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Golf course architecture much more than celebrity names and big paychecks

William K. WolfrumBy William K. Wolfrum,
Ian Andrew - golf course designer
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Canadian golf course architect Ian Andrew began his career working for Doug Carrick. (Courtesy of Ian Andrew Golf Design )

In the world of architecture, a few names stand out -- Frank Lloyd Wright, Adolf Loos, Albert Kahn and others have gone down in history as architects that have changed the landscape of their field.

The same phenomenon occurs in the world of golf course architecture, as old-school geniuses like Donald Ross, Alister MacKenzie and virtually anyone named Fazio or Dye have dazzled the world with their brilliant touch and taste. Golf architects, however, have to contend with something their home-designing brethren don't: celebrities.

Imagine, if you will, moving into a "Brad Pitt Signature" design home. Sure, Pitt has no experience in architecture, but he has seen and lived in numerous nice homes and he's as famous as a person can be, so why not live in one of his homes?

Such is golf's situation, where big names so often trump all else. Tiger Woods is getting a few quadrillion bucks to design a golf course in Dubai; Phil Mickelson has already entered the fray, with Sergio Garcia, Annika Sorenstam and others right behind. Golf course architects? Well no, but they are famous, and, honestly, there's nothing at all wrong with wanting to play a Tiger Woods' designed course, provided you have the loot to get there and swing the green fees.

Much like in normal architecture, however, the real work gets done behind the scenes, by people with names that you probably do not recognize. But when you talk to guys like Ian Andrew and Rick Jacobson, you see that the spirit of golf architecture is still alive and well, and in capable hands.

Andrew, a Canadian designer best known for his restoration work on Canadian courses like St. George's Golf & Country Club in Toronto, as well as his blog The Caddy Shack, knew that he wanted to be a golf course architect in his early teens. Not a golfer, not an architect, but a golf course architect.

"I was in Grade 11 and I knew exactly where I was going," said Andrew, 41. "I didn't go through the same angst that a lot of kids do. I've never deviated from the route."

Beginning his career working for Doug Carrick, Andrew has now moved on to his own where he patiently awaits the perfect opportunity to design an 18-hole course with his name on it. In the meantime, Andrew studies the works of the greats, and has become an expert on the work of the Canadian designer Stanley Thompson.

Jacobson, 49, was recently honored as the Golf Course Architect of the Year by the national Association of Private Clubs & Directors. A protege of Jack Nicklaus, Jacobson moved out on his own in 1991, but has continued to work with the Golden Bear on some projects.

Jacobson's renovation of Des Moines Golf & Country Club in Iowa, a Pete Dye original design, before the 1999 U.S. Senior Open received high praise from players, USGA officials and club members. Golf course architecture became a part of Jacobson's life while attending the University of Wisconsin.

"I loved being outdoors, and the architectural process where you put something on paper, and then see golfers out there that enjoy it," said Jacobson.

So while it so often seems that the world of golf architecture is a place only for the famous, keep in mind that there are real architects out there -- ones who can relate to the duffer in all of us, and who do it for the love of the art and the game, not for a monumental paycheck.

Andrew and Jacobson will both be profiled at GolfCourseRealty.com, where readers can find out more about two men who go out and get their hands dirty to create great golf for the masses.

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Jack Nicklaus and Rick Jacobson

William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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