It’s essential to stay healthy and happy to be at my creative best, and I’m lucky to have more opportunities than time to pursue them. But I like to have a look at interesting projects, even when the budget is limited, and I’m happy to recommend someone for the job, if it doesn’t make sense for me.
The most valuable consulting I do now is on my first visit. Did the site for Tara Iti really have the potential to be a top 50 course? Could we maintain a world class course in St. Emilion, France, without well water? How big did the scope of a renovation at The National need to be, in order to bring the Ocean Course up to standard? I’ve spent forty years around the best courses in the world, and I know what it takes to get there.
Over the years, I have served as design consultant on some of the best courses in the world, generally with an eye toward restoration. Today, I have handed over most of those opportunities to my associates. I don’t mind going back to play Royal Melbourne or Bel Air every so often to check up on them, but when I have time, I’d prefer to help other courses get on the right track, providing a second opinion on where the priorities lie, or a master plan for one of my associates to implement.
Minimalist design is all about putting golf holes in the right place to utilize the natural contours of the ground. This makes routing the most valuable part of the process — because if you get the routing right, the course will cost far less to build. Some of my most highly rated designs — including Pacific Dunes, Barnbougle, and Ballyneal — are among the least expensive projects I’ve built. Then again, minimizing construction is even more valuable when you’re working in difficult terrain, like Stone Eagle.
There is no telling how many site visits and iterations it may take to find the best solution to the puzzle, but I charge a flat fee for routings, because the end product is all that counts. And I won’t allow a golf course to be marketed as my design, unless I did the routing.
For a much more in-depth look at the topic of routing, you’ll find none better than my new book, Getting to 18.
Construction is a grind, but it’s the essential work of getting a great course into the ground. Many architects try to position themselves as professionals “above” construction work, but I’m never happier than when I am out on-site getting dirty.
I spend most of my time during construction working with the shapers as they sculpt the greens. Beyond that, I’m there as an editor to get that last 5% of detail just right, and get the course to play as good as it looks. If you’re trying for the top 100 lists, that bit is crucial. But not all clients need that level of oversight, so I am open to limiting my responsibilities here if the right people are in place to make those decisions.