The latter decades of the 20th century gave rise to a lucrative side-hustle for many prominent professional golfers: that of “signature” architect attached to a course. The trend wasn’t limited just to the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, either.
Not all “signature” architects have been equally engaged with their projects. One of the most hands-on is 1997 PGA Champion Davis Love III, whose name has been attached to more than two dozen golf courses, including a healthy mix of new builds and renovations, since his 1990 collaboration with Steve Melnyk at Oak Hills Golf Club in Columbia, S.C. From then through the 2000s, Love found steady work, mostly in the southeastern United States.
Davis Love III on Sea Island's new Plantation Course
A student of classic golf architecture, Love has often eschewed the flashy looks of his contemporaries’ courses, relying instead on sound strategic bones and thoughtful green contouring to create compelling golf. A notable exception is the Dunes Course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas, perhaps Mexico’s greatest course and a consistent member of “World Top 100” lists since it opened in 2009. The heaving sand dunes and ocean views make it one of the more photogenic courses in the world, and its design backs up the visuals.
But by and large, Love’s work is reflective of his unassuming, mild-mannered personality. He has wisely surrounded himself with talented associates throughout his design career, including Paul Cowley and Scot Sherman, his current capo. And brother Mark has been part of the mix since the beginning as well.
Love should continue to get a steady stream of work as long as courses in the South want a clean, traditional look paired with solid strategic sensibilities. At The Club at Irish Creek north of Charlotte, N.C., Love updated a fairly standard mid-20th century course via a terrific Donald Ross impression, rebuilding all of the green complexes and rerouting a handful of holes. Around the same time, he and his team were restoring the Ross-designed Brunswick Country Club just across the water from Love’s abode on Sea Island, Georgia.
Even closer to home, another combination renovation/restoration at the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club, has been a rousing success since reopening in 2019. This effort reflects an interest in the work of Seth Raynor, with flat-bottomed bunkers and geometric greens lending great charm to the course. Expect more quiet, quality work from Love and his cohort in the coming years.
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