Monday, May 1, 2017

Getting to Know: Tom Fazio, Golf Course Architect

Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Dunes Course
American Golfer: When did you start playing golf?
Tom Fazio: I started playing as a youngster. I grew up in a golfing family, highlighted by my uncle, George Fazio, who played professionally from the mid-1930’s through the 1950’s. George was a playing pro out of Pine Valley Golf Club and at one time was also the Head Pro at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles, California. George also played the PGA tour, winning the Canadian Open and Bing Crosby Pro-Am (now the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am). George played in seven Masters Tournaments with a best finish of 14th. The highlight of George’s career was the 1950 U.S. Open where he tied for first with Ben Hogan and Lloyd Mangrum. Ben Hogan won in an 18-hole playoff.

Tom Fazio
AG: How did you become a golf course designer?
TF: As his professional career came to an end,  George began to acquire and “fix up” golf courses in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, employing myself and other family members along the way. Opportunities to design new golf courses for clients began to come in and George and I officially started a golf design firm in 1963. George immediately put me in charge (at about 18 years old) of managing the day-to-day operations. It is hard to believe that was about 55 years ago.

AG: Why did you choose a career in golf course design?
TF: Because I needed a job! It was an opportunity to jump into something exciting right out of high school and I took it. I/we learned design “on the job” and “in the field” by designing AND building courses year after year. In the early years, our company would both design and construct the courses as a complete operation, while in recent times my focus has been solely on design. I established my own golf course design firm in the early 1970’s.

AG: In your opinion, have any design trends hurt the game?
TF: I don’t like to speak critically of the game or industry. Designs and opinions of designs are very subjective and highly varied. A certain design style will be enjoyed and appreciated by some and not by others. If I had to name one area that is more and more important in today’s modern world, it would be time. Golf course designers could do a great service to the game by designing in such a way as to promote faster play and shorter rounds.

AG: Do you have a specific design philosophy?
TF: I have always designed with the average golfer in mind. The greatest compliment I can get as a designer is for someone to tell me that he or she loves one of my designs so much it would be a joy to play the course every day. It would be rare for a golfer to ever offer that compliment with regard to a very difficult golf course. I want our courses to be very playable for even the newest players to the game. I also want our courses to be beautiful, unique and memorable – seamlessly blending in to the surroundings. Many people over the years have told me they cannot tell where the golf course construction stops and the natural, undisturbed site begins. That is a tribute to the hard work and expertise of many individuals throughout the process.

AG: Of all the holes you’ve designed, do you have a favorite (why)?
TF: Well that is a hard one! Having designed over 200 golf course now, that equates to well over 3,500 individual golf holes over 55 years. Like children they are all special to me and I can’t imagine picking one over another. Each project is unique from the standpoint of owners, sites, environments, contractors, relationships. They are all special in their own way. What a blessing it is to have been part of so many wonderful experiences over the years.

AG: What’s your “dream foursome” (living or dead, golfer or non-golfer)?
TF: My dream foursome would include Jimmy Demaret, George Fazio, Bob Hope, and Byron Nelson. I would be the caddy and enjoy the banter and great golf!

AG: Is there a “bucket list” location in/on which to design?
TF: It is hard to imagine a location or type of site we have not had the privilege to design within – we have designed golf courses along ocean cliffs, in the mountains, on links land, in deserts, in rain forests. It is truly remarkable to think about the extraordinary variety of golf course sites we have experienced over the years.

AG: What is the future of golf course design?
TF: There will always be a market for traditional 18 hole golf courses, but I also see the potential for “alternative” golf facilities to gain in popularity by providing quality, affordable experiences that take less time than a typical round of golf.

Learn more about Tom Fazio at

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