Thursday, September 15, 2016

Getting to Know: Cameron MacKellar, Golf Course Architect

American Golfer: When did you start playing golf?
Cameron MacKellar: I was introduced to golf at the tender age of 6 by my grandpa, Robert Bell. My first experience of playing the game was at the Patawolonga Golf Links in South Australia where he was engaged in weekly tournaments with the Westwood Ho organization. In 1990, having gained some experience and playing etiquette, I became a member of the prestigious Grange Golf Course in West Lakes SA.

AG: How did you become a golf course designer?
CM: I began my design education with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of South Australia, graduating with First Class Honors. I focussed my thesis for this program on a case study between American Golf Design and Australian Golf Design techniques. From this point, I attended the inaugural Golf Course Design program at Michigan State University. Whilst attending this program, I was introduced to local golf architects and started my internship during this period.

AG: Why did you choose a career in golf course design?
CM: Golf Course Design has enabled me to combine two passions, golf and design. Since an early age, I knew I wanted to be in the golf industry, but wasn’t sure where I could apply my skills and talents. Initially I considered going into golf club design, but passed that up when I visited courses throughout Europe and Australasia.

AG: In your opinion, have any design trends hurt the game?
CM: I think the game is continually hurt by ill-informed developers that seek pristine golf courses as seen at major PGA events. The highly-manicured fairways, faux bunkers and ludicrously long distances simply do not fit the average golfers game, and are a far stretch from the pursuit of introducing new players to the sport. “Signature” designers are typically guilty of these precedents, especially when budgets are excessive and the goal is more on the aesthetic value of the course rather than the playability, environmental and social impacts of such environments.

AG: How can we grow the game of golf?
CM: The “seeds” of golf need to be planted in junior programs, they are the future of the game and will ultimately determine the long-term success of the sport. Trends over recent periods indicate a paradigm shift away from traditional club setups, with a more considerate engagement of family-style environments now becoming prevalent. Golf as a game needs to embrace all people from all walks of life, from juniors to the elderly, from the financially successful to those on minimum wage, the governing bodies of the sport need to make a consolidated effort to drive down the cost of play, and provide facilities that make the game enjoyable at all levels.

AG: Do you have a specific design philosophy?
CM: Due to my Scottish heritage, MacKellar International Golf Design is focused on the traditional “lay of the land” approach to all our golf course designs. I believe that each site has a unique set of opportunities and constraints, and we seek to identify each of these facets to achieve success. Our socially, environmentally and financially considerate designs promote increased play across all skill levels, and encourage a thought-provoking experience that engages all senses of our players.

AG: Of all the holes you’ve designed, do you have a favorite (why)?
CM: I tend not to favor a specific hole as a favorite, focussing more on the experience that our facilities express through the design itself and the location setting. MacKellar International Golf Design is currently engaged with a design in Scotland. This site in itself is inspirational, taking the true links experience to a new level with a routing sequence that meanders through the Scottish Highlands, Ardmucknish Bay and the surrounding environment. True lovers of golfing heritage will experience an awe-inspiring atmosphere that challenges and engages golfers to consider all elements associated with the environment prior to making their shot.

AG: What’s your “dream foursome” (living or dead, golfer or non-golfer)?
CM: Donald Ross, Seve Ballesteros, Bobby Jones, David Feherty (and me - or is that 5)

AG: Is there a “bucket list” location in/on which to design?
CM: For me, I am looking forward to an opportunity to design world class PGA Tour facility in my home town of Adelaide, South Australia. If I had a second choice, my next bucket list location would be the Turks and Caicos Island.

AG: What is the future of golf course design?
CM: I have written many articles over the years relative to the future of golf course design and often find myself adhering to three key principles.
  1. Governing bodies need to limit the influence of equipment advances (club and ball), focussing more on the intricate and thoughtful nature of the game. These equipment advances are putting some of the most influential design principles from the Golden Age at risk, and isolate those that we are trying to encourage to the sport.
  2. Golf course design needs to move away from the traditional gender-based focus on male participants, and transform course into facilities that embrace and encourage participation from all walks of life. Golf was established as a leisure-based activity, and as a designer, we should be encouraging the participation of the entire family by creating unique and memorable environments that respond to emerging social and cultural values.
  3. Challenge the standards of what a typical golf course represents. Designers should be focussing on how we can reduce highly-manicured courses, and direct our attention to what the true essence of the golfing experience represents. Most golfers engage with the sport in a social setting, therefore setting up PGA standard courses are simply not engaging to the average Joe on most occasions. We need to turn our attention to designing facilities that challenge each golfer's ability, whilst being considerate of whom we are actually designing for.

Learn more about MacKellar International Golf Design at

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