by Adam Stanley
Every two years, a prominent national Canadian golf magazine releases a list of the Top 100 golf courses in Canada. It’s subjective, of course, as the rankings are taken from the votes of panelists across the country but there is something that stands out from the most recent list.
Courses designed by Doug Carrick, a newly inducted member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame, number 13. The 56-year-old has put his name on more than 10 percent of the best courses in the country, according to the list.
But for the humble Carrick, it’s not about accolades. It’s about giving golfers of all levels a wonderful experience.
“I’m trying to create golf courses that are challenging for the skilled player, but also very enjoyable for everyone,” he explains. “I try to find that right balance between challenge and pliability on every project I’ve done.”
This is a design philosophy he picked up from his mentor Robbie Robinson, who learned from Stanley Thompson.
Working with someone as legendary as Robinson was “fantastic,” says Carrick.
“It was a huge help to get me established in the business. He taught me a lot of good things about golf architecture. I couldn’t have asked for a better education from Robbie in the early part of my career,” he explains.
Carrick’s interest in course design came from his interest in the game itself. He began playing when he was a young teenager and played competitive golf until he went to the University of Georgia for its landscape architecture program. There, he tried out for the golf team.
“After a year I realized, well, maybe I should do something else,” says Carrick with a laugh.
He returned to the University of Toronto and enrolled in the landscape architecture program in his hometown. He then developed the basic skills he needed to try to get a job in golf course architecture.
It’s no secret golf designers are artists, and Carrick says he must have gotten that skill from his mother.
“She was a very good artist,” he says. “I liked to draw, but I think my interest in architecture came from my interest in the game. My artistic side has evolved over the years.”
Right out of school Carrick met Robinson, and began working with Tom McBroom – another Canadian architect – but in 1985, Carrick began his own design firm.
Now, with 30 years in the business, Carrick says he still gets excited at the prospect of a new site.
“It’s always a thrill to be engaged for a new project, whether it’s in Ontario or B.C. or around the world,” he says. “There’s always nervous anticipation when you first get involved.”
Although Carrick says all of his courses have special aspects, he calls out a few that hold particular memories for him.
The very first design he completed as a solo project was King Valley Golf Club, just north of Toronto. Curtis Strange – then the number-one player in the world – was brought on board as the designer advisor, and Carrick says it was a “beautiful piece of land.”
Carrick has also been at the helm of some of Ontario’s most scenic courses, like the Muskoka Bay Club and Eagle’s Nest. Across Canada, courses like Humber Valley, Predator Ridge and Bigwin Island are all Carrick signatures.
But the most excitement Carrick has had while designing a course came in the form of The Carrick Loch Lomond.
“Doing a course in Scotland, the home of golf, was certainly a highlight,” he says.
Designing courses in other countries have their own unique challenges, according to Carrick. Beyond Scotland, his work has appeared in South Korea, Austria and Hungary. In Asia, there is a language barrier, and a different perspective on golf. In Scotland, his team found archeological artifacts dating back nearly 4000 years.
“A little different than what we’re used to in Canada,” states Carrick.
Despite any issues that arise, there’s always the same objective.
“You want to build a great golf course,” he says. “You try to make it as enjoyable as possible for as wide a range of golfers as possible.”
Since 2008, Carrick has seen his roster of original projects decrease. But he’s kept busy with remodeling work for a number of clubs across the country. Carrick’s last original project was Predator Ridge in 2010. But, he says a number of old projects – one in Aurora and one in Barrie, for example – that were started almost a decade ago are just now going ahead.
For now, Carrick says being inducted into the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame is a “huge honour,” and when he found out a fellow member at Summit Golf Club nominated him, it was a surprise.
“There are a lot of people who have contributed right from day one – friends and colleagues, contractors, and clients who trusted (me) to design a course and spend their money,” chuckles Carrick.
But, it doesn’t sound like Doug Carrick will be stopping doing what he loves anytime soon.
Golfers in Canada – and around the world – can be thankful for that.