Thursday, July 26, 2018

Getting to Know: Mike Gorman, Golf Course Architect with Robert Trent Jones II

American Golfer: When did you start playing golf?
Mike Gorman: I started playing golf at the age of 8. I grew up across from a park where I used to make up my own courses. To the neighbors’ dismay, some of my errant shots and an occasional, misguided hole ended up being routed close to their property. I had golf balls going into my neighbors’ gutters, they did not like it.

AG: Why did you choose a career in golf course design?
MG: I’ve always had a strong passion for golf. After getting to as a low as a 2.0 handicap in high school and competing in regular amateur tournaments throughout Northern California, it became apparent that would be the pinnacle of my playing career. However, I wanted golf to still be a big part of my life, so I decided study Landscape Architecture at Arizona State University with the intent on focusing projects on golf as much as I could.

AG: In your opinion, have any design trends hurt the game?
MG: I believe that a focus on arbitrary metrics have hurt the game more than any other factor. Par, distance, number of holes, green speeds, clubhouse size, etc. We are slowly starting to see these metrics being broken down and I believe that successful projects in the future will completely abandon these norms if it makes for a better golf course.

AG: How can we grow the game of golf?
MG: Following the lead of organizations like “Youth on Course” would be a great start; what it has done to help subsidize rounds of golf for junior golfers around the country is really remarkable. It’s a unique organization that is making great progress in growing the game through its innovative approach to easily make golf courses more accessible to a wide variety of junior golfers.

AG: Do you have a specific design philosophy?
MG: In one word: playability. The golf course has to playable at its root. From a strategic perspective I prefer to build in as much width and provide a variety of alternate angles to approach holes.

AG: Of all the holes you have designed, do you have a favorite (why)?
MG: Tough question. I think of holes that are my favorites are those that I had originally envisioned in my mind as “connector” holes, and then seeing these holes come to fruition to have far surpassed my original expectations. I think of Hole No. 11 at Hoiana Shores in Vietnam, currently under construction, is a great example of a hole far exceeding everyone’s original expectations.

AG: What is your “dream foursome” (living, dead, golfer, non-golfer)?
MG: Alister Mackenzie, Bobby Jones, Marion Hollins at Cypress Point Club.

AG: Is there a “bucket list” location in/on which to design?
MG: There are many remote or undiscovered linksland places around the world that I would love to be part of to help create a great golf destination. Places that come to mind are in Northern New Zealand, Chile, Myanmar and Vietnam.

AG: What is the future of golf course design?
MG: I believe the future of golf courses is for shorter, more playable, fun courses. A round should not have to take an entire afternoon. There should be options for an easy, one-hour session if desired. We are seeing a slow transition of golf being disrupted, which I think is a good thing. Topgolf is a great example of this, which I believe is great for growth of the game. Golf is at its core a form of social recreation. It’s addictive, it has many of the ingredients to gain more mass appeal. It’s really up to designers and developers to do a better job of showcasing what golf is really all about, which should help regain some of the players lost over time. Golf has to evolve into something different than what we predominantly see today. There are also some technological components to this that I think can make golf be more intriguing and enjoyable.

Learn more about Mike Gorman and the design work of the Robert Trent Jones II team at

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