Castle Stuart owner and co-designer Mark Parsinen dies aged 70

Castle Stuart owner and co-designer Mark Parsinen dies aged 70
Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Mark Parsinen – the developer responsible for and Castle Stuart Golf Links in Inverness and Kingsbarns Golf Links near St Andrews, Scotland – died on 3 June, aged 70.

Friends and colleagues at Castle Stuart have sent their condolences to Mark’s wife of 38 years, Dede, their children Cammy, Jenny and Samantha and their four grandchildren.

Parsinen worked with golf course architect Gil Hanse on the design of Castle Stuart, which opened in 2009. He was also managing director and partner at Kingsbarns until 2005.

Grant Sword, a managing partner at Castle Stuart, said: “Mark was a friend first and a partner second. His knowledge of golf and design was inspiring and his enthusiasm for his work highly infectious.

“He was immensely proud of what he achieved here, but his vision for the resort was much bigger. As difficult as it will be without him, we must continue his legacy and fulfil his ambitions for a place he held dear to his heart.”

Stuart McColm, Castle Stuart’s general manager, said: “Everyone at Castle Stuart, and the wider golfing world, is today mourning a man whose foresight, creativity and intelligence made him one of the great golf architects of modern times.

“He helped create something special at Castle Stuart and that, along with the other courses he designed or influenced, will be his legacy.

“But he was also a charming and engaging person, and a great friend to many at Castle Stuart, the Highlands and Scotland, and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go to Dede and the rest of Mark’s family and colleagues.

“Words can’t describe the feelings that have been around since first learning of his stroke some days ago and today is the end of a massive chapter in the continuing evolution of Castle Stuart.

“We all have a duty now to continue delivering his vision.”

The course, with views overlooking the Moray Firth, has won widespread praise as a contemporary classic among Scotland’s rich heritage of links courses. Within 18 months it had staged the European Tour’s Scottish Open, the first time such a major golf event had been held in the Scottish Highlands. It would later hold the tournament a further three times.

Writing about the course on the Castle Stuart website, Parsinen says: “‘Ball-in-pocket and disengaged’, often the result of unrelenting difficulty, is a reality and state of mind that we think should be kept to a minimum. We believe the most cherished courses in the world keep each golfer in his or her competitive ‘hunt’ throughout the entirety of their round of golf, while also providing a pleasurable forum for friendly and companionable banter – one unmatched by any other sporting activity. We have taken our lead from great courses of this nature and the robust playing experience they elicit.”

As a teenager Parsinen was a caddie, and while at school he was on the greenkeeping crew at his local course. He inherited from his Finnish parents a cultural characteristic they call ‘Sisu’ – or ‘never giving up’. “Sisu was hammered into me from birth and golf seemed a perfect match for me insofar as perseverance in golf in the face of imperfection,” he said.

He studied at the London School of Economics, the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford Graduate School of Business, before becoming director of marketing at the Adolph Coors Company. He later became partner and vice president at the Boston Consulting Group.

In 1983, he set up a specialist computer company in Silicon Valley with three electrical engineering professors and rose to become president and CEO in 1990.

Later, while semi-retired, he co-built a course at Granite Bay in California, which also helped develop his philosophy for how golf should be played: “I built it for people like me who loved golf, whose skills were suspect or were never honed in the first place, whose spare time was precious, and who wanted to find some pleasure in the time they spent playing the game of golf; and rather than being humiliated by their inevitable errant shots, would appreciate opportunities to recover and to some extent have a chance to redeem themselves.”