Q & A: Tom Weiskopf
Michigan Golfer had a chance recently to chat with Tom Weiskopf about the new course he designed at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire.
The former British Open and U.S. Senior Open champion is now recognized as a premier course designer.
The layout, set to open next spring, is around 6,900 yards at the tips with multiple tee pads and dramatic vistas and challenges. Early reviews indicate an award-winner design in the making.
He has also taken a very hands-on approach. Following are parts of the interview/conversation Weiskopf had last month with contributing editor Greg Johnson.
Michigan Golfer: What do you think of the site at Shanty Creek?
Weiskopf: Anywhere within 100 miles of here is terrific terrain for a golf course, and the soil is so conducive to good drainage and growing a good-quality turf. It's a short season here, but you have long days because of added daylight. Also, this site includes the three qualities you hope to find on any great site: changes in elevation, big mature trees and water features. On the business side of things, Michigan ranks among the best states in the country for golf participation. When you come to an area where there is enthusiasm and support for the game, it's exciting to become part of that market.
Michigan Golfer: In terms of a design, what are you trying to create?
Weiskopf: What I'm trying to do is make this course look as though it were built at the turn of the century_not at the end of the century. I wouldn't want someone saying, 'Well, that's a typical modern-looking golf course.' I would prefer that they say, 'Gee, this course must have been built a long time ago.' This is traditional golf. The bunkering here is traditional. The entries into the green are traditional, and so is the presentation from the tee. We utilize all the features as much as we can. I think it is a traditional-looking golf course.
Michigan Golfer: Will your course be difficult to play?
Weiskopf: With four or five sets of tees on each hole it should work for all golfers. I would think it will offer some tough tee placements, and because of the length from the back tees it should offer the scratch or professional player quite a challenge. It's not as severe as say a private course design might be. I knew it was for a resort, and it's designed to keep play moving in some places.
Michigan Golfer: What would be your thumbnail description of your new course at Shanty Creek?
Weiskopf: That's it's a memorable, enjoyable, traditional golf experience. It's shouldn't beat you up. That's not to say we don't all have our days, but it shouldn't beat you up. It wasn't designed that way.
Michigan Golfer: The folks at Shanty Creek report you have been on site repeatedly through the construction phase. Why is that?
Weiskopf: I always work this way. I just think attention to detail is essential. You can't put your name on something, and then not massage it or kind of subject yourself to it. Every time you go out and look at it, one question should apply: Is this really right? The more chances you have to determine what is right and what is wrong, the greater chance you have to correct something during construction.
Michigan Golfer: What about the future of golf, and what will it mean to golf course design?
Weiskopf: I don't think golf right now is any different than it was 20 years ago. yes, there are more people aware of the game, and it is certainly more competitive. But are the players any better than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago? I would say no. The best of the best today are no better than the best of 20 or 30 years ago. Yes, equipment has had a big impact on the game and must be addressed. But should we manage golf-course design because of the equipment? No. There is just a small percentage of people to consider in that case. I don't even want to think of Tiger Woods playing this golf course. He won't unless he has an outing here or something. Let's think about golf. It's going to keep growing. That's great. That's who we have in mind when we design.
Michigan Golfer: What golf course architects have you studied, and who has influenced your work?
Weiskopf: Alister Mackenzie is my favorite. (Donald) Ross, (A.W.) Tillinghast, (Billy) Bell, Charles Macdonald_they all have differences in style, but those designers built golf courses that were playable, memorable, enjoyable and maintainable. For the most part, their courses were classics. It's kind of like walking into an old Victorian home that was built 100 years ago_ that style of architecture is something pretty special.
Michigan Golfer: How has being a Tour player affected your design philosophy?
Weiskopf: The only advantage a Tour player should have is the fact he or she has traveled so much and has played some of the great golf courses in the world, and while doing that they watched the ball hit the green and react to the design. My design thoughts are reflected in all those things I've seen in the past. No one has reinvented the wheel on this issue. I had enough controversy as a player, so I try to stay away from design controversy.
Michigan Golfer: You don't play much on the Senior Tour. Are you simply too busy doing design work?
Weiskopf: I took a heck of a chance back when I was 40 years of age and made a decision to quit playing the regular tour. At that time I was the fourth all-time leading money winner. Only five players had ever won, in my time, more tournaments than I had won. Still, I needed to so something else. I wanted to try the golf course design business. I had this timetable if if didn't work out, but the first course I did was the award-winner Troon (Scottsdale, Ariz.). It was the best new private golf course in the country in 1986. People loved it. I also found out I love doing this. I have a passion for this. It takes all of my attention, and creativity. I had the itch again to play when the Senior Tour came along, but I reached my goals there in three years. I guess I've had enough of the competition.
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