Canadian Golf Architecture Review: John Robinson

John Robinson's opener at Whistle Bear GC near Cambridge, Ont.

John Robinson's opener at Whistle Bear GC near Cambridge, Ont.

John F. Robinson

Years in industry: 39

Key Courses: Whistle Bear Golf Club (Cambridge, Ont.); Blue Heron GC (Michigan); Legends of Massillon (Ohio)

Recent projects: Created the 8,300 yard Bolingbrook Golf Club with John Daly in Illinois; Working on a course in Mexico with PGA Tour winner Charley Hoffman; Several courses in various stages of development in Canada.

Quote: “I’m the only architect working in Canada that hasn’t bankrupted a course.”


  • Builds affordable golf in areas across North America. Has designed more than 80 to date.
  • Works with the SFX Group sports marketing.
  • Extensive work in the U.S. with some awards and accolades


  • His bigger budget projects typically have at least one strange hole in the routing, leaving some golfers shaking their heads.
  • Not particularly well known in any area of Canada given the widespread nature of his work and focus on the U.S.
  • Despite have lots of projects, has not hit any home runs which would elevate him out of the mid-tier

Comment: After working for his brother, Bill, for several years, John went solo and began working on inexpensive designs that often cost less than $2-million to build. However, his workman-like courses – which are scattered across Canada and the U.S. -rarely garner attention from outside their immediate geographic region. When he has done higher profile projects, like Whistle Bear in Kitchener, it has been with mixed results. His Blue Heron GC in Ohio came in second in Golf Digest’s 2007 ranking of new affordable courses.

What’s possible?: More mid-tier golf built with value in mind. Or will be he the designer behind some very average layouts by PGA Tour stars who never appear on site?

Overall: B-

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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.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • “I’m the only architect working in Canada that hasn’t bankrupted a course.”

    The fees for other architects must be “much” higher than I ever thought.

  • I don’t understand his comment. I can’t imagine an architect bankrupting a course, certainly Nicklaus tried but then he got pretty good. Maybe Norman, but he’s caught on too.

  • First of all Ian Andrews – haven’t you learned your lesson criticising other architects that have been in the business decades longer longer than you? It just makes you look inadequate.
    Secondly – my golf courses are successful because the budgets were not huge and were built to according to what the market would bear. My brother and I always kept that in mind to provide facilities that could stand on its their after opening for many years to come.
    Finally Mr. Thompson I’d rather be considered a B architect with A++ drawings and busy all the time with a small operation than a larger, higher profile office that can’t survive this recession.

  • John: The quote is from three years ago. I don’t think Andrew is being critical of you at all.

    As for your remarks about having work, congrats. Glad to hear it is going well.

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