Geeked on Golf


Right on the Sweet Spot – Architecture Week III

This time around it was different.  They changed the name, and they changed their game.  The third installment of Architecture Week on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive took a different approach, and for me, it hit the sweet spot.

This time around was different for me as well.  For the previous two AWs, I was able to watch each day.  This year, with action-packed holidays, work, and developments at Canal Shores, I missed the live broadcast.  It wasn’t until mid-January that I was finally able to sit down and binge watch all of the segments (thanks Howard Riefs for the links – on Twitter @hriefs).  As it turns out, watching Architecture Week in this manner gave me a perspective that might have been missed by my fellow GCA geeks.

Simply put, Architecture Week III was by far the best yet.  Its greatness was the result of the same basic ingredients that make for great golf architecture – variety, challenge, and fun.  From beginning to end, it was designed to be interesting and accessible for all viewers, in the same way that a great golf course is interesting and accessible to all players.

Golf Channel increased the variety in several ways:

  • Complementing Matt Ginella with Geoff Shackelford throughout the week was a stroke of genius.  They seem to have good chemistry born of a shared spirit for the game, but they clearly do not agree on everything.  That makes for good conversation and provides the viewer with a richer perspective on the subject.  It was also nice to see additional members of the Morning Drive cast participate.
  • There was greater variety in the segments.  Some pre-produced, some live.  Some in-studio, some on-location.  Some focused on courses, some focused on the architects, and still others focused on the player experience.  A multi-media smorgasbord of discussion, video, pictures.  This gear-shifting throughout the week delivered visual and intellectual stimulation, and made for a much higher level of interest.
  • The week also had depth.  From Architecture 101 educational segments to deeper looks at the lives of Tillinghast and Ross, AWIII was substantive enough to satisfy my geekiest interests.  It did not include these elements at the expense of including the GCA novice though.  To steal the essence of Matt’s “thoughtful architecture” concept, Morning Drive knows its audience, and it designed a week with enough breadth and depth to provide interesting content for all.

I would still like to see an increase in breadth of coverage.  More history and more education on the principles of great architecture.  A wider range of featured projects, especially those focused on community golf like the Schoolhouse 9 and Sharp Park.  And of course, new and different faces including industry vets like Ian Andrew and Drew Rogers, as well as up-and-comers like Dave Zinkand, Andy Staples, Keith Rhebb and others.

Hitting the sweet spot with this installment of Architecture Week proves that a GCA show can be viable.  The remaining breadth of compelling GCA subject matter to left to cover reminds us that a GCA show is necessary.

And now, for the recap…


“The chief object of every golf architect worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of nature so closely as to make his work indistinguishable from nature itself.” – Dr. Alister MacKenzie


“Strategic design is at the core of the great holes and great courses of the world.” – Geoff Shackelford

“Could you play a course every day and not get tired of it?” – Geoff Shackelford

Spot on.  This is my top criteria for my favorite golf courses.  If I wouldn’t want to play it every day for the rest of my life, it isn’t going to crack my Top 10.  I agree too with the point about the misplaced importance of prestige in American golf.  This is at the core of what has taken golf in this country off the rails, because it is about ego.  Where there is ego in golf, accessibility and fun tend to get crowded out.

“The merit of a golf hole is not its length.  It’s the variety and interest therein that golf hole.”  – A.W. Tillinghast

“A.W. Tillinghast was not only the greatest character the American game ever knew, he was quite possibly the most imaginative designer this country has ever produced.” – Geoff Shackelford

Nobody does this historical content better than Geoff, and I love it.  Especially at this point in architecture, being called by some the new Golden Age, it is helpful to look back to the lives and work of the men who practiced their craft in The Golden Age.  They are endless sources of inspiration.

Side note about the Mike Keiser story:  Although the elements of this story are not new to Golf Channel, it is nice to see Matt continue to follow up and share updates over time.  The building of a golf course and the revitalization of a community do not happen overnight.  I appreciate Matt and the Golf Channel taking the longer view so that we can witness the unfolding.

“The first thing is, everybody just has to get over scoring.” – Geoff Shackelford

“As a player of the game for 25 years, I never really thought about why I liked a golf course or didn’t like a golf course.” – Paige Mackenzie

This was a wonderful discussion punctuated by Paige describing the evolution of her perspective, and the deepening of her understanding of architectural intent.

Side note about Streamsong Black:  The description of Royal Melbourne style bunkering, while building off the big site shaping of the Olympic Course in Rio, has me salivating.  I will be at Streamsong in 2 weeks and I hope to sneak a peak at the Black course.

“(The Keisers) only touch pieces of land that have the potential to be something unbelievably unique and special.  Mike has an ability to draw out of people much more than they thought they were capable of, or maybe more than they were capable of, and that is part of his genius.” – David McLay Kidd

“The vision is to bring heathland golf to the U.S.” – Michael Keiser

As I previously posted, I had the privilege of visiting Sand Valley for a tour (read my recap with photos here).  The Coore & Crenshaw course will be an instant classic, and from the look of it, the Kidd course promises to be equally mind-blowing.  It is a great time to be a golfer in the Midwest.


“If you play the great variety of courses that are out there…you can’t help but realize that golf is way more fun when there is strategic interest…” – Geoff Ogilvy

I could not have been happier to see the OCCM team featured on Architecture Week.  Even better, they are bringing their Sandbelt sensibility and classic spirit of the game to the U.S.  Could there be a course in Wisconsin in their future?  We can hope…


If you are a student of the game and GCA, you must own Cob Carlson’s Donald Ross documentary.  You can purchase it at  As is the case with many architects’ work, Cob’s wonderful film is a labor of love that deserves our support.

