- Apr 16, 1961
Tom Doak on his Renaissance Club course design
After Tom Doak graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Design and Landscape Architecture, he embarked on a tour of Great Britain and Ireland to study golf courses. This experience imbued him with strong opinions about golf course architecture. Doak's design philosophy has been described as "minimalist," though Doak himself claims he did not choose this term to describe his work. Nevertheless, Doak's courses are characterized by respectful adherence to the nature and shape of the local topography. His firm, Renaissance Golf Design, seeks to move as little earth as possible while creating a course.
In 1988, Doak self-published "The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses" in which he pulled no punches, and spared no praise, as he shared his views on the subject of golf course design. Doak's first solo design -- High Pointe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Michigan -- opened in 1989 to mixed reviews. The routing followed the lay of the land, resulting in a few awkward angles, and the original fescue greens proved unpopular with players and difficult to maintain. Still, the course appeared on several "Top 100" lists in prominent golf publications. Although High Pointe has since closed, it established Doak as a golf course architect who was willing to apply the high standards he espoused in his controversial book.
After a decade of both popular and critically acclaimed work in the 1990s, Doak became a household name in golf with the opening of Pacific Dunes Golf Club at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon. That layout, widely praised as the truest expression of links golf in North America, launched Doak into the ranks of elite golf course architects. Moreover, it proved he could be trusted to preserve the integrity of unique properties while at the same time constructing golf courses that are rated immediately as some of the best in the world, including the spectacular Cape Kidnappers Golf Resort (2004) in Napier, New Zealand; Barnbougle Dunes Golf Links (2004) in Bridport, Tasmania, Australia; The Renaissance Club (2007) in Gullane, Scotland; and Streamsong Blue (2011) in Florida.
In 2014, Doak published the first volume of a new five-volume edition of "The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses," all of which will contain critiques that are certain to rankle some of his contemporaries. But whether you consider Tom Doak to be principled, opinionated, or dogmatic, you cannot underestimate his influence on golf course architecture as it moves into the 21st century.