Golfers astute enough to follow Australian course architect Mike Clayton on Twitter would recently have seen images of the work he and his partners Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Cocking, and Ashley Mead—known collectively as OCCM—completed on the 14th hole at Royal Canberra. The before and after images demonstrate just what Clayton and the team are capable of, and show why you will soon know all about them if you don’t already. A once pipe-straight par four with trees right and bunkers left forcing the golfer down the middle of the fairway (“rarely the ideal line to the hole on the world’s best courses,” says Clayton), the hole plays very differently now after OCCM took out the trees, widened the fairway by 30 yards, and brought a lake on the right into play.
A former European and Australasian Tour player (nine pro wins), Clayton was always curious about design but never thought it would become his job. However, in 1995 he saw an aerial photo of Victoria Golf Club and offered the club his opinion on how to restore what he called the “amazing bunkering.” The rest is history and, 21 years later, he remains Victoria’s consulting architect.
Clayton and his colleagues also consult at Kingston Heath, and boast an impressive portfolio of original courses and restorative work. Thanks to Bill Coore’s recommendation, they also recently designed the Little 9 at Shady Oaks in Texas, and will soon begin renovating the 18 holes that Ben Hogan called home. It will likely be the first job of many in the U.S.
“If Alister Mackenzie saw the Old Course today, he’d say to the R&A ‘What the hell have you done?’”
“So many great courses today are dealing with disastrous decisions greens committees made 50, 60 years ago when clubs planted a lot of non-indigenous trees in an attempt to ‘beautify’ their course.”
“Guys like Tom Doak, Gil Hanse, and Mike DeVries are doing some excellent work, but Coore & Crenshaw set the standard today.”
“If at least 40 percent of the golfers who play your course aren’t opposed to something you did, you’re not trying.”
“There are usually two sides to every debate, but not when it comes to trees on golf courses. Every single player, designer, and commentator who knows what they’re talking about has said trees have no place on a golf course.”