Staples Golf Design Quarterly

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

In many cases today, clients are hiring architects based on their historical knowledge of a particular designer, and many architects are describing themselves as experts of that specific design philosophy. So, what really is an expert?

Dear Staples Golf Client,

Hope you're having a great summer! As we all find ways to put the pandemic behind us, it seems like this of all times has been a weird combination of a sigh of relief and cautious optimism.  In the midst of this, I’ve recently found myself thinking a lot about how much my practice—and the rest of the industry—has evolved since I started Staples Golf.  

I clearly remember a lesson from a colleague years ago telling me to find one skill and be the absolute best at that one skill— don’t try to be everything to everyone.  I love this bit of advice, and I’m working hard to become that expert in something every day!

Photos of Willie Park Jr. (left), Walter J. Travis (center), and Tom Bendelow (right)

Becoming an ‘Expert’

In many cases today, clients are hiring architects based on their historical knowledge of a particular designer, and many architects are describing themselves as experts of that specific design philosophy. So, what really is an expert? I like to believe expertise is gained through years of hard work, study, and real-world experience.  

I’ve personally found myself immersed in the design philosophy of Willie Park Jr. for some time now, and I’ve also been expanding my on-the-ground research of courses designed by Walter Travis. I’ve worked hard to take in everything I can about the courses—and their designers—to make me a better architect. I’ve been fortunate to land great projects at very prominent designs now, and do not shy away from being an “expert” on what a particular past architect built on a specific site. So, for that, I’d like to think I’m getting closer to being that supposed expert every day.

"Concerning Long Driving" cartoon, circa 1920s

Bunkers on Wheels?!?

There’s been a key narrative over the past 100-odd years that modern golf technology is completely changing the way the sport is played, and I continue to agree with this premise. Like many architects today, I have found myself coming to the aid of courses looking to fortify their bunker regime. But what’s really the best way to counterattack—should we focus on the distance of today, or plan for the inevitable firepower increase of tomorrow?

I’m currently working with Pinnacle Peak CC in Scottsdale on a bunker plan that challenges this exact question. Length has certainly been on my radar—I’m now placing bunkers at landing areas 290-305 yards off the back tees and even adding carry bunkers 240-250 yards from the middle tees. However, it isn’t my only defense!

I like to place bunkers for strategy, not purely to “protect par”. My bunker scheme attempts to reinforce the other hazards such as wind, visual deception, and the contours of the hole to emphasize thoughtful shot-making rather than just targeting the long hitters. Who in the heck knows what these distances will be in another 20 years… maybe the USGA has plans to finally put these bunkers on wheels! Until then, I’ll stay adamant that the best defense lies in a hole’s creative strategy.

Screenshot of a drone flight path for The Staple course at PGA National

Tapping into Technology

Much like technology has been changing golf, it's been rapidly changing how our office runs as well!  We’ve really found ourselves embracing more and more technology—maybe it was all that intimate time with it this past year. We’re experimenting with new flight paths for our drone work. We’re beginning to share master plans and documents virtually with clients on our own dedicated server. We’re trying our hand at Computer Graphic Imagery (CGI) inhouse to produce even more realistic renderings… while simultaneously using computer-aided hand graphics to recreate the rendering styles of old.  Oh, and we’re in the process of giving our website a much-needed facelift—exciting and surprisingly introspective. Tech will continue to play a bigger and bigger role in our work, and we’re doing our best to stay out ahead of it all.  Stay tuned!

Historic 1920's aerial of Garden City Country Club

New Project Alert!!!

Garden City Country Club, located on Long Island, New York (…not to be confused with the neighboring Garden City Golf Club) has officially engaged us in the development of a Master Plan! This early Walter Travis-original design was built in 1916 and is a fantastic showcase of Travis’ green and bunker design work. We began consulting with the club last year and are now making plans for a complete restoration of the course, bringing it back to the original Travis philosophy using historic aerials and ground photos.  This is going to be a fun one!

View from behind no. 9 green at The Staple course, photo courtesy of Evan Schiller

Other Awesome Updates

Olympia Fields— construction begins this September with an expected schedule of work over the next two seasons, ending in 2023.  Finally!!!

Pinnacle Peak Country Club— the bunker renovation is set to wrap up at the end of August with an opening this October after overseeding, just in time for the 2021 season!

PGA National— The Staple par-3 course just opened for play in July and I couldn’t be happier about the turnout!  The Match is on track to open later this summer… just in time for your next vacation :) Check it out here!

Terrace Park Country Club— work is progressing on our master plan for this 1910 private country club in Cincinnati, OH. We completed the renovation of their 13th hole last year and are anxiously awaiting the next steps to really take this cool piece of property to the next level.

Mesa Country Club— the concept design has been going well and is currently under review by the committee, hopefully getting to a membership vote shortly... getting excited for the next steps!

To wrap up, I just want to thank you all for playing a part of my evolving career.  I feel like I’m finally getting to where I’ve always wanted to be with my firm, and each of you has been with me throughout that journey.  Things have been moving—and changing—quickly, but I always enjoy the time I get to devote to sharing that experience with all of you.

So until next time—take care, enjoy the rest of summer, and stay tuned for more!


Andy Staples, ASGCA

Andy Staples

Andy Staples, ASCGA member and principal of Staples Golf Design, was brought to golf at the age of seven by his dad, having learned the game at West Bend Country Club, in West Bend, WI, a turn of the century course designed by Langford & Moreau.

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