“This is thoughtful.  We’re identifying architects who are doing good work.  The good work they’re doing is because they put thought into the mission they’re trying to execute.” – Matt Ginella

Matt made this statement in reference to Pete & Alice Dye’s approach to designing for their players.  Their players are resort golfers, and everyday golfers.  Low handicappers, and high handicappers.  Professionals and amateurs.  The Dyes don’t use a one size-fits-all approach.  They think about their players, and design for those players.  That thoughtfulness obviously does not limit their creativity.  Rather, it makes it possible for their creativity to be accessible and enjoyable, and it is a key ingredient in GCA that stands the test of time.

Exciting times ahead in the world of golf course architecture.  Thanks to Matt, Geoff, and the Morning Drive crew for continuing to cover it for us.



Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


Clayts Speaks – An Interview with Architect Michael Clayton

If you are a golf nut, and you are not following Michael Clayton on Twitter (@MichaelClayto15) and/or listening to the State of the Game podcast, you really should be.  His perspectives are always informative and entertaining, and sometimes a little surly.  Best of all, he is an unapologetic defender of the spirit of this game we love, and he is working hard to channel that spirit into the golf course architecture work that he and his partners at OCCM Golf are doing.

Mike was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions, which I share with you here, along with a photo tour of his firm’s work, which is fantastic.

Mike and his partners at OCCM have been involved in several high-profile projects in Australia and Tasmania, including Barnbougle Dunes, The Lakes, Bonnie Doon, and Victoria GC.  Strategic options off the tee afforded by wide fairways, varied and interesting green complexes, and attention to natural beauty are the design principles that they uphold.

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Photos by OCCM and Gary Lisbon Golf Photography

Check out the Australia & Tasmania section of the Geeked On Golf GCA Video archive for even more on OCCM’s work.


How did you get into the business?OCCM-SevenMileBeach

I was playing in Europe and Australia and hadn’t ever thought of doing it – but two supers/consultants – John Sloan and Bruce Grant – asked me in 1995 if I was interested in starting a company together. They thought there was room for and a need for an alternative design company in Australia.

Who is your favorite Golden Era architect, and why?

Every Australian – except Peter Thomson who would pick Harry Colt – would pick MacKenzie because he had such an influence on golf in Australia.  He came here in 1926 and transformed the game by example and education of others who would advance the game after he left.

Who has influenced you the most in your work, both within and outside of golf?

The biggest influence on my work is the combination of the best courses and the great books written on the subject – MacKenzie, Hunter, Thomas, Simpson and Wethered, Doak, Shackelford, Klein and others who have written so eloquently and sensibly on the game.  Growing up in the city of Royal Melbourne it is hard for anyone with any power of observation not to learn from the place.  Sadly many don’t.  Outside of golf?  Good question.  I need to think on that one a bit!

Describe your process for a new design.

Find the best routing.  Work out how to best get the course built and who we are going to use to help us get it done.

What should every Green Committee member study/learn before undertaking course improvement initiatives?

They should learn the basics of good design and what makes a good hole – and what contributes to a hole not reaching its potential.  They should all read at the very minimum The Spirit of St Andrews and The Anatomy of a Golf Course.

What are the primary challenges you consistently face in trying to deliver results that are up to your standards?

Those who are looking after the work after we are gone doing that job well.  It varies.  Anthony Mills has done an incredible job at The Lakes looking after our work there.  Ian Todd too at Victoria.  They get the small detail stuff all the time.

How do you know when you have hit the sweet spot in your work?

Perhaps when a hole polarizes people – you know it then has an element making it more interesting than some of the other holes.  Sometimes it’s hard to predict player reaction.  So many have such a distorted view of the role of ‘consistency’ and how ‘fair’ should be interpreted.  Fair is another word for dull.  The primary challenge of golf is dealing with its inherent unfairness and how can you make such a fickle game played over a wild 150 acre landscape ‘fair’?  The Old Course isn’t fair and that is at the heart of its greatness.

What course would you love to get your hands on for a renovation project?

RoyalCanbera-AFunny you should ask. My answer to that question in Australia has always been Royal Canberra and we are half way through the front nine now – with the back nine and the 9 hole course to finish. It’s a beautiful site and a course far from its potential.

What do you love most about practicing your craft?

Building good holes and good courses.  Making something better of an existing course – but it’s not easy dealing with the politics.  It gets tiring dealing with people who have very little idea of what constitutes good golf.  We are not perfect and don’t always get it right but I think we have a good understanding of the principles of good design.  But the average member has never read, or even thought, about the subject, but that doesn’t stop them having an opinion.

If you could only play one course for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

In Australia – Royal Melbourne.  In Continental Europe – Morfontaine.  Britain – Woking.  USA – NGLA.

What are the top 3 new courses on your list to play next?

Seminole, Oakmont, Ballyneal.

What do you like about playing with “throwback” equipment?

Each wooden club has its own unique feel and look.  The fun of this part of the game was the continual search for a better driver or 3 wood – and the love you had for the clubs which served you well.  Now they are more effective but they have zero character and they are disposable as soon as something ‘better’ comes along.  ‘Better’ is the latest concept of the marketing department.

When you are not playing golf or building golf courses, what are you doing?

Making sure we don’t lose contact with our friends – it’s too easy to do and a full time job in itself.  We are lucky enough to have them all over the world.

Any interesting or challenging projects in process or on the horizon for you?

Mat Goggin has an incredible piece of land just out of Hobart in Tasmania. It’s the best site I have ever seen.  Sand dunes in the pine trees on the coast.

For even more from Mike, check out this older interview on

Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:



Copyright 2015 – GeekedOnGolf, Jason Way