Golf course architect Arthur Hills passes away aged 91

Golf course architect Arthur Hills passes away aged 91
Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Arthur Hills, designer of more than 200 new golf courses, died on 18 May aged 91 in Toledo, Ohio.

Before embarking on his career in golf course architecture, Hills attended both Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. He was also a member of the MSU Spartan golf team.

In the 1960s, Hills formed a golf course architecture firm and has since designed more than 200 new golf courses around the world and renovated more than 150 others. His new designs include Bonita Bay in Florida, The Golf Club of Georgia in Atlanta, Bighorn Golf Club in California, Keene Trace Golf Club in Kentucky, and Hyatt Hill Country Resort in Texas.

“As a kid drawing golf holes and dreaming about becoming a designer, I would read the magazines and marvel at the articles about new courses,” said Forrest Richardson, the president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, a role which Hills undertook in 1992-93. “One was Tamarron in Colorado, a new course by Art Hills set in a rugged valley with steep cliffs. Eventually I got to see it firsthand, and it inspired me with its bold greens and creative routing.”

Hills designed the first Audubon Signature Sanctuary courses in the United States, Mexico and Europe. Pete Dye dubbed Hills “the Mayor of Naples” for the number of private country club courses that he designed in and near that coastal Florida location.

Steve Forrest, one of the principals of Hills Forrest Smith, said: “He started the business by placing an ad in the Toledo Yellow Pages under ‘Golf Course Architect’ while operating a landscape contracting business. I had the great privilege of learning all aspects of golf course architecture from a distinguished professional practitioner and humble gentleman over 42 years. Arthur became a father-like figure to me who was a mentor, an instructor, exhorter and admonisher while always trying to improve his own skills and increase his personal knowledge every day.”

“Mr Hills was among a handful of golf architects who subscribed to a newsletter I published about golf design in the 1970s, and he also took time to comment and contribute,” said Richardson. “While he left an incredible legacy of work across the world, for me I will always recall the kindness he showed a young aspiring student — a gift we should all pay forward.”

Hills was an inductee into both the Ohio and Michigan Golf Halls of Fame and received a lifetime achievement award from the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association.

He is survived by his wife Mary. They had eight children, 24 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.