1. Why did you want to be a golf course architect?
I love golf, first and foremost. There's always been an interest in the way people interact with their environments and the physical, psychological and sociologic effects it has on them. Even before golf, I was the type of child who loved to play outside and was always trying to use what the physical environment provided to entertain myself. Maybe that’s why I took to golf with so much enthusiasm.
2. Which golf course architects do you admire and why?
Is it too cliché to say Alister Mackenzie? His track record of working with the land is unmatched. I would also have to include Pete Dye. I love his use of straight lines to create interesting angles of play. The wavy lines you see on most plans, don't necessarily translate well to the field. After all, the perspective viewpoint is comprised of a series of straight lines merging into a single, or multiple vanishing points.
3. What is your proudest design achievement?
So far, I would say the short course I designed under the direction of Lohmann Golf Designs called the Links Learning Center at Randall Oaks in suburban Chicago. It has been a very successful golfer development tool for the area’s youth and people with physical disabilities.
I would also say Samsun Municipal Golf Course in Turkey is another. I worked on this project with Kevin Ramsey while employed at Golfplan. It is a great example of a community using golf as a way to provide healthy recreation for its citizens. Also, the views are breathtaking.
4. What are your favourite three golf courses in the world from a design perspective, and why?
Tough question. I’d have to say in no particular order, the front nine holes at Royal County Down, Royal Dornoch and Pasatiempo. The setting of these courses is unmatched and they are the types of courses you can play every day without feeling over or underwhelmed.
5. What are the greatest challenges you face as a golf course architect?
To quote John C. Sawhill, “A society is defined not only by what it creates but also by what it refuses to destroy.”
I think we as designers are no different. Usually, a site already has existing natural attributes that can be used to make the playing experience unique, but the temptation to be bold and creative can get in the way. Sometimes we have to put ego aside to recognize an existing opportunity, no matter how subtle and refuse to destroy it. Those details make all the difference.
On the flip side, a site that lacks any significant natural features or character like a flat piece of land can be the most difficult to design on, because everything has to be made from scratch without the benefit of existing constraints or features to guide the vision.
6. What environmental or sustainable initiatives have you incorporated into your designs?
Efficient use of turf and building materials are paramount to keep watering and maintenance costs down. Wetland management and mitigation is incredibly important, with natural disasters becoming more intense and frequent. We as a society are starting to realize our mistakes from the past. As a species, we’ve altered natural watersheds in an attempt to mitigate impact from weather and natural processes, but in reality, it has only magnified the devastation caused by those events over time.
7. How do you see the golf course design industry changing in the next 20 years?
I think we will continue to see remodel work become the norm. Many courses will become reconfigured to have a more efficient footprint and make way for other revenue generating amenities. We are already seeing golf repurposed all across the United States. I’m sure the market correction will continue for years to come, with some new construction in emerging markets, but for the most part renovation and remodel is here to stay.
8. What makes a golf course great rather than just good?
The site and how the designer uses it. I would refer the reader back to the quote above by John C. Sawhill.
9. What advice would you give to an aspiring golf course architect?
Persistence and relationships. Talent goes a long way, but to make this profession a viable career, you must be able to sell yourself and your ideas. Competition is stiff, so potential clients have their pick of the litter. Work to set yourself apart.
10. What do you enjoy about being a golf course architect?
The creativity and problem solving. Routing a course is like puzzle. It’s a great feeling when you know you’ve “got it”.
It is also rewarding to work on projects that benefit the greater good. While not the most glamorous, working on accessible projects for beginners, physically disabled and wounded veterans are the projects I live for.
Click here to read more about Jeffrey.