Brian Ault, ASGCA past president, has been recognized on numerous occasions by Golf Digest magazine for outstanding courses, including Wyncote Golf Club in Oxford, Pennsylvania, which was voted third-best new public course in America in 1993. Some of his other projects include the River Creek Club in Leesburg, Virginia; and Rehoboth Beach Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware. He currently serves as co-president of Ault, Clark & Associates, Ltd. in Kensington, Maryland.

Eighteen years ago, I was working on a very complicated course just outside of Dallas, Texas. The site was in Irving, just down the street from Cowboy Stadium. Since I was from Maryland, I was quite the oddity in Dallas. With my northern accent, I couldn’t even pronounce the word “pecan” correctly.

Pecans are what really got me into trouble.

The complicated course was on a river, with two or three easements for underground oil pipelines and two sets of overhead electrical power lines. Some of the site was a floodplain and some was landfill. It was a mess. The Corps of Engineers discovered that some of the landfill had been filled too high and had to be lowered by readjusting the garbage.

We started redeveloping the site by creating a plan that showed how we could adjust the garbage and make the ground ready for golf holes. Most people have seen an active landfill, with bulldozers pushing trash into a ravine and covering it up. But, can you imagine what it was like when we basically had to dig all of that garbage back up? The bulldozer operators, and anyone else who got within a quarter mile of the site, had to wear gas masks. It wasn’t a pretty sight – or smell – but we got it done.

Then, during the initial walkthrough of the proposed holes, when we reached the area for the proposed eighteenth hole, we found a grove of pecan trees.

“We’re going to cut all of these trees down to make way for the eighteenth hole, ” I told the assistant director of parks, Bill Thompson, with certainty.

I didn’t realize my Yankee mistake until I saw the look on Thompson’s face.

Not only had I mispronounced the word “pecan,” but I also failed to realize that the pecan tree is the official Texas state tree!

Needless to say, I had to come up with a new plan that saved the trees.