Leading American golf architect Tom Doak recently gave this year's Toro Design Lecture to students on the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) diploma programme. The event was held at the Tom Simpson-designed County Louth Golf Club in Ireland.
Doak said his interest golf started as a boy of ten at Sterling Farms, a Geoffrey Cornish-designed course ten minutes walk from his home, with a green fee of US$1.
"There's not much of that left in golf now," he told the audience. "There needs to be more or there won't be anyone to play our courses later on." Doak believes strongly in the benefits of networking and of travel. During his landscape architecture course at Cornell University he wrote letters to the best golf courses in the US, explaining that he wanted to be a golf course architect and would like to come and walk round and to take pictures. By the age of 20, he had already visited and played such places as Merion, Pine Valley and Oakmont. After graduating from Cornell, Tom spent a year travelling in the British Isles, visiting 160 courses, covering 13,000 miles and including a spell caddying at the Old Course in St Andrews.
"Understanding construction is one of the keys to golf course architecture – that and the ability to visualise a topographical map in three dimensions, even when the land in question is covered in vegetation," said Doak. "Pete Dye once said, 'Lots of people have opinions – only a few can get them on the ground.'" Toro's Andy Brown said: "In Tom Doak we have someone who can really inspire the students to look at the whole business of golf course architecture and show them the way to go forward in their careers.
Hopefully you'll get the opportunity to work occasionally on some outstanding pieces of land and to show what you can do. We all wish you the best of luck with your careers."
This article first appeared in issue 14 of Golf Course Architecture, published in October 2008.