Golf Course Architecture - Issue 75, January 2024

1 WELCOME ADAM LAWRENCE Is signature design dead? When GCA first published in 2005, many courses being built at the time were done by ‘signature’ architects. The term originated with Robert Trent Jones Sr, whose advertising told potential clients that they should “give their course a signature”. In an environment in which golf architects had become anonymous, a ‘name’ architect would make the course more desirable. But, as more architects came back into the public eye, that concept became increasingly irrelevant, and ‘signature’ came to indicate a celebrity course designer, usually a high-profile professional golfer. Today, the business is rather different. There are a lot fewer courses being built than at the turn of the century and there are not as many real estate driven developments. But still, Arnold Palmer is dead, and his company (as discussed in the last issue of GCA) has ceased to exist. Jack Nicklaus is 83; Nicklaus Design still exists, but he does not own it any more, and it has transformed from a vehicle for Jack into a more conventional design company. Gary Player is 88, and his design firm’s website says its process involves a “senior designer working hand-in-hand with Gary”. Greg Norman and Nick Faldo’s companies are still active, and Tiger Woods Design remains a force, but lead designer Beau Welling does more work under his own name than he does for Tiger. This issue’s interview subject, Jeremy Slessor of European Golf Design is as well qualified as anyone to speak on the signature design market. From being almost entirely a signature operation in its early years, EGD has not now done such a project in a considerable time. Slessor says that, in his opinion, clients have realised that the expenditure on a signature designer is marketing budget that might be spent in other, more productive ways. The signature design model is not dead, but it seems largely to be a thing of the past.