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Tom Doak | Talks design and making a great course

Tom Doak | Talks design and making a great course


Tom Doak is back!

During the 2019 Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, Erik had the chance to sit down with world renowned golf course architect, and previous podcast guest, Tom Doak. Erik and Tom discuss the trajectory of Toms career and how he forged the path he has, the origins of the game and the beautiful simplicity of golf in Scotland, his love of the foursomes format, making courses that are enjoyable for every level of golfer, and trying to avoid signature holes when designing his golf courses.

“There are different levels of difficulties for different levels of skiers, Golf doesn’t do that, but golf should do that.”


  • [7:11]: The great barrier to entry as a golf course architect is finding someone who will trust you with millions of dollars and to spend it wisely.
  • [9:13]: The first book that I wrote that kinda established my reputation as a really controversial person was The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses
  • [10:47]: I said a lot of famous places were overrated
  • [12:34]: I get criticized a lot for ‘well you didn’t even play the golf course’
  • [12:47]: If I wanted to play more, I would’ve seen less
  • [13:04]: When we’re building a golf course, it’s all dirt, I can’t hit the shots and test them out and see if they work I have to be able to visualize that.
  • [13:25]: The charm of a place can skip by when you’re just looking at it hole by hole sometimes.
  • [14:24]: You don’t get good reviews from people right after they’ve played golf on their one and only trip.
  • [19:12]: The 3D part is the most important part of golf course design
  • [20:51]: Honestly I feel a lot of responsibility to give back (On why he does what he does)

The Why

  • [20:51]: Honestly I feel a lot of responsibility to give back
  • [20:53]: I grew up on a public golf course in Connecticut, and I didn’t know anybody in the golf business and my family wasn’t connected at all. Everywhere I’ve gotten was by writing letters to people and having them help me.

State of the Game

  • [24:53]: The main reason golf lost its way the last 20 years was that there were a lot of golf courses being built with the main purpose being a housing development not a golf course.
  • [38:50]: A lot of golf course architects don’t relate to why the average golfer is out there (On most golf course architects being really good players)
  • [39:46]: Unfortunately when we build new courses we’re not building for the beginner
  • [40:28]: The growth of the game is really in the hands of the golf professionals and superintendents at the overlooked places

“Nobody in the golf business ever pays to play golf so we kinda lose track of how much we’re asking other people to play golf.”

  • [45:45]: New courses are not the place for beginners to go for the most part. There’s plenty of affordable golf courses for people to start on.
  • [45:56]: One of my favorite ways to play golf that nobody in America does is foursomes.
  • [49:01]: A lot of my feeling for golf and philosophy of golf comes back to the year I spent over here. (On his time in Scotland)
  • [55:17]: Golf is the one sport you can play against an opponent, you can play against the golf course and the elements, you can just play against yourself and what your expectations are.
  • [64:09]: When you build a course like Renaissance for a big tournament, you have to be afraid that the governing body will come in and set it up too hard and you’ll look like the dummy
  • [69:19]: On a tough golf course, there are places that even a really great golfer will have trouble getting up and down from, they just know not to miss there.
  • [72:22]: I remember living in Scotland in 1982 and 1983 and thinking “well i’ll never build a golf course here”, they have got so many great golf courses already, they don’t need any more
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