When discussing golf’s top course architects, Tom Doak’s name invariably enters the conversation. Traditionalist, Controversial, Minimalist. Doak said he loved to be considered a radical.
After graduation from Cornell and with a scholarship to study the courses in Great Britain that are the foundation of the game, Doak spent a summer as a caddy at St. Andrews and then visited all of the old courses in Scotland England and Wales. He returned to America and worked three years under Pete Dye, an original radical, and learned