. It’ll be a good hands-on experience to see what it’s like and to know I can do something meaningful (and hopefully in keeping with Stiles’ vision).


I look forward to this. 

Mike_Young

  • Karma: +0/-0

Wait, I don’t “Need” a license like I do in dentistry?? 😒
I can see the point about gatekeepers.  Makes a lot of sense just as long as you know what you’re doing and you’re more costing others or yourself unnecessary money—which, I assume, is where a lot of self-proclaimed, ungate-kept archie’s go wrong.

Peter,I have seen more wrong from "gatekeepers" than I have from "ungate-kept archie’s gone wrong".  The gatekeepr type usually only knows the one way he was taught by his mentor vs. watching all of them from the field.
If you go out in the field and learn from the contractors and supts etc you will know what you are doing.  Gatekeepers may not be the correct word.  They do their best to sell on "more dollars is better and if you don't do it that way then you must be giving the client a raw deal"  ...but don't get me started...
"just standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona"

Peter Bowman

  • Karma: +0/-0

Wait, I don’t “Need” a license like I do in dentistry?? 😒
I can see the point about gatekeepers.  Makes a lot of sense just as long as you know what you’re doing and you’re more costing others or yourself unnecessary money—which, I assume, is where a lot of self-proclaimed, ungate-kept archie’s go wrong.

Peter,I have seen more wrong from "gatekeepers" than I have from "ungate-kept archie’s gone wrong".  The gatekeepr type usually only knows the one way he was taught by his mentor vs. watching all of them from the field.
If you go out in the field and learn from the contractors and supts etc you will know what you are doing.  Gatekeepers may not be the correct word.  They do their best to sell on "more dollars is better and if you don't do it that way then you must be giving the client a raw deal"  ...but don't get me started...


So many similarities between gatekeepers and dental school instructors (many or most never went into private practice).  That being said, I had a great experience with my instructors but dang they’re dogmatic and could benefit from being a little more creative and/or simplified.

archie_struthers

  • Karma: +0/-0
 ::)

Not sure to this day whether it was providential or a curse. I started messing around with what appeared to be some weaknesses a at a course we bought at the Jersey Shore , Greate Bay in Somers Point. It was an older Willie Park Jr. design with good bones that had been redone by George Fazio in the late 60's and then Ron Garl when they built some new holes around 1982-83 to accommodate the construction of a range for the club. 


When we bought it in 1998 it was a busy semi private (public really) club in the best location down here. After the purchase I wanted to alleviate the logjam we often experienced with the second hole being a funky par three. We blew it up and rebuilt the second hole as close to the original Park 4/5 that was there in 1925. Given the equipment it doesn't qualify as a five anymore at 470 from the tips so I get some heat from a few older members who tell me the green isn't built for a par four. They are right in some respects but the hole is pretty good and its easier for them to make 5 than for me to make 4 lol!


To replace the par three we inserted a new hole into the flow at 16, which out of the nineteen greens I have built might be the best. Hopefully most people wouldn't know its not an original. If we would just rip out the back of the cape bunker on the left it would be even better version of the old stuff. Most of the stuff George Fazio did was good, and the golf course is fun and challenging at the same time. Lots of Willie Jr. still shines thru!




We went on to purchase a big tract of land about 15 minutes away where we built Twisted Dune. Originally theorized as a mix of senior citizen housing with a golf component we ran into multiple issues with the township for all the wrong reasons. They basically forced us to make it into a giant basin, out of which came millions of tons of fill that was sold to the H-Tract connector tunnel project in Atlantic City. The Borgata sits on lots of Twisted Dune dirt. The bad luck was that we got stiffed on millions of dollars by a few unscrupulous politicos, who ruined our project.


I have to say its fun building golf holes and many of you would probably be quite good at it. However if you don't get drainage and some of the little nuances right it can be a disaster. Not for the faint of heart. 

















« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 12:14:21 PM by archie_struthers »

Forrest Richardson

  • Karma: +0/-0
I started drawing golf holes when I was 8-9 years old. I recall a neighbor telling me about "Golf Course Architects," and I got a bit more serious...at least for a 10-year-old. A few years later I wrote to the ASGCA and the NGF. I received some general information from each. What the ASGCA sent me in 1970 was a folder with a map of North American imprinted with dots showing where ASGCA members were located...one was in my zip code, 85018. I called that member — Arthur Jack Snyder — and he said I could visit. I did, riding my 10-speed there. He thought I was in college when I called, but got a kick out of meeting a middle school kid.

I also began writing and publishing THE GOLF COURSE DESIGNER, a newsletter. Subscribers included about 60 — among them, Desmond Muirhead, Arnold Palmer's Office, a bunch of golf architects, and some kind friends of my parents who wanted to support my "habit."

Muirhead later sent me a letter "reprimanding" for writing about one of his par-3s without actually playing it! But, he also included a $75 check that basically funded another year of publishing. I later visited Muirhead when I was about 13, my mother drove me to Balboa Island and once again I was greeted and the assumption was I must have been — at least — able to drive! That visit is another story, quite interesting and it led to a long friendship with Desmond.

Eventually I worked in association with Jack Snyder for 25 years. It was a classic mentor relationship.

I never considered anyone or anything a "gatekeeper". I think you can look at a "gate" in two ways. One is as a barrier "protecting what lies behind" and the other is to look at it as an opening. Both Snyder and Muirhead were mentors — and they could not have been more different. Yet, each respected the other and both encouraged me to keep digging, learning, reading and thinking.

Golf Course Architecture is really a unique art form — and it is equally a unique profession. The very fact that you don't "have to" join a professional organization is good evidence of this. In comparison to the practice of landscape architecture, where you pretty much "have to" become a member of ASLA, there are several who practice golf design that are not members of ASGCA, EIGCA or SAGCA. It's a choice, not a "need."

My comment about this over the years has been consistent: Being involved in ASGCA is as much about contributing as it is about receiving — it is a two-way street. When I look back on 20 years of spending time and interacting with the diverse styles, approaches and ways of thinking of ASGCA members, I believe it would have been a tremendous loss not to have had those conversations, opportunities and debates.

It is interesting to read here about the letters. I, too, wrote a bunch — Fazio, Cornish, Trent Jones, Sr., Fred Hawtree, etc.  I'll bet this is a common denominator among us all.

BTW, this is a very thoughtful thread...exactly what the founders of the Atlas had in mind when the discussion first started. Thanks!


— Forrest Richardson, Golf Course Architect/ASGCA
    www.golfgroupltd.com
    www.golframes.com

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +0/-1
Forrest:  where can we buy back issues of your newsletter?

Forrest Richardson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Ha! Maybe I should dig them up and start a new subscription! Ron Whitten has a full collection. Thankfully he has never published them :)

I had lots of thoughts and ideas...from the mind of a 12-13-year old, you can guess how awkward they were! I will work on finding them, perhaps taking a leap of faith to post them on our website.
— Forrest Richardson, Golf Course Architect/ASGCA
    www.golfgroupltd.com
    www.golframes.com

Peter Bowman

  • Karma: +0/-0
I started drawing golf holes when I was 8-9 years old. I recall a neighbor telling me about "Golf Course Architects," and I got a bit more serious...at least for a 10-year-old. A few years later I wrote to the ASGCA and the NGF. I received some general information from each. What the ASGCA sent me in 1970 was a folder with a map of North American imprinted with dots showing where ASGCA members were located...one was in my zip code, 85018. I called that member — Arthur Jack Snyder — and he said I could visit. I did, riding my 10-speed there. He thought I was in college when I called, but got a kick out of meeting a middle school kid.

I also began writing and publishing THE GOLF COURSE DESIGNER, a newsletter. Subscribers included about 60 — among them, Desmond Muirhead, Arnold Palmer's Office, a bunch of golf architects, and some kind friends of my parents who wanted to support my "habit."

Muirhead later sent me a letter "reprimanding" for writing about one of his par-3s without actually playing it! But, he also included a $75 check that basically funded another year of publishing. I later visited Muirhead when I was about 13, my mother drove me to Balboa Island and once again I was greeted and the assumption was I must have been — at least — able to drive! That visit is another story, quite interesting and it led to a long friendship with Desmond.

Eventually I worked in association with Jack Snyder for 25 years. It was a classic mentor relationship.

I never considered anyone or anything a "gatekeeper". I think you can look at a "gate" in two ways. One is as a barrier "protecting what lies behind" and the other is to look at it as an opening. Both Snyder and Muirhead were mentors — and they could not have been more different. Yet, each respected the other and both encouraged me to keep digging, learning, reading and thinking.

Golf Course Architecture is really a unique art form — and it is equally a unique profession. The very fact that you don't "have to" join a professional organization is good evidence of this. In comparison to the practice of landscape architecture, where you pretty much "have to" become a member of ASLA, there are several who practice golf design that are not members of ASGCA, EIGCA or SAGCA. It's a choice, not a "need."

My comment about this over the years has been consistent: Being involved in ASGCA is as much about contributing as it is about receiving — it is a two-way street. When I look back on 20 years of spending time and interacting with the diverse styles, approaches and ways of thinking of ASGCA members, I believe it would have been a tremendous loss not to have had those conversations, opportunities and debates.

It is interesting to read here about the letters. I, too, wrote a bunch — Fazio, Cornish, Trent Jones, Sr., Fred Hawtree, etc.  I'll bet this is a common denominator among us all.

BTW, this is a very thoughtful thread...exactly what the founders of the Atlas had in mind when the discussion first started. Thanks!




This Golden AND inspiring!  I’d like to see these newsletters too.  Please include me in the email or snail mailings
-Peter

Jeff_Brauer

  • Karma: +0/-0

I remember that Killian and Nugent subscribed to Forrest's newsletters and that I saw a few copies back when I started there in 1977.  Good stuff, and they were always willing to help a kid with aspirations to be a golf course architect, as I also prove.


As to how I got into gca,


Grew up in suburban Chicago, my best friend's family were members of Medinah. 
At age 12, they took me out there to play on a Monday when the course was closed.  Fell in love with golf and maybe even more, golf courses immediately.  Took a placemat with the 54 holes laid out home, and told my folks I was going to be a golf course architect, but really didn't know what that would take.
At age 15, my father happened to read in the biz pages that a group called the American Society of Golf Course Architects had just moved its HQ from Washington DC to Chicago and made Paul Fullmer Executive Director.  Called him up, and a few weeks later, came home from work with a stack of ASGCA and NGF articles and booklets, including "planning and building the golf course" by NGF, and both NGF and ASGCA architects lists.  Was surprised to see one in nearby Palatine, Il.
Wrote both them (K and N) and RTJ letters. Got nice responses from both, with an invite to come see the KN office.  Got my first sports jacket and went in for my "interview" somehow half thinking my Junior and High School drafting classes were soon to be put to good use. LOL< but they did lay out a basic plan for what it would take, landscape architecture degree, with extra classes in survey, turf, aerial photos, business writing (for contracts) etc.  Oh, and a summer job at a golf course and /or landscape contractor.
I did all that and went back after graduating college, and they felt obligated to hire me, even though they didn't have a lot of work in the few years after the 1974 Oil Embargo, etc. that slowed down the economy.  Stayed at KN for 6 years until the split up, and stayed with Ken Killian for one more year.  Walked into his office on my 29th birthday and quit to start my own firm before 30, as I had always planned. 
In a sense of obligation to them for mentoring, decided I would not compete on their home turf and started researching other cities to move to.  In searching various phone books in the local library, found that Dallas was the only major city without a golf course architect, which sealed my decision (cheap but good marketing)  Also, had a good airport, which I felt was required.
Moved here in May 1984 and the rest is a minor sub plot of gca history, as it were.

Like Forrest and Jack Snyder, I considered KN to be the best of mentors, at least in the technical side of golf architecture.  They had started working a few projects with Jim Colbert, and it dawned on me they didn't really play golf, and didn't know a lot about how good players play.  Later, I worked with Jim and other pros to get a sense of that side of design.

Much of my loyalty to ASGCA stems from that early encounter with their literature and the kindness of their members, so it was always a goal of mine to join.  The rest stems from the ongoing great experiences I probably would have never had if I didn't regularly attend those meetings and meet even more of us in the profession.  Thus, my view of ASGCA is about as positive as Mike Young's negative view.  I was just a snot nose kid and they and their members did everything possible to open the gate for me, so we obviously have wildly different experiences.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 11:26:29 AM by Jeff_Brauer »
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Peter Bowman

  • Karma: +0/-0

I remember that Killian and Nugent subscribed to Forrest's newsletters and that I saw a few copies back when I started there in 1977.  Good stuff, and they were always willing to help a kid with aspirations to be a golf course architect, as I also prove.


As to how I got into gca,


Grew up in suburban Chicago, my best friend's family were members of Medinah. 
At age 12, they took me out there to play on a Monday when the course was closed.  Fell in love with golf and maybe even more, golf courses immediately.  Took a placemat with the 54 holes laid out home, and told my folks I was going to be a golf course architect, but really didn't know what that would take.
At age 15, my father happened to read in the biz pages that a group called the American Society of Golf Course Architects had just moved its HQ from Washington DC to Chicago and made Paul Fullmer Executive Director.  Called him up, and a few weeks later, came home from work with a stack of ASGCA and NGF articles and booklets, including "planning and building the golf course" by NGF, and both NGF and ASGCA architects lists.  Was surprised to see one in nearby Palatine, Il.
Wrote both them (K and N) and RTJ letters. Got nice responses from both, with an invite to come see the KN office.  Got my first sports jacket and went in for my "interview" somehow half thinking my Junior and High School drafting classes were soon to be put to good use. LOL< but they did lay out a basic plan for what it would take, landscape architecture degree, with extra classes in survey, turf, aerial photos, business writing (for contracts) etc.  Oh, and a summer job at a golf course and /or landscape contractor.
I did all that and went back after graduating college, and they felt obligated to hire me, even though they didn't have a lot of work in the few years after the 1974 Oil Embargo, etc. that slowed down the economy.  Stayed at KN for 6 years until the split up, and stayed with Ken Killian for one more year.  Walked into his office on my 29th birthday and quit to start my own firm before 30, as I had always planned. 
In a sense of obligation to them for mentoring, decided I would not compete on their home turf and started researching other cities to move to.  In searching various phone books in the local library, found that Dallas was the only major city without a golf course architect, which sealed my decision (cheap but good marketing)  Also, had a good airport, which I felt was required.
Moved here in May 1984 and the rest is a minor sub plot of gca history, as it were.
Like Forrest and Jack Snyder, I considered KN to be the best of mentors, at least in the technical side of golf architecture.  They had started working a few projects with Jim Colbert, and it dawned on me they didn't really play golf, and didn't know a lot about how good players play.  Later, I worked with Jim and other pros to get a sense of that side of design.

Much of my loyalty to ASGCA stems from that early encounter with their literature and the kindness of their members, so it was always a goal of mine to join.  The rest stems from the ongoing great experiences I probably would have never had if I didn't regularly attend those meetings and meet even more of us in the profession.  Thus, my view of ASGCA is about as positive as Mike Young's negative view.  I was just a snot nose kid and they and their members did everything possible to open the gate for me, so we obviously have wildly different experiences.
another great story of someone pursuing their childhood dream job!

Jeff_Brauer

  • Karma: +0/-0

Peter,


Most architects have similar stories of getting started.  For that matter, so do many superintendents, who just had different interests, but loved being around golf courses.
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Peter Bowman

  • Karma: +0/-0

Peter,


Most architects have similar stories of getting started.  For that matter, so do many superintendents, who just had different interests, but loved being around golf courses.
That's my dad's story.  He needed a job as a teenager and decided to work on the greens crew at Tilden Park GC in Berkeley.  He got hooked immediate and went to Cal and Cal Poly for horticulture.
Are there any GCAs that were accountants or something like that that decided to make the switch?

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