So the proverbial cat is now out of the bag.
In a column in today’s Globe and Mail, columnist Lorne Rubenstein writes about Weir Golf Design, the architecture firm being created by Canadian Mike Weir. In the article he mentions that numerous architects were asked to submit plans and that a panel is cutting that number down to four designers who will be interviewed by Mike. The panel will also participate in the interviews.
Here’s what Lorne had to say:
“I’m a traditionalist,” Weir said. “Why do we have to play courses where you’re pulling the head cover off your driver every time? The mentality on tour has been to just add yardage to courses.”
That’s not in Weir’s plans. He’s trying to educate himself, and he played a practice round at Augusta this year with two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw. He wanted to sound Crenshaw out on his design ideas. He said he loves Crenshaw’s model. Crenshaw and his design partner, Bill Coore, do one or two courses a year, at most. Weir enjoyed talking architecture with Crenshaw.
Weir will be talking a lot of architecture early next month in Toronto, after he’s closed out his PGA Tour season with two more tournaments. He’ll meet with a panel of four people who have been sorting through submissions of course plans that 18 Canadian architects have made to a site adjacent to the Predator Ridge resort in Vernon, B.C. It’s a test site. No course is planned there yet.
The panel includes Brad Pelletier, IMG’s managing director in Toronto; Weir’s brother Jim; veteran and thoughtful architect Dick Kirkpatrick, who is based in Carlisle, Ont.; and golf writer and architecture aficionado Robert Thompson.
“We are in the process of narrowing [the list] down and we hope to get it to five or six,” Pelletier wrote in an e-mail message, “but that has not been easy and there are certain designers who have earned an audience with Mike.”
Weir is the unproven person in all of this when it comes to designing courses. But he speaks intelligently about architecture, and he said, “I want to bring the same hard work, dedication and discipline to designing courses that I bring to playing.”
Lorne’s full column is here.
Though Lorne’s beaten me to the punch, he’s correct in naming me as part of that panel. To offer full disclosure, I’ve been helping IMG and Weir Golf Design pick their architect since late last year, as well as working with Mike on developing his thoughts on design and helping him arcticulate them to get them on paper.
The concept behind Weir Golf Design is to follow the model set up by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. In that model, both Coore and Crenshaw (who are responsible for Sand Hills, among other great courses) are actively involved in designing their courses. It is a partnership, with Crenshaw offering real value — not just taking the role of cutting ribbons and kissing babies. The goal of Weir Golf Design has been to follow that model — and therefore we’ve spent considerable time and effort trying to find the architect whose vision and skills would best fit with Mike. Needless to say, it has been a fascinating task.
So how does one choose a golf architect for a partner? It is a good question and one we’ve fought with for some time. The process of picking the architect was based on the development of the 7th course at St. Andrews. In that instance, the Links Trust put out a request to numerous designers about potentially creating the course and asked them to tour the site and come up with a plan. I suggested a similar concept for Weir Golf Design, and we decided on a site next to Predator Ridge as a test case for designers. The hope is this will become the first Weir Golf Design site, but there’s no guarantee that it will. A deal isn’t in place, though there is the will to get one done.
The site for the course is dramatic and challenging, but also stunning and breathtaking in spots, wih amazing long views of a nearby lake and holes that can play right alongside a reservoir.
More than 25 designers were asked if they were interested in submitting plans and 16 did so. The team — including Mike, his brother Jim, IMG managing director Brad Pelletier and designer/course builder Dick Kirkpatrick — waded through the proposals, putting in countless hours to reduce the number to four or five that will be interviewed next month for the job.
I’m only involved the project and the firm because I think it will offer an honest alternative to the typical approach to designing courses with a PGA Tour pro. Most of those instances are purely about marketing, where the player rarely — if ever — sees the actual project before it is finished. I am sure that Weir’s firm will be different, since Mike is very interested in working closely with a single designer in creating his own style. Beyond that, it would seem to be a huge wasted effort if Weir and IMG spent all this time picking an architect to work with and teach Mike the business and then simply didn’t have Weir involved.
The concept is simple — have Mike work closely with his firm’s designer to bring his insights to the project. Will he be determining drainage lines? No. Can he offer a lot of insight, especially since he’s a very strategc, thoughtful player. I think he can. And since the intent is to have WGD only have a course or two on the go at all times, Mike can actually participate and bring value to each project.
We’re finalizing the list of designers — it looks like four or five — who will interview with Mike in November. Hopefully that list will be established next week.
There’s only so much I can say about Weir’s design philosophy, other than he has one and has a good sense of what he wants in his courses. They won’t be 8,000 yards and you’re going to have options that make you think through your shots. Will they be great courses? Only time will tell — but I think IMG and Weir have a better chance given all the work they’ve put in establishing the firm and trying to create their own look, aesthetic and design strategy.