Hawtree's unique genius shines through

When Martin Hawtree began designing Tarandowah nearly a decade ago, hardly anyone this side of the Atlantic knew who he was. Sure he came from a prestigious design family – with links back to H.S. Colt, the golf genius who created places like Sunningdale New outside London and Toronto Golf Club and Hamilton G&CC in Canada. But aside from a little-known course in North Carolina of all places, the English architect had not worked in North America.

Tarandowah changed that, while in England and Ireland he became an in-demand designer for tweaking the classics, places like Lahinch, Royal Birkdale, Muirfield, Carnoustie and recently, St. Andrews.

What's great about his design at Tarandowah is that Hawtree recognized the potential in a property others may have discounted as plain. "The very first time I looked at the land, I knew it had very considerable potential," he told me a few years ago. In turn, Hawtree created a course that while not a true links – it lacks the sea and sandy soil – certainly is a pretty good approximation of one.

"The bunkers are just a little bit random, something I thought would bring as interesting randomness and accidental nature to the course," he says. "I wanted to refresh people's idea of what a golf course may be."

And in the end, despite residing in area heavy with agriculture, Hawtree thinks few will be paying attention to surrounding fields when playing Tarandowah. "I like the interest to be focused on the golf hole not on the outside," Hawtree says. "I want the contours in the fairway to be part of the focus. It is about a little bit of luck and a little bit of misfortune."

Robert Thompson is an award-winning golf writer whose articles have been published in Golf Digest, Golf World, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. He's also played all of SCOREGolf's Top 100 courses in Canada.