There was a fellowship of budding golf course architects in the 1970s and 1980s, guys who wanted to build golf courses using heavy machinery, and design courses using pencil and paper and/or CAD software. There weren’t many lead architects in those day; fellows like Pete Dye, Tom Fazio and Robert Trent Jones, Sr., had something of a stranglehold on the industry.
This band of budding architects was not to be deterred. Fellows like Tom Doak, Bill Coore and others set out on their own or in partnerships, convinced that what they wanted to build was unique and directly connected to what was built before the entry of big machines into the business. One of the fellows had an extraordinary artistic bent. Mike Strantz had toyed with the idea of working as a professional artist, but knew that he lacked the dedication to pursue the craft fully. A fortuitous meeting (elaborated in the interview below) led him deeper into golf and the construction of courses. Like all budding designers, Strantz learned the craft on the ground and in the cabin of a variety of earth-moving machines. By the late 1980s, he was ready to move out on his own and Mike Strantz Studios (later called Maverick Golf Course Design) hung a shingle.
The story should have continued for years to come, but Strantz’ time on earth was shortened. Ten years ago, at the age of fifty, Mike Strantz left us, a victim of cancer. His solo legacy consists of nine golf courses, seven of which are found from Virginia to South Carolina, along the coast. Two more lie in California. It’s a great shame that he’s ten years gone and we are ten years without a new Mike Strantz design. Of course, many folks undoubtedly felt similarly in the 1920s and 1930s, when Seth Raynor and Alister Mackenzie passed before their time.
Have a listen to an hour of audio interview with Mike Strantz. Take a break if needed and return when you feel the urge.
This hour of audio with Mike Strantz was released to the golfing public in July of 2015, via the Golf Club Atlas site. Given the variety of courses in western New York, the number of area golfers who take trips to Pinehurst, and the relative dearth of understanding of why golf courses are routed and shaped the way they are, it is important that golfers young and old understand the process of revealing and building a golf course.
Editor’s note: I’ve had the great fortune of playing five of Strantz’ courses. I’ve enjoyed True Blue, Tot Hill Farm, Royal New Kent, Tobacco Road and Stonehouse. I found the last one to be the most demanding from the back tees, but Strantz made certain you knew that you were playing the tips. There’s no faking it on his courses. Visually, Strantz deceives the neophyte with mounding, bunkers and angles, but this intimidation is erroneous. There’s plenty of room out there; you just have to believe it. So when you tee it up on a Strantz course, suspend vision, trust your yardages and your swing, and let the ball fly.