Canadian Golf Architecture Review: Ian Andrew

Intro to Canadian Golf Architecture Review:

Blame it on Stanley Thompson.
It has been more than a half century since the death of Canadas greatest golf designer, and contemporary golf architects are still being held up and compared to the countrys foremost purveyor of smart greens, wild bunkers and clever routings. Since many of his courses, places like Highlands Links in Cape Breton and Capilano in Vancouver, remain held in places of high esteem, Thompson remains the mark against which all other designs are compared.
Thats not to say some terrific, world-class golf courses havent been built over the past two decades. After a fallow period following Thompsons death in 1953 dominated by inexpensive and often suspect designs, Canadian golf architects have emerged to demonstrate they are capable of being among the best in the world. Led by the duo of Thomas McBroom and Doug Carrick, who both made their splash on the Canadian golf scene in the early 1990s, Canada has witnessed an almost unprecedented period of new golf courses. In some cases tens of millions have been spent creating new courses, like Eagles Nest GC, Tobiano GC and Glen Arbor, that target high-end golfers looking for a country club for a day. In other instances, green palaces like Magna Golf Club or Domaine La Forest have sprung up, creating golfing retreats for the ultra-wealthy elite. Along the way there has also been room for development of the affordably-priced local track, courses like Timber Ridge in Brighton, Ont.
But just how good are Canadas multitude of golf designers? More than 30 operate across the country, so how does a developer decide who to turn to? Like the country itself, the golf design talent is scattered across all of Canada, and theres seemingly a golf architect for every type of project.

The goal of this series is to look at the work of each Canadian golf designer, and give some sense of their scope of work and success to date. I’m also looking at the possibility of what they might accomplish given what I’ve seen of their portfolio. I’ll do one architect per day, in alphabetical order:

Subject: Ian Andrew

Best Courses: St. Georges G and CC (restoration); Muskoka Bay GC (with lead designer Doug Carrick)

Current Projects: New nine holes at Saskatoon G & CC; Restoration work at Donald Rosss Plymouth Country Club in Massachusetts; Restoration of Stanley Thompsons Highland Links, a top 100 course in the world

Quote: It is not the architects job to make the game difficult – it is the architects job to make the game interesting.

Architect Ian Andrew of Andrew Golf Design

Architect Ian Andrew of Andrew Golf Design


  • Best in Canada at golf restoration. His work has been heralded by American architects like Tom Doak and Gil Hanse.
  • Historical knowledge, research skills and knowledge of classic golf courses from around the world are unrivaled in Canada.
  • Starting to gain significant work in the U.S. market. Currently works with a handful of clubs in several US states


  • Lack of solo design work makes him a question mark when it comes to new courses.
  • Original work in Saskatoon is, well, in Saskatoon, limiting its exposure

Overview: Canadas best restoration architect, Andrew left Carrick Design in 2006 after more than a decade to start his own firm. The move has been successful, with about 30 clients in the Andrew Golf portfolio, including courses in the Northern U.S. Andrew has been responsible for some outstanding bunker restorations in recent years, including exceptional jobs at St. Georges, Scarboro, Weston, and Cherry Hill. His research is beyond reproach and his focus and perspective have made him in demand across the country.
Though many wont immediately recognize Andrews new course work, he was a central figure in the creation of Ballantrae Golf Club, the new nine holes at Nobleton Lakes and at Muskoka Bay GC near Gravenhurst, Ont.

Whats possible: Certainly the architect in Canada who is best versed in the history of the game and golf architecture, an original Andrew solo design could well be something unique and unexpected “ or will he try bring too many ideas at once. Only time will tell.

Overall: A for renovation work. B for collaborations on new work.

Tomorrow: Ted Baker (Lionhead)

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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.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Don’t confuse the silence for interest….big yawn. I really think this summarizes how completely irrelevant you are as a writer…. What the hell does that mean?????? Bloggers should do a review of golf writers…Thompson is unique and unexpected and irrelevant, full of sound and fury, signfying be or not to be that is the question…….In other words, I sound as corny as you do Thompson and just as irrelevant .

  • I have difficulty with the fact that you and Ian are obviously friends making a subjective review almost impossible. Until he’s actually designed a golf course is he not unlike Sean (Puffy) Combs recording an old Led Zeppelin classic and then passing himself off as an artist? It takes very little talent to recognize a great song, a hit movie or wonderul golf course when you hear, see or play one but it most definitely takes talent and vision to look at a raw site and create a golf course. When Ian’s done that, I’ll call him a golf course architect and attach a grade to his work. To do so now is premature.

  • Rob – excellent idea for a series. I look forward to all the installments. I have to say that I think a “c” was a bit tough on Ted Baker – he usually builds hard golf courses, yes, but he seems to know what he’s doing (within the confines of what’s usually being asked of him); and I have to admit that I think it was a bit, let’s say, awkward to rank Ian…


  • Fair enough — but I’ve seen pretty much all of Ted’s work, and all of Ian’s. As for Mr. Andrew’s new work, I’ll see Saskatoon next year — and having toured the original confirguration, I’ll be interested in seeing what he accomplished. The club is apparently very pleased.

    Because I’ve known Ian well for a few years doesn’t seem to me to be a reason to exclude him. I’m keen on seeing where someone points out this supposed bias. In fact, I’d consider myself friendly with numerous designers in this country — but I don’t think that keeps me from objectively investigating their work any more than reading writing by friends I’ve worked with. Not everything they’ve written is terrific and not everything one designs — even an Ian Andrew or Thomas McBroom or Rod Whitman — is perfect.

    As for Ian not being “a golf course architect,” that’s a pretty ignorant thing to say, especially if one doesn’t know the areas where he worked with Carrick Design and led projects, or his involvement in projects like the Osprey Valley courses or Muskoka Bay or has a sense of what was done in Saskatoon. Just a stupid thing to say, IMHO.

  • Rob – I don’t think you have a bias in Ian’s favour. The only reason I think giving a score for Ian’s restoration work (prior to a solo design effort of his own) is awkward is because I’m guessing there won’t be another instance/example of that in the entire series…

    Anyway – as I say, excellent idea for a series, and long overdue.


  • It seems people are very critical of the fact that Ian hasn’t done a solo course and stamped it as an Ian Andrew Signature course or whatever, thus making him a certified golf course architect. Isn’t it more important to sort out who has done the majority of the work on the course, rather than what larger umbrella the course falls under. Ian did the vast majority of several courses, should we care if Carrick’s name is on it and not his (clearly several hands are involved in most projects.)

    It is fine if people agree or disagree with the ranking of the architects, but it is Rob’s blog so he can do what he wants with it – I would rather read a discussion of what people think of the architects courses rather than that Imho.

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