Ian Andrew Golf Design

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"He believes in himself, and a fun rather than frantic and overdone style of golf that the game sorely needs."

Lorne Rubenstein

Globe and Mail








My Design Philosophy





I believe that it is not the architect’s role to make the game difficult. Rather, it is the role of the designer to make the game interesting. My vision is to craft unique, distinctive and thought-provoking creations that are fun to play. Each design will leave the golfer compelled to head back to the first tee to try a different route or an alternative approach in order to determine the best way to play our designs. 

Modern golf designers like to dictate the shots you must hits and the locations you must play to, whereas I will present players with a series of options to choose from. When a golfer stands on the tee I want them to decide between whether to play safe or take on additional risk to gain a better position for their approach. The better player enjoys the freedom to take on risk as their confidence rises, and the average player appreciates the opportunity to use a safer route when they feel it is prudent.  This approach allows golfers to make determinations on every hole about how they will play the course. They must think their way around the course. 

When a player is given the opportunity to be creative and think their way around a course, they become much more engaged in the game. These are the courses that they return to play over and over because they are interesting and require repeated plays to figure out. These are the types of courses that we will be creating.



Playability and Difficulty 

I believe playability and difficulty can co-exist on a golf course. Though many ignore one in favor of the other, there are ways to make a course enjoyable for the majority of players who participate in casual golf, as well as those that maintain low handicaps.
Closely mown grass around greens, for example, can bring both elements into the game. This has long been a facet of links courses throughout the world. In North America, however, the common practice of using bluegrass surrounding a green offers only one type of recovery — the flop — a favorite of good players, but a shot difficult for a majority of golfers. However, if the green surrounds are closely mown, the near miss often gets propelled away from the green. Now the good player must decide whether to putt, bump and run, or to attempt a flop shot. Options lead to mistakes, but also present opportunities. A weaker player will always play to their strengths and the recovery becomes a much easier for them.




Though it is sometimes lost in translation, the game of golf is supposed to be fun. Rolls, rumples, ridges and slopes can add a huge amount of interest to a course. The joy of the game is trying to figure out how to play over, along or around these natural features. 

These features are easier to maintain and a lot more challenging than a formalized hazard is to the good player, while offering playability and enjoyment for the average player. The game originated with chance and fun being a key component of the courses, and yet modern golf architecture has tried to eliminate these natural features in order to create a more controlled and manufactured “test of golf.” There has been too much emphasis on resistance to scoring and not enough on the simple pleasure the game is supposed to bring to the majority of players.



Value of Short Par Fours

The short par four is the most enjoyable and interesting hole in golf. For the average player, this represents the opportunity to make a par; and for the better player a chance to make a birdie or better. When the hole is well thought out it should offer the greatest opportunity and a huge risk all in the same package.

The joy of the short four is the options a player has at the tee. They should always have the opportunity to play a conventional safe positional lay-up. But the great short fours also offer a risky aggressive line allowing the player to attack the hole. Typically the favorites among golfers are the drivable holes where the possibility of reaching the green begins to cloud the judgment of the player and introduce more risk into the game.

The ideal short par four tempts us to be aggressive despite the fact there is a more prudent option available. What we love about these holes is the average player will almost always plan the best two shot strategy and try to make par with two “good” shots, whereas the strong player gets compelled to take the risk of hitting the “perfect” shot despite the fact that they know this is a poor tactic.



Minimalist Architecture

Though the movement has been slow to build, the technique known as “minimalism” has created all the greatest courses built in the last 50 years. Names like Pacific Dunes, Friars Head, and Sand Hills are examples of courses that have been built by designers embracing this style.


Minimalism was a term coined to describe what a handful of current architects were doing that distinguished them from their peers. In reality it was a return to the techniques used by Golden Age designers such as Stanley Thompson, A.W. Tillinghast, and Alister MacKenzie. Minimalism is about making the choice to move as little or even no earth during the construction of a golf course. This approach leads to developing golf courses that are in complete harmony with their natural surroundings.


I have learned through studying the Golden Age architects that restraint is often more important than one's ability to direct earthmoving equipment. We recognize that modern architecture has the ability to shape nature, but suffers from the inability to avoid repetition. Nature, on the other hand, does not repeat itself and offers the architect an unlimited number of unique possibilities on each property. It is up to us to go out and find those natural holes through repeated walks over the site until we find the best routing. The greatest holes in golf were found rather than created.



Throw away the Standards

Standards are useful as guidelines, but strict adherence to standards does not make a great golf course.  It is only the careful utilization of natural features and existing terrain that makes for a memorable golf experience.


The Golden Age architects often found themselves with difficult terrain and no ability to move enough earth to overcome a challenging natural feature. They didn't turn to standards and earth moving to remove these features.  Instead they accepted the challenge to find the most interesting holes on the property. They found a creative use of a natural feature in order to make a grand new hole that required additional thought and skill on the part of golfers. Occasionally these holes were criticized on first playing, but over time many of these holes have become the model of greatness.


Greatness has never come from a formula, but out of an innovative solution to a problem, be it in a routing or dealing with a difficult feature on site. Today’s new courses tend to be based on achieving at least 7,000 yards and a par 72, regardless of the available terrain. Often, great natural character has been sacrificed to achieve a “standard” golf course. I believe to get the best course that nature alone should decide the length and par of the course.


Since diversity is one of nature's strengths and the diversity of all the different golf courses across the world is golf's strength. When you think about it, other games are played across a standardized playing field. So why wouldn't we avoid standardization at all costs?”



Green Contours

Greens are the key to golf design since awe-inspiring green contours alone can produce a great hole. Green contours and pin positions have more influence on which side of a fairway an approach must be played than the placement and arrangement of hazards. With very intricate greens you may need to play to opposite sides of the fairway on back to back days just to access particular pin locations.


In a day and age where many of the modern designers continue to push courses back looking to defend par only through excessive length, they seem to have completely overlooked that green contour is the greatest equalizer in the game. A more complicated green surface requires a player be more careful about position off the tee in order to access key pin positions.

If you have more contour, not only do golfer have to avoid certain positions or risk a three putt, but a miss around the green can be further complicated by getting on the wrong side of a feature like a prominent roll or a strong slope. When you add short grass around these greens it places further emphasis on the importance of the interior contours of the green.



The reason that many golfers admire the Golden Age courses over their more modern equivalents is the attention that has been spent in the details of construction. The architects of the past spent far more personal time on site time carefully considering every small detail so that no potential solution was ever overlooked. In the Golden Age each feature was built by hand which meant the level of detailing was far greater than it is today. I am committed to delivering this same level of craftsmanship because we believe this is the difference between a good course and one that is truly sublime.


In our nearly two decades in the business, we have been widely praised for our restoration efforts on many courses designed during the Golden Age. In order deliver the level of detailing, we experimented with alternate methods, including old-fashioned hand work to rediscover the techniques to build accurate bunkers and mounds. While our experiments were made to achieve an accurate restoration, they led our realization of the importance of more “handmade” features for new projects. We came to the conclusion that "handmade" features are what separate the highly praised Golden Age architects from the blandness so prevalent in modern architecture.


I understand that overseeing details – including picking up a shovel or getting on a tractor – can take a good green or bunker and turn it into a work of art. Excellence is in the details.



Environmental Approach to Design

I believe that we have an obligation to build courses that are environmentally responsible. I believe in building courses now that anticipate the changes in legislation that will affect the way we maintain and build our courses in the future. I know through my experiences that we can design courses that remain interesting and playable while reducing our impact on the natural ecosystems. 

I am committed to making better choices in the routing stage that can minimize the disturbance required to build our courses, as well as protect the existing ecosystems. Additionally these decisions can help set in place a system to collect or filter all run-off water, minimizing the requirements for additional water, and help reduce pesticides usage. I know that my environmental approach will create courses that reduce maintenance requirements, provide a unique character for each project, blend into the surrounding environment, minimize our impact on the site and reduce the cost to build and operate our courses.

My courses are designed for a future where there will be less water available and a reduction or even ban on the use of pesticides. This new approach will lead to dramatic- looking courses that are still fun and playable because we will design with these changing maintenance principles in mind. We can put your project on the cutting edge of environmentally-based design which will lead to easier approvals and an opportunity to market your project for its environmental sensitivity.
We all need to change our ideas about what we think Canadian golf is and realize that there are better ways to be more environmentally responsible without compromising the quality of the game. We need to understand that our current state of golf is not sustainable and that a new approach to golf course design and maintenance will be good for everyone in the long term.





Ian Andrew Golf Design Inc.  47 Dufferin Avenue,  Brantford,  Ontario,   N3T 4P6   (519)-752-8456