Tom Doak is a golf course architect. He has 4 courses ranked among the top 100 in the world according to the "Top 100 Courses in the World" list compiled by Golf Magazine. These include Pacific Dunes in Oregon, Ballyneal in Colorado, Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand.
Doak is the author of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses which is a guide to famous and obscure golf courses around the world. The original version of the book was intended for a select group of friends and golf course architects. The sanitized version became a coffee table book which also included Doak's photography. Despite being toned down, the book includes several extremely critical reviews of golf courses and alienated several well-regarded golf course architects.
Every great golf architect has taken the time to study the great links of the British Isles, upon which the game of golf evolved. Thanks to a scholarship from Cornell University, I got to live on the links -- caddying at St. Andrews the summer after my graduation, then spending the next seven months playing and studying every golf course of note.
In that year abroad, I discovered a challenging, natural outdoor sport played by all ages, on exciting courses which had cost nothing to build and which were affordable for all to play. Ever since, I’ve felt a responsibility to build courses which reflect the ideals of the game as the Scots still play it.
My ideas on golf course design are shaped by having seen nearly every great course in the world -- more than 1,000 in all. It still fascinates me how different good courses can be from one another. Sometimes a stretch of ground will remind me of a golf hole I saw in Britain twenty years ago, but the best designs of all are organic, evolving from the subtleties of the ground they inhabit. The chance to create an interesting golf hole which is a bit different than anything I've seen before is what makes all the travel worthwhile.
I spent three years working on construction projects for Pete Dye and his sons, learning how golf courses are built at the highest level. Along the way I discovered that I love the work, too -- being out in the field, refining design ideas while the course is coming together. My first solo design opportunity came at the age of 26, and I haven’t looked back; but we continue to improve at the craft of building golf courses with every project we do.
I’ve been called a lot more names than most golf course architects. Iconoclastic. Cerebral. A traditionalist, and a radical. I love to be considered a radical, but it’s ironic that we’re also trusted consultants to some of the most conservative golf clubs in America. Most of all, I’ve been labeled as “controversial.” But so, too, were my heroes in the business, Alister MacKenzie and Pete Dye.