Hello and welcome to my blog An Architect Abroad. My name is Mark Wylie and I am a Golf Course Designer and Project Manager based in Sydney, Australia.
In mid-June of 2014 I realised a long-held dream and commenced a four-month long golf course research/study tour throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland and part of the United States. The focus of that trip was to study some of the oldest and greatest golf courses in the world, and in turn gain an ‘informal education’ in links and heathland golf course architecture. My time was therefore largely spent in the UK and Ireland, with the long trip home taking me via the US to see a handful of layouts and also to enjoy a brief holiday before returning to Sydney. For those who practice golf course design for a living, it is a somewhat unwritten rule that your education is not complete until you have spent some time studying the famed links courses in this part of the world. And whilst my education in this field is still far from complete, having undertaken this study tour it is now certainly well underway…
This is a retrospective blog of that journey, which I have created to both document and share my experiences, as well as to offer up my formed opinions of the courses that I visited from a design perspective. During my travels I kept a diary that contained notes on each course regarding their strategy, playability, green complexes, bunkering, conditioning/presentation, as well as my opinions and random thoughts on various aspects and interesting features of each layout and individual holes. I also photographed each course as best as I could, which was often limited by the fact that I was obviously playing the course at the time. For the bigger courses that form part of The Open rota, I made a point of walking each course ahead of playing it. This allowed me to take more time to study and photograph the holes and interesting features without worrying about that fact that it was my turn to hit. In turn this enabled me to focus on the strategy and playability of the layout when golfing, and thus made for a more relaxed and enjoyable time on the course.
As much as I wanted to share the journey and my thoughts as they unfolded, my itinerary meant that I was simply too busy: in the first three months I spent abroad, I visited forty-nine courses in ninety-six days. These courses were spread far and wide throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, meaning that while I wasn’t walking a golf course, eating or sleeping, I was usually travelling to see the next one. As a result I didn’t have the time to prepare and publish something of this nature whilst on the road. In hindsight though, I’m glad I didn’t rush that process.
Taking the time to reflect back over my diary, photographs and memories of my trip over the past eight months has allowed for those experiences to wash over me properly and in turn has facilitated the development of my opinions in a more focused manner. Additionally, by comparing many of the different courses that I visited during that time I feel that it has also given me a more comprehensive perspective on what I saw and learnt, and has therefore probably put me in a better position to share that with a wider audience.
There are a many people and places who need to be thanked for making my trip possible:
A big thank you to all of the golf clubs I visited during my trip – fifty-three in total, spread across three continents – for your warm welcomes and great hospitality. In particular, to all of the Club Secretaries, General Managers, Club Professionals and Office Staff who helped to organise and facilitate my visits: thank you for your assistance, warmth and generosity. As a visitor I was made to feel particularly welcome at some of the most prestigious, exclusive and famous courses in this part of the world, and it certainly made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
I feel especially lucky and somewhat privileged to have not only seen and played so many fine courses, but to have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of golfing legends and past Open champions, and to study the work of some of the greatest golf course architects to ever practice the art of golf course design. It was certainly a once in a lifetime trip.
To all of the caddies who carried my bag (and me) around your fine courses, thank you for being such great company, your playing advice, the history lessons, your sense of humour, and of course, your endless patience in searching for wayward golf balls. For those visiting the big courses on The Open rota, I cannot recommend taking a caddie highly enough. Their experience and knowledge of the course are invaluable to guiding you around, and their advice and company will add to your enjoyment of your round immeasurably.
I would also like to thank all of the random playing partners who joined me for rounds at various courses. Your company on the links helped to make my experiences that extra bit more pleasurable, especially when my swing had seemed to desert me, or the weather had turned foul. There’s something to be said about the benefits of sharing both the pleasures and pains of your round with a golfing partner or three as opposed to experiencing it all on your own.
I must reserve my biggest thank you to my family and long-term partner Megan, who all supported and encouraged me to undertake this trip, and continued to support me whilst I was away for a full four months – most of which was on my own. Despite being in the middle of post-production on her first feature film Crushed, a busy and stressful time when she too most needed my support, Megan knew how much this trip would mean to me and gladly gave me a ‘leave pass’ to pack my bags and head for greener lands. I will forever be in debt to both Megan and my parents Sue and John for their unwavering support and encouragement. Megan also deserves credit for motivating me to set this blog up, and for editing my posts to ensure they are readable and make sense to everyone out there.
In sharing my experiences, I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with the views I have about certain golf courses or individual holes. In fact the subjective nature of appraising golf courses is one of the great things about the game of golf and the ground on which it is played. Every single golf course is unique in some way and everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion of what makes an individual golf hole or golf course great (or otherwise). To that end, I welcome your comments and feedback on my posts. There is nothing like a controversial hazard or golf hole to spark a good debate over its legitimacy, and I hope that this blog may serve as a forum for discussion on the subject matter of golf design and what constitutes a good hole or course. All I ask is that in commenting on my posts and/or taking part in any discussion, that you please be respectful of both me the blog’s author, and importantly, other readers who have made comments. In short, please focus your comments specifically on the subject matter only and not the individual. In that regard, all comments posted will be moderated as required to keep things friendly.
I intend to post a new blog every three to five days, and courses will appear in the order in which I saw them. You can subscribe to my blog using the link found in the sidebar at the top of this page, which will provide you with email notifications when each new post is made. Please also feel free to share my posts and this blog with all of your golfing friends using the social media links provided, especially those who also share an interest in golf courses and their design.
Last, but not least, I would like to thank you for taking the time to visit my blog – I do hope you find it an enjoyable read!