Pinehurst, North Carolina resident Michael Gleason began his career working with Ellis and Dan Maples, and during those 16 years he worked on more than forty golf courses on the East Coast and abroad. In 1999, Gleason started his own firm, focusing on creating holes at courses such as North Carolina courses Olde Liberty in Youngsville and Linkhaw Farms in Lumberton, which provide a variety of alternate lines of play to the flagstick. Risk versus reward is a tenet of Gleason’s design strategy. A great deal of his recent work has concentrated on remodeling the works of Ellis Maples and the golden age architect Donald Ross. He has worked on projects in Spain, Germany, and Japan, and has experience in preliminary master planning for large-scale developments, permitting, and environmental issues.
Through my many years as a golf course architect, I have seen my share of highs and lows. Every new project brings a new terrain, a new challenge and a new group of people. I have been very lucky: the people that I have worked with have been very talented. But within every group of people there can be widely varying opinions about what is “good golf.” It is my job to sift though these ideas and put together a design that is sensitive to the client, the environment, and the golfer.
When making their way around a golf course, most players have an opinion about how a golf hole should have been designed, but not many know of the sometimes impossible circumstances that effect the outcome of a golf hole. So many different things can happen during the design and construction of a modern golf course that it’s a wonder that they can get built with any semblance of continuity at all. These problems can make my life miserable.
During my moments of self doubt, I will usually retreat to my drafting table. On the wall in front of my desk I have a letter written by Donald Ross to Ellis Maples. It is dated May 27, 1927, and reads, in part:
Mrs. Ross and I thank you for inviting us to your graduation exercises and we regret that we cannot be present. You are doing finely, Ellis, and I know you are going to make a fine man. My experience is that if a man follows the golden rule, gives consideration to others, and does some good (however small) every day of his life, and acts as a gentleman under all circumstances, he cannot fail to make a success of his life. However humble our occupation may be, we all have our little niche in this worlds’ work.
I wish you every success,
Very sincerely yours,
Donald J. Ross
Mr. Ross’ philosophy is a true inspiration to me and I try to follow that philosophy every day of my life. And when I take a moment to look at the overall picture, I come to realization that I would not want to change my occupation for any other job in the world. What other endeavor would allow you to work in harmony with nature to expose its extraordinary beauty while at the same time provide an avenue of relaxation and sport for so many people, from every walk of life?