Home' Australian Golf Digest : June 2017 Contents The Everywhere Man
Digging deeper into Australia’s obsession with course architect Tom Doak
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10 australiangolfdigest.com.au | june 2017
NOTHER redesign project in
Australia, another Tom Doak
It seems we can’t get enough of the man
who made a name for himself as the visionary
behind the breathtaking Barnbougle Dunes
in Tasmania, America’s Pacific Dunes course
at Bandon and New Zealand showstoppers
Cape Kidnappers and Tara Iti.
Doak, along with his right-hand man Brian
Slawnik, will be spending a lot more time Down
Under over the coming months as his company,
Renaissance Golf Design, juggles multiple
projects at some of our most treasured venues.
Sydney’s Concord Golf Club along with
Victoria’s The National (Ocean course) and
Melbourne Sandbelt gem Yarra Yarra have all
turned to Doak for some much-needed nip-
and-tuck, just like Royal Adelaide did ahead
of this year’s Women’s Australian Open.
Doak’s minimalist design philosophies
have proven to be a big hit around the globe.
He has multiple works inside the world’s
top-100 courses and has literally carved a
reputation for building the spectacular –
dramatic seaside links with expansive dune
land and natural bunkering and vegetation
has become his trademark – which is why
his appointment at the short and narrow
Concord came from left field.
The Michigan-based mastermind is
just one of a handful of American course
architects that have taken a liking for Aussie
canvasses in recent times and it begs the
question: in an industry littered with so
much local talent, why are our home-grown
designers being overlooked for national
projects? Furthermore, why is Doak all of a
sudden the flavour of the month?
There are several factors at play, according
to former Australian Golf Digest
architecture editor Darius Oliver, who co-
designed Australia’s No.3 -ranked course, Cape
Wickham, with American Mike DeVries and
also offers independent golf course design
consulting services to clubs around the world.
“In general, golfers are more interested in
the subject of golf course architecture than
in the past and key decision-makers are often
better educated and more aware of global
trends than their predecessors,” says Oliver.
“Doak is a strong design brand and clubs
know that such an appointment will please
the membership and help push reform, as
well as win approval from the online forums.”
The fact Doak is an “international expert”
obviously helps him here, says Oliver, but so
too does having esteemed clients like Royal
Melbourne and Royal Adelaide on his résumé.
Doak’s company took over both posts after
previous consultants gave it their best shot.
The same can now be said at Yarra Yarra,
a classic sandbelt layout that has aged
gracefully over time but now lacks modern
polish. Like Royal Sydney's decision to call
on American designer Gil Hanse, Yarra Yarra
bypassed local tenders for Mr Renaissance.
“Doak’s portfolio of work is impressive
and, frankly, hard for the local designers
to compete against,” says Oliver. “As much
as the Society of Australian Golf Course
Architects will disagree, this isn’t exactly a
golden period for our homegrown designers.”
Not helping their cause is the highly
competitive nature of the Australian market,
which is riddled with secrecy and innuendo
around the limited projects on the go.
“ We’re like a bunch of seagulls fighting
over a chip on the beach,” says Ross Perrett
of Thomson Perrett, creators of The National
Ocean course now in Doak’s hands.
“None of us (Australian designers) are
particularly happy about the recent influx
of American designers, but that’s the nature
of the business here at the moment. Doak’s
obviously a very good presenter and has been
quite successful in securing projects with
great parcels of land ... giant sandpits, really.
He also doesn’t give much away. He’s a bit of a
mystery when it comes to his projects. Other
designers tend to show their hand a bit more
in search of work. Maybe that’s the bit we’re
Perrett believes part of the appeal in hiring
American designers Down Under is that
Aussie clubs think it can actually influence
their global course rankings, many of which
are assembled from majority-American
panels. But he says there’s one big problem
with that theory: “I’m not sure these clubs
realise just how expensive it is to bring in
overseas shapers and design teams,” he says.
“ Some of the fees I’ve seen quoted around
the place are exorbitant to the point of
That, it seems, is the price clubs are now
willing to pay for member satisfaction.
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