There are three honorary members of the society named for ASGCA Founding Member Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Two of the three are Jones’ sons, ASGCA Past Presidents Robert Trent, Jr., and Rees. The third is ASGCA Past President Roger Rulewich, whose golf course architecture career will be forever linked to the 30+ years he spent working with Jones, Sr.
Morning Read recently walked a course with Rulewich…
Playing a round with a golf course architect can be an education.
You never quite know when, without prompting, the placement of bunkers will be pondered or a discourse on mounding will occur: “You have to be careful with mounds. Certainly they can contain shots. But then there’s the backside …”
Rulewich remains one of the most unruffled and congenial individuals to ever lay out a golf hole. Until he hung out his own shingle in 1995 as The Roger Rulewich Group (subsequently Rulewich & Fleury Golf Design), Rulewich had labored behind the scenes for some 34 years as Jones Sr.’s chief lieutenant and the actual designer of many courses credited to RTJ.
Although a precise number is tricky to come up with, Jones worked on upwards of 400 courses in his career. Considering the sheer profligacy of the firm Rulewich may have been one of the busiest unsung architects in the game, able to keep engaged behind the scenes because, he said, Jones was a master at self-promotion. They were at a meeting one time when someone asked Jones how many courses he’d done altogether and Jones said, “Oh, about 500.”
“I’d been keeping a list of all the RTJ projects, and I was thinking, ‘I don’t have anything near 500,’” Rulewich said. “Then a couple weeks later we’re somewhere else and someone asks the same question — and now it was 600. I thought, ‘Whoops.’ I showed him the list one time and asked him to look it over but he would never verify it.”
That number would have put him well past Donald Ross in total number of courses created. “That’s probably what he was thinking,” Rulewich said.
When it comes to Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Rulewich says, “I’ve been asked so many times about it or told what a great job Jones did designing things I really have to let people know how that worked. Jones frankly had little to do with it other than PR.”
Rulewich thinks the Trail is probably his greatest accomplishment. And the sheer scale of the project — the current numbers are 468 holes at 26 courses in 11 sites across Alabama — with huge numbers of construction workers laboring on different sites continuously in the initial early 1990s push still boggles Rulewich’s mind.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “It was incredible. I spent half my life down there for several years and it was probably the most exciting time of my life.”
The complete Morning Read article can be found here.