In a feature for “The Morning Read,” journalist Joe Passov takes a deep dive into golf course architecture. “There are so many architects out there who do such good work and who simply don’t get the positive attention they deserve from print, digital and social media.”
He attempts to “right that wrong” by focusing on four ASGCA members: Jason Straka, Richard Mandell, Jeff Danner and Agustin Piza, “four emerging architects that are poised for a breakthrough in 2022.”
That Straka isn’t better known is attributable to his humble nature, and the fact that he did terrific design work for 17 years under the Hurdzan-Fry banner, where only those in the know could appreciate his contributions to such courses as 2017 U.S. Open venue Erin Hills and Rhode Island’s Shelter Harbor. A principal with Columbus, Ohio-based Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design since 2012, Straka has notched a string of impressive original creations and makeovers in conjunction with partner Dana Fry.
What hasn’t changed since day one is Straka’s focus on the environment. Seemingly every design firm talks the talk, but Straka has walked the walk since the 1990s. He earned Cornell University Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees encompassing agriculture, landscape architecture, agronomy and environmental golf course design. For his Master’s thesis, he profiled the development of Widow’s Walk Golf Course in Scituate, Mass., a Michael Hurdzan design that was to become North America’s first environmental demonstration and research golf course. He also worked as a greenkeeper and in golf course construction before shifting to design, so he understands every nuance of a golf course ground, above and below the surface.
Why 2022 will be a breakout year: Straka’s profile will skyrocket during his term as ASGCA president. He will represent the organization at industry functions, major championships and on every world stage where the topic is the state and future of golf course architecture. Look for a cascade of kudos in July when Fry/Straka opens the private, 27-hole Union League National Golf Club in southern New Jersey. A reimagining of the former Sand Barrens Golf Club, the exposed sand areas will naturally invite comparisons to Pine Valley, but the elaborate shaping that creates visual and strategic interest comes straight from the minds and hands of the architects.
I first encountered Richard Mandell in 1992, when he authored an architecture story for a magazine where I was an editor. We finally met in 1997 and finally played golf together in 2014 at Tulsa Country Club, an A.W. Tillinghast design. The fire for all things design burned as intensely that day as it did 22 years prior. Eight more years hence, Mandell is still writing and is at the peak of his design powers. He’s climbed to join the ranks of the most respected renovation and restoration artists, primarily for three simple reasons: 1, He has vast experience; 2, he does consistently good work; and 3, the work comes in on time and on budget.
Why 2022 will be a breakout year: Mandell’s latest book, Principles of Golf Architecture will be published in late May. What will distinguish this book is that he will define the classic elements of design in art — line, form, shape, color, texture, etc. — and show how they apply to golf architecture.
In the field, Mandell will begin construction on the Bobby Jones Golf Complex in Sarasota, Fla., restoring Donald Ross features to Ross’ original 18 holes, and ensuring it no longer floods. His firm will also re-tool a nine-hole adjustable short course on 25 acres adjacent to the site. The course will involve nine separate greens and a variety of tee boxes that can create different routings on different days. Also on tap is a restoration of an early Ross course in Wisconsin, Oconomowoc Country Club, which Mandell says is on great land with a great routing; a third project at another Golden Ager, Florida’s Hollywood Beach Golf Club; and a fourth at Kennedy Golf Course for the city of Denver.
Between efforts at traditional course design, his forays into VR (Virtual Reality design), indoor family-oriented, simulated golf complexes, plus his newest venture into non-traditional design — the Butterfly Effect — and his position as director of the First Tee of Mexico makes him the most influential and innovative individual in Mexican golf.
Why 2022 will be a breakout year: In partnering with Chamblee, he has paired with one of the keenest analytical minds in the golf business, as well as one golf’s most influential media members. This will undoubtedly lead to more widespread recognition and exciting new opportunities.
Two Butterfly Effect courses already are in development. Golf Inc. tabbed Piza in its Power 2020 issue as an “Up-and-Coming Superstar.” It now looks as if Augie Piza is ready to deliver on that promise.
Danner is no stranger to airplanes. Born and educated in Illinois, he ultimately moved to Florida and served as a senior design associate with Greg Norman Golf Course Design. Prior to his five-year stint with Norman, he honed his skills working for Lohmann Golf Designs and Golfplan. In 2021, he relocated to the Bay Area of California, joining Forrest Richardson’s firm as senior golf course architect, in the newly renamed firm of Richardson | Danner. He has worked in or traveled to more than 30 countries, contributing to many award-winning new construction and renovation projects. What resonates with him most, however, are the special projects that expand access to more golfers.
Why 2022 will be a breakout year: In joining Forrest Richardson, immediate past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, Danner pairs with one of the most creative, out-of-the-box thinkers in the business.
One of their first collaborations was a remodel of Alaska’s Anchorage Golf Course, which will make history in 2022 when it hosts the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, as Alaska gets its turn as the 50th state to host a USGA national championship. Their work won an ASGCA Environmental Excellence Award in 2021 for utilizing a non-traditional construction plan that resulted in fewer carbon emissions. A bunker renovation program, turf reduction and drainage improvements were designed in compliance with the Anchorage Climate Action Plan.
The complete article can be found here.