Golf architect Ian Andrew waits at the Caddy Shack for his big design project

By William K. Wolfrum,
Staff Writer

Ian Andrew knew all along that he'd be a golf course architect. He just never imagined he'd spend so much time writing about it.

Nicknamed "Grade Three" - as in "he writes at a grade-three level" - by his wife, Andrew has thus surpassed his own expectations for his golf blog, Ian Andrew's Caddy Shack. While course architecture is his life - after 17 years in the golf business, he has just opened his own design firm - he has learned that blogging about course architecture has its place too.

"If I commit to something, I commit," Andrew said about his oft-updated blog. "A friend told me I was overly opinionated so I should do it. It's sort of taken on a life of its own. I get around 150 hits a day from all over the world, which is strange because I'm pretty Canada-centric.

"I thought my dad and some friends were the only ones reading this."

The 41-year-old Ontario native never harbored any such doubts about his main vocation. As a boy he'd sketch the golf holes he'd just seen watching a tournament on TV.

"I told my father when I was 12 or 13 that I wanted to be a golf course architect," he recalled. "He still laughs about that. In grade 11, though, I knew exactly where I was going. I didn't go through the same angst that a lot of kids do. I've never deviated from the route. "

Andrew got his start apprenticing for fellow Canadian Doug Carrick, but much of his career has been built on restoration work; his re-do credits include the bunkers Toronto's acclaimed St. George's Golf & Country Club.

That appreciation for building on the past looms large in his design philosophy, an outlook that might be best defined as "throwback." His passion for the history of golf architectures shines through in his writing about the great Canadian designer Stanley Thompson.

"Those guys back then talked to each other. You see someone like Alistir Mackenzie. He could be very critical of some architects but also compliment others as well," Andrew said.

"[The American Society of Golf Course Architects] has a rule of not criticizing your peers. Now the architects have become superstars and there's a safeness in what they do. Alistir Mackenzie said, 'Great holes rise out of criticism.'"

Tiger Woods' shadow

Now running his own firm after paying his dues for several years, Andrew says he doesn't mind the phenomenon of celebrity player/designers like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. But he does note that bringing the requisite dedication to designing courses isn't easy when you're still consumed with being the best at playing them.

Weston Golf & Country Club"The problem is that these guys are players. How do you become a better player? By practicing," he said. "The same goes for architecture. You have to work on your game."

As to the bane of many designers - working in and around a residential community - he isn't fazed.

"It just becomes a little more scientific approach, because you have storm-water management issues and piping. ... Safety rules the day. You don't want Mrs. O'Leary sitting drinking a cup of coffee and having a golf ball flying in.

"If any of us whine about that, we're just whining," he added. "If you have enough knowledge of golf courses, there's an answer for every problem you'll [encounter]. There's an answer to everything."

Andrews has yet to build his first name-brand course, but he knows this: Given his highly public stance as a blogger, when he does, he'd better do it right.

"The No. 1 goal for me is to build an 18-hole Ian Andrew golf course. I'd like to put my philosophy on the ground. Just one good chance to give my heart and soul on a project," he said.

"I had the guts to pass on two projects thus far, and I think patience will be rewarded. I know everyone will pay attention to what I put in the ground."

March 5, 2007

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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