Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in The Undercover Newsletter, where we grant anonymity to people in golf who’ve got something to say. This newsletter comes from a prominent course architect interviewed by Architecture Editor Derek Duncan. To receive the The Undercover Newsletter, you can sign up via Golf Digest+.

I recently got some hard news. A club that I consult for hired another architect to renovate their course. I’ve worked for this southeastern club for over 15 years and had conducted a full renovation, getting the course back to the look and playability of its original 1920s-era design. My team put a lot of time into the research, had good documentation and felt we got it right. So did the club. At least they did then.

Now, people tell me the new work there has severely changed the course’s character and isn’t even based on its architectural history. When you hear about this kind of thing heat goes up your neck, and for a couple of nights I had trouble sleeping. When you’ve put so much of yourself—and the club’s resources—into remodeling a golf course it starts to feel like your baby.

Unfortunately, working as a consulting architect can be tenuous. Renovation work tends to be based on informal arrangements, not contractual commitments. Some of my closest friends are those who I met when they were on boards or committees, but you show up at a club one day and realize you’re two or three superintendents or general managers down the road from when you started. The people that liked me aren’t there anymore and might not even be alive. The hiring committees have turned over, and the current one is probably more enamored with the idea of working with somebody else.

That’s probably what happened with the southeastern club in question, though I don’t know because they didn’t inform me they were moving on. That is difficult to take after such a long time together, but it happens, and I’m doing a little bit better at handling this sort of thing than I used to.

As much as I feel stabbed in the back, I can’t blame this other architect for taking the job. The club must’ve reached out to him, just as clubs often reach out to me. Do I call my peers to inform them when I’m the new guy? Never once. In all my time doing this, I’ve had one architect call to tell me a club had hired him where I’d been working. Ultimately, it’s the club’s responsibility, and they should be gracious enough to inform their previous consultant when they move on.


Although, if this architect knew the club wanted to alter a design that was historically and intentionally restored, I wish he would have respected the course and history enough to not take the job. Then again, the club would just find somebody else to do it.

It’s rewarding to be closely connected to a club, especially if it has an interesting or important history. I’ve been honored and humbled to work on courses that have been touched by Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Seth Raynor, and the best situations are when you can help these clubs restore the glory of the original architecture.

The problem is, people always want to put their stamp on a course, whether it’s a consultant or a club committee member. If Ross’s and Raynor’s and Tilly’s courses can be redone, then my renovations can be reworked, too. And there’s always going to be an architect willing to do it. Whatever success I’ve had in this profession is because somebody tinkered with a golf course and somebody else wanted it changed back. And somebody is going to come along after me and make a living putting the pieces back together as they see fit. That’s the business we’re in.

This article was originally published on golfdigest.com