Functional Artwork

Painting outside the fairway lines with Mike Strantz at Tobacco Road

Editor’s note: During the reporting of TGJ No. 10’s, “The One Less Travelled,” author Jay Revell uncovered rare footage of late architect Mike Strantz during construction of his Tobacco Road in 1998. The following quotes and opinions can be heard in those interviews. For extended analysis of the forgotten footage, check out TGJ Podcast 42: The Lost Strantz Tapes. 

“I tend to look at golf-course design and construction very artistically, which is compatible with being a zen thing. Art, and many of the fine arts, to me, is very much a spiritual thing. It’s a thing of beauty; it touches a part of the human soul that I don’t think many other things do. And that’s the way I tend to look at golf-course architecture: It’s functional artwork to me.”

“When deciding where the first hole goes, you generally start with the clubhouse area…you start to look geometrically at the site and how—without contour—you can start to fit holes in. The contour will stick out on the topography and you’ll just see a few natural golf holes. You’ll just see two or three natural golf holes and we’ll just stick ’em in there without giving them any numbers yet and say, ‘I’m gonna try and use these,’ and see if you can’t somehow make it work in the grand scheme of things.”

“I’m not sure this job can be taught. I would compare this to regular artwork. You can teach a person technically how to do things. You can teach a person technically how to play the piano but I don’t think you can teach someone to be Marcus Roberts or Herbie Hancock. You can’t teach someone to play like that. They either have it or they don’t.  You can teach someone to be a golf course architect—to a certain point—but unless they possess the feel and intangibles that go with creating these grand products, I’m not sure you can teach that to somebody. They either have it or they don’t.”

“I made up my mind: I’m not going to do another interview until the guys who work with me get the credit for what they do. You wouldn’t be talking to me without those guys. Forrest Fezler, he’s my right-hand man and without him I wouldn’t be able to get it done. Then there’s my four shapers that’ve done every job with me so far: Mike Jones, his brother Jeff Jones, Luke Kinder and Mark White. Those guys take the drawings that I do and make them come alive. I want people to know it’s more of a team effort. Even Juan and his laborers, none of this stuff would be here without them.”