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A year in blogging: Ian Andrew, Golf Designer

I’ve been friends with Ian Andrew for six years now, having first met in the office of Doug Carrick while I was working on a profile of Doug for the 2002 Canadian Open program. I wanted to know more about golf design and he wanted an investing tip. Let’s just say it was destined to end up in a friendship.

Just over a year ago I left my staff position at the National Post

[photopress:ianswings_1.jpg,full,alignright]Swinging in Scotland: Golf designer Ian Andrew gives it his all

(where I remain as golf columnist, but no more commutes into the office), and at the same time, after more than 15 years, Ian decided it was time to test his talents on his own and he left Carrick Design to start Ian Andrew Golf Design.

I’ve written about Ian’s trials as a golf architect before, and I’ve co-authored several stories with him in the past couple of years. He’s a fascinating cat, equally as opinionated as I am, which makes him interesting and fun to be around. It also made him perfect for the blogsphere. Now with working with 24 courses and with more clubs ringing his phone and clogging his email box each day, there’s no doubt Ian Andrew Golf Design is a success, significantly more so than Ian himself probably anticipated. Only recently it was announced he’d be working with American designer Gil Hanse on a the restoration of Scarboro G & CC, one of my favourite courses. It couldn’t have ended up in better hands.

Over the past six years I’ve learned an awful lot about golf design from Ian. He’s a great teacher and one day I’m convinced he’ll help groom the next generation of Canadian golf architects — and he’ll keep them grounded with tales of the Golden Age of Golf Architecture.

In the meantime, he continues to blog, giving the average golfer a much better understanding of what goes into creating and maintaining a great golf course. You may not always agree with his take on things, but it is hard not to respect his knowledge when it comes to golf design.

Anyway, since it has been one year since he started blogging, I’ve asked Ian 10 questions relating to his site, The Caddy Shack , and he’s been kind enough to answer. So here goes:

1) You are surely one of the first golf architects to blog regularly and youve been doing so for a year “ what have been the best and worst parts of entering the Web 2.0 world? How did you get involved in blogging in the first place?

The great part is a chance to finally express what I feel about golf architecture. I feel I have an opportunity to express what Im personally trying to accomplish and where my vision is a little different from the others. Its an opportunity to share the history that I know, talk about the things in golf that affect me, and to express my views on the health of the industry in general. I guess you could say it gives me a voice.

The worst part is coming up with new ideas, when you dont have any to work with, some days the whole thing feels like an albatross. I certainly spend too much time on this already.

By the way, it was your idea.

2) Tell me what have you learned from the blog?

I thought it was supposed to be a place where I could say what I want, but its like writing a daily column where you have to be very responsible for what you say. I found out many in the industry read it and all my competitors (unfortunately) read the blog off and on. The biggest lesson has been about what I can and cant say. I now try and avoid being too negative, commenting on my direct competitors, or talking as much about the clubs I work with.

3) Point G4G readers to a couple of posts of which you are especially proud.

The series called 10 Places to Study and Why is the best architecture piece that I have written (it lead to an article in Travel + Leisure Golf). It offers a basic starter course into the essential 10 elements that can be used to create a course. Each element uses a particular course as an example of how it works there and how that makes the course special.

I think the 18 holes in 18 days and The Hole Series are both full of good insight too. I would do more of them but I find I get tired of the same subject day after day. The best writing I have ever done was the very first article in the blog about my father.

4) Quickly and without much thought “ name the best five courses youve played in the world and the top five in Canada?

1. Pine Valley
2. Royal County Down
3. National Golf Links of America
4. Merion
5. Cypress Point

1. St. Georges
2. Highland Golf Links
3. Jasper Park
4. Hamilton
5. Toronto

5) What does Canadian golf need more of?

Canadian golf needs shorter golf courses that actually meet the need for the vast majority of players. Even the long hitters dislike playing beyond 7,000 yards, they talk about how the game becomes a slog. Once you get beyond 7,000 yards youve essentially removed the variety from the course. First to go is the short par four, which happens to be the favourite hole of golfers because for most this is the clearest opportunity they will have all round. Next to go is the short threes and short fives, the holes with the greatest opportunity for risk and reward holes. Great courses are usually defined by the half par holes, like short fours, very long fours and the short fives. Players need to have options, shorter holes favor planning and cunning, longer holes favor length and execution. You need good doses of both for a great course.

6) What does Canadian golf need less of?

Canadian golf needs less one dimensional courses where a player stands on the tee and the architect has so clearly define and defended the route that there is only one natural shot. Essentially the game has gone from discovery to execution, and from the player playing against nature, to the player playing against the architect. The architects need to dictate less of the way a course is played.

The other side to this is once the architect controls every facet, they also now have to remove the chance of a bad bounce. To avoid criticism from the player, the architect makes sure that the player is fairly rewarded for each execution. Good bye to the element of chance in the game, and hello to the F word “ fairness. Fairness is killing architecture on a daily basis. The game has nothing to do with fairness!

7) Youve been involved in a couple of solo designs during your time at Carrick Design. How do you think those designs will evolve when you are given the opportunity to build your first new course at your firm?

I have not been involved in any solo designs; I had more involvement with some projects than I did with others, but never on my own. Thats why I had to leave. (Editor’s note: This is Ian being too modest; check out Ballantrae Golf Club or Nobleton Lakes’ new nine if you want some sense of an Ian Andrew design, though it is true that Doug Carrick had a hand in Ballantrae. I suspect we’ll see more new holes from Ian soon.)

8) What is the worst experience youve had since launching your own firm?

Im going to pass on this one, because there are some things better kept to your chest.

9) What was the best?

Getting the work at Red Deer Golf & Country Club was the best moment so far because it was the first new client and it was in an area where I had never worked before. It boosted my confidence to know that people were familiar with my work and I was respected as an architect.

10) Where do you think youll be in a years time?

Canadian Idol?

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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