Tom Doak is a student of the Hall of Fame golf architect Pete Dye, with whom he studied in order to learn how to construct golf courses.
As well as being a brilliant and innovative golf course architect he is also an accomplished author. Writing books on the anatomy of golf courses and the life and work of Dr. Alister MacKenzie.
Tom Doak Facts
|Name||Thomas Harry Doak|
|Born||16 Mar, 1961|
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San Francisco & Monterey
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Tom Doak is a well respected golf course architect, with four of his designs currently ranked in the world’s top 100. They are Pacific Dunes in Oregon, Ballyneal in Colorado, Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania and one of the most visually stunning golf courses in the world, Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand.
Way before that, Doak was formally a student of Pete Dye during graduate school at Cornell University, however much of his influence comes from Alister MacKenzie (responsible for Augusta National among many others). It was during his time here that he won the Dreer Award from the Department of Floriculture and Horticulture and resulting in a scholarship that sent him to the British Isles.
There, he spent his summer caddying at St. Andrews and studying every golf course he possibly could. That determination and thorough approach to working has seen Doak visit nearly every great course in the world throughout his career, constantly studying and looking for inspiration.
In 1988, Doak authored ‘The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses’, sharing his eyebrow-raising views on course design, whilst taking no prisoners. Doak has said himself that he enjoys the labels people give him, particularly ‘controversial’ as that gives him something in common with his heroes; Pete Dye and Alister MacKenzie.
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There are less than 300 true links golf courses in the world, and Tom Doak has walked a good number of them. Listed below are quotes from Renaissance Golf Design on some of his favourites.
St. Andrews Old Course
"From the lowest point of The Old Course to the highest, the difference is less than twenty-five feet, but there are few pieces of ground anywhere with a greater range and frequency of small undulations.
Players steering away from the deeper bunkers in the middle of the course find their shots being turned away from the hole by contours at the front of the greens, as if the hand of God was part of each hole’s defenses.
The result is the most complicated course in the world – and the only course I know where your plan of attack must be reconsidered after every shot."
North Berwick Golf Club
East Lothian, Scotland
"The scenic layout hugs a very narrow strip all along the coast, with fabulous views of the Firth of Forth and various small rocky islands – the beach and the water are more in play at North Berwick than on any other famous links.
There are also some terrific golf holes. The short par-4 13th with its green nestled in a hollow on the far side of a low stone wall is one of a kind, while the famous par-3 15th, the Redan, was used as a model by early architects on scores of great courses around the world."
Machrihanish Golf Club
"Thanks to its remote location at the southern end of the Mull of Kintyre, Machirihanish is the one great Scottish links which has stayed under the radar of visiting golfers from overseas.
It’s just too far off the beaten path for most people to venture; the members play perhaps 10,000 rounds of golf per year. And at that level of play, Nature does a fine job of sorting out good play from bad. The fairways and greens are well trafficked enough to present a fast surface without becoming compacted."
Royal Dornoch Golf Club
"Not all links courses are fortunate enough to have 18 holes among the dunes – for many links, there is not enough acreage of the right stuff, and the course must include several holes on less than ideal ground.
Dornoch, the boyhood home of Donald Ross, is one of the few Scottish links to turn the situation to their advantage. Just after the Second World War, the club split the course which Ross had known to form two separate 18’s, by extending the golf at each end.
The course used to turn back for the clubhouse after today’s par-3 sixth hole; but by building the par-4 seventh hole and half the par-4 eighth up on the bluff away from the dunes, they enabled themselves to add the ninth through eleventh holes coming back in along the narrower strip of links at the base of the bluff, which lends today’s championship course its unique visual character."
"It was General Moncrieffe of St. Andrews, upon visiting the town of Westward Ho! in the early 1860’s, who coined the immortal phrase “Providence obviously designed this for a golf links,” to be used by seven generations of golf course architects thereafter.
First-time visitors to the first tee of the Royal North Devon Golf Club may struggle to see what the general had in mind. The ground near the clubhouse is the flattest stretch of linksland possible, and the dunes along the shore scarcely seem tall enough on a windy day to keep the Atlantic from pouring in and flooding the course.
The rough is virtually indistinguishable from the fairways, and with the entire course set on common land, horses and cattle and sheep graze in such profusion that sometimes it seems impossible that you’ll miss them all with your tee shot.
Yet with a minimum of bunkers and a four-hole intervention by the spiky Great Sea Rushes at the start of the back nine, Westward Ho! remains perhaps the ultimate reminder of how a simple game can be so much tougher than it looks."
Ballybunion Golf Club
Co. Kerry, Ireland
"There are lots of links set among large sand hills, but none more dramatic than Ballybunion, where you play along a sandy bluff falling into the ocean and then up narrow valleys between the towering dunes.
The roughs are so perfect that it’s difficult to lose a ball no matter where you hit it; but if you do not keep on the straight and narrow, it’s just as difficult to get your next shot to stay on the greens, many of which have steep banks of short grass falling away on both sides.
The size and placement of the dunes required some unusual routing choices – there are back-to-back par fives on the front, and four par-3’s in eight holes from the 8th to the 15th – but no one ever seems to be bothered by it, because the quality of golf is so high."
Royal County Down Golf Club
"County Down is unquestionably the most scenic golf course in the world -- even though frequently the golfer cannot see where he is going, thanks to several blind tee shots.
On the outward holes you play toward monstrous dunes at the far end of the course, then at the fourth tee you turn back to admire a picture-postcard view of the beach and town, gorse-covered dunes which bloom bright yellow in the spring, the spire of the Slieve Donard Hotel behind the clubhouse, and the Mountains of Mourne just beyond.
The front nine is closer to the sea and often cited as perhaps the best front nine holes in the world of golf; naturally, the finishing holes struggle a bit to hold up this level of quality."
Kennemer Golf & Country Club
"One of the best-kept secrets in golf is that continental Europe also has its share of fine links courses. Kennemer, in a setting reminiscent of Shinnecock Hills close to the North Sea in the suburbs of Amsterdam, has perhaps the finest pedigree.
The original 18 holes were laid out by Harry Colt and his partner John Morrison, so its greens and bunkers are more thoughtful than many of the older UK links. The course was expanded to 27 holes in the early 1980’s, with the newer holes specifically designed to add difficulty for the Dutch Open, which the club has hosted on many occasions."
"When I visited Tasmania for the first time to see the ground which is now Barnbougle Dunes, I could see the handwriting on the wall. Tasmania, an island state off the southeastern tip of mainland Australia, is very reminiscent of Britain – most of the towns are laid out around the coast, there are sand dunes aplenty thanks to the windy climate of the “roaring forties,” and the air is cool enough that the fescues which dominate the links will thrive.
The only question was whether anyone would come to play; the Tasmanian population is quite small, so golfers from Melbourne and Sydney must adopt the course as a regular holiday spot if it is to succeed. I hope it’s good enough to do so, since it includes several of the best holes I have ever built."
"For years, when golf writers asked me how many true links courses could be counted in America, I had to bite my lip. By the strictest definition – sandy ground which had formerly been part of the sea – only a handful of holes at Maidstone on the east end of Long Island and the public course at Truro on Cape Cod would have passed muster in the eyes of a visiting Scotsman.
Bandon Dunes and its sisters (including Pacific Dunes, the lucky thirteenth course on my own resume) don’t just play like a links – with the maritime climate and a healthy maintenance budget and a lot of TLC, they provide the finest playing surface in all of links golf. You can putt from fifty yards off the green if it suits you."