Every great golf architect has taken the time to study the great links of the British Isles, upon which the game of golf evolved. Thanks to a scholarship from Cornell University, I got to live on the links — caddying at St. Andrews the summer after my graduation, then spending the next seven months playing and studying every golf course of note.
In that year abroad, I discovered a challenging, natural outdoor sport played by all ages, on exciting courses which had cost nothing to build and which were affordable for all to play. Ever since, I’ve felt a responsibility to build courses which reflect the ideals of the game as the Scots still play it.
My ideas on golf course design are shaped by having seen nearly every great course in the world — more than 1,000 in all. It still fascinates me how different good courses can be from one another. Sometimes a stretch of ground will remind me of a golf hole I saw in Britain twenty years ago, but the best designs of all are organic, evolving from the subtleties of the ground they inhabit. The chance to create an interesting golf hole which is a bit different than anything I've seen before is what makes all the travel worthwhile.
I spent three years working on construction projects for Pete Dye and his sons, learning how golf courses are built at the highest level. Along the way I discovered that I love the work, too -- being out in the field, refining design ideas while the course is coming together. My first solo design opportunity came at the age of 26, and I haven’t looked back; but we continue to improve at the craft of building golf courses with every project we do.
I’ve been called a lot more names than most golf course architects. Iconoclastic. Cerebral. A traditionalist, and a radical. I love to be considered a radical, but it’s ironic that we’re also trusted consultants to some of the most conservative golf clubs in America. Most of all, I’ve been labeled as “controversial.” But so, too, were my heroes in the business, Alister MacKenzie and Pete Dye.
Today, our design commissions give us the chance to lead by example. And I’m excited to finally be getting the opportunity to show what I’ve learned.
June 4th, 2018 | 1 hr 26 mins
Tom Doak is one of the modern era's best known and most respected golf course architects whose work is highly regarded among peers and golfers alike. In 2010 ISG Podcast co-host Rod Morri sat down for a lengthy chat with the American about all things golf design, from the Golden Age of Architecture to the future of golf development.