Robert Muir Graves, former ASGCA President, spent his professional life designing and constructing golf courses throughout the western US and in several foreign countries. He got his start in California doing a few short courses in the late 1950’s and early 60’s as he split his time between landscape architecture and golf course design.
Some of his most interesting work is located in the Pacific Northwest. Graves loved to carve courses out of the dense forests of firs, pines and cedars. One of his few signature design elements was to leave the stumps of giant fir trees in a few of the fairways. Some of these giant stumps would be uprooted and laying on their side to expose an intricate root system that Graves found as beautiful as natural art, as it was a different type of hazard.
Although his career included every type of golf course in almost every type of locale, the bulk of his design portfolio consisted of public access and municipal golf courses. These courses were built and operated for reasonable costs and continue to serve a large segment of the golfing public today. His designed two wonderful daily fee courses in the latter part of his career. La Purisima Golf Course, just north of Santa Barbara, CA, gave him an opportunity to lay out 18 holes on 300 acres without any interference of housing or hotels. The Maderas Golf Club in Poway, CA has been so well received that it made the list of America’s Top 100 Public Courses.
When he wasn’t busy designing, Graves enjoyed teaching others about the principles of golf architecture. He wrote extensively on topics relating to golf course design and was a visiting lecturer at the University of California Berkeley, University of Massachusetts, Utah State University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Graves partnered with Geoffrey Cornish for 16 years to teach the summer class at Harvard. He always looked forward to the week on the Cambridge campus and the new crop of students. The Graves/Cornish team was also popular within the golf industry where they conducted two-day seminars for the GCSAA and the PGA of America for many years. Much later in their careers the duo collaborated on two books, Golf Course Design and Classic Golf Hole Design. Graves also taught and hired Damian Pascuzzo, ASGCA, upon his college graduation. Pascuzzo eventually became Graves’ business partner, and the duo worked together until Graves’ retirement.
Away from the golf course or drafting board, Graves had a variety of interests. Foremost was his passion for flying. He was an accomplished pilot with multiple ratings and would often fly himself to jobs in the more remote locations. In retirement, he spent his time working his ranch just outside of Bend, Oregon, and, never one to sit still, he joined the volunteer fire department.
Graves was elected into ASGCA as a member in 1967 and served as President in 1973. Graves and his contemporaries like Ed Seay and Dick Phelps led the charge to change the annual meeting structure to include more education and professional development. He continued to serve the society until his death in 2003.