BuffaloGolfer.Com did an interview back in the day (that means, before web 2.0 and wordpress) with Toronto-based golf course architect Ian Andrew. Both Scrambler and Mo’ Golf contribute to (and glean from) Golf Club Atlas’ discussion forum, and have had the privilege of learning from Mr. Andrew. As such, we ReView the quick nine we did with Ian a few years back.

1.  Describe your entry into the playing of golf (I assume) as a youth…

At 13 I was watching The Bing Crosby Pro Am and I asked if someone actually designed golf courses. He answered of course, and I told him that’s what I’m going to do then.

My father encouraged me by getting books on architecture and decided that if this was what I wanted to do, that I best learn the game. He signed me up to begin playing that summer at a local Muni. He was an old club captain from England and a pretty good player. So my introduction to the game was a series of lessons from him.

To play on my own, I had to pass an etiquette test with my father. Once I could play by myself, it only took a 5 mile ride to the course on my bike to play each day. I went up 85 times in the first year.

2.  At what age did you start to pay attention to the golfing grounds as something more than a course?  Elaborate if it’s worth your while.

I was far more into the architecture than the game from the beginning. I was obsessed with places like Merion, The Old Course and Royal Melbourne due to a book called the World Atlas of Golf.

At 16 my father took me on the first of many family vacations designed to show me the great courses of the world and I was blown away. The first was Highland Golf Links. I was hooked and began to source out books, like Golf Architecture in America, and began to read about golf design as much as I did about Shakespeare.

3.  Describe your entry into golf course architecture…Courses of study, apprenticeships, machines ridden, etc.

I got in contact with Doug Carrick, who along with Tom McBroom was one of the two most prominent Canadian golf designers of our generation. I talked to him on the phone, went out on construction sites, came in to see him at the office and generally hung around while in University. We stayed in contact till an opening finally came up and I was asked to join.

4.  What tours have you made (in addition to the Australia one this year) that have revealed your direction in design to you?

These are the trips with my father:

Highlands Links and the Maritimes (age: 16)
Westchester (17) –
Pinehurst (18) – the lessons on short grass have lasted a lifetime with me
Monterey Peninsula (20) – borrowed scenery

Scotland (21) – details, undulations, green contour, it goes on forever – this was the trip that made all the difference

London Heathland area (21)
Ireland – incorporating natural features

These are trips on my own after I began working as an architect:

Northern Michigan
Florida (2 trips)
Long Island (4 trips played everything)
Philadelphia (2 trips played or walked almost everything)
Boston (back next year)
Los Angeles (played all of the famous courses)
San Francisco (played all the famous layouts)
Bandon Dunes (2 trips)
Seattle (Chambers Bay)
Pinehurst (2 trips)
Augusta (for the tournament)
Scotland (2 more trips) – seeing lesser known courses led to more ideas
Montana (Rock Creek)
Monterey Peninsula (2 more trips)
Australia (two weeks this year) – bunkering without rough!

England and Boston will be my next focus.

I try to go to at least one place to learn something every year. My wife understands and supports this “habit.” I try to take her along when she’ll go.

5.  Describe your work with other firms, before striking out on your own.

I did some work before Carrick Design, but I honestly think that the work there is the only experience I have working as a golf architect. I also considered the early years an apprenticeship where I learnt about design.

I ended up working on a dozen new golf courses for Doug. My role was always to assist Doug in any way I could. We worked together on everything, he in the lead, and me in assistance for the first ten years. I was very involved in the design of some courses and not as much in others, but it was always Doug’s projects. I did see all those courses through construction. I shared the site work with Doug.

By the mid 1990’s the renovation side of the business exploded and we found ourselves in great demand for that service. I liked the renovation work and he didn’t. I also loved the independence to deal with the clients and offer my own thoughts on design and promote restoration. Nobody did restoration work till I started and I would say that it’s this work that I best known for. Through the 90’s and beyond, I concentrated on the renovation business and grew it substantially while Doug concentrated on the new projects.

This was great until the new work stopped for the first time and Doug wanted to be involved in the renovation side again. I had established a strong renovation business and liked the independence. To complicate matters further, we had also grown apart on our design philosophies.  It became clear to both of us that we had grown apart and in my mind it was inevitable that I should plan to leave when the time was right. Rather than go right away, my wife convinced me to work together with Doug one last time before heading out on my own.  Sometimes we struggled, other times we pulled the best out of each other, but most often it was great. The course is a little different than most of his work and it did win Golf Digest’s Best New Course in Canada in 2007. I was pleased by the fact that we got our relationship back to where it was when I began and we built something a little different than the company had before. We finished up and I told him it was time to go.

6.  How did Mike Weir get in touch with you to discuss your current partnership?

I actually worked on my own for three years first.  Mike decided it was time to go into Golf Architecture and set out to find the “Coore” to him being the “Crenshaw.” He decided that they should do a search and invited 25-30 architects to put in an expression of interest. He then asked each to look at a site and to put together a plan, any additional accompanying materials they wanted, present a design philosophy and anything else we felt was relevant to the new venture.

Mike and his team reviewed the proposals and cut the group down to the final five. The five of us interviewed with him and his team. It was the first time I had ever met Mike. We were all left to present anything we wanted to. Most choose to present the project, but I choose to talk about my design philosophy. I also touched on an environmental approach to design and explained how I thought we would manage working around his schedule.

They were supposed to go down to two and interview a second time, but I guess we clicked because he phoned me on the 22nd of December to congratulate me. This year we have met at Riviera (LA), Augusta, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Montreal, Quebec City and yesterday at Bright’s Grove.

7.  Describe your thoughts on how a golf course should be built, kept up and play.

We are firm believers in the old idea of building courses. The best ones usually involved building only greens tees and bunkers. Unless the site is really lacking for any merit, it’s up to us to find the golf course, not design the golf course. We believe that every routing must deal with an unusual part of the site, but through innovation and creativity these tend to become the most iconic and interesting holes in golf. If you simply re-grade the complicated parts of the site, you will never build an iconic hole.

We plan to disturb less of the site, move less earth, design less and get back to the origins of the game which was all about embracing the subtle undulations in the land. Modern golf revels in the photograph, whereas the architecture we like revels in the playing experience. We are going to make courses that people enjoy playing.

We intend to get the ball back on the ground more, open up the fronts of greens for running approaches, increase the fairway width for options and have far more short grass around the greens to promote creativity. There will be less reliance on bunkering, because they will be used to defend the ideal line rather than frame a golf hole.

The courses will be wider, more playable and have far more options on how to get the ball to the hole. The player will be encouraged to flirt with trouble in order to score, but the amount of risk they take on is up to them. We want to test their thinking as much as we want to test their skill.

8.  If you could have one opportunity in golf design what would you like?

I would have to say a links site is the ultimate. The less we have to do the better the project will be. I would enjoy the fun and challenge of walking until the right eighteen holes is found. I think one site like this in a lifetime is a dream for all architects.

9.  What is the one hole in the greater Buffalo area that you wish you designed and why?

The 11th at Stafford Country Club.

The entire focus of that hole is the green. The approach to the front pin must be bounced in from the fairway. The middle needs an approach shot to run through the front and a shot to the diabolical back plateau needs the ball to run up from the middle. The contours do a fantastic job in separating the green into a series of completely different challenges depending on the pin position.

This may sound too tough, but the surroundings are all kept short to provide an alternative. Players can bail right and away from the creek and bunker on the left, but they are left with a really tough chip to try and save par. It’s the perfect combination of toughness and playability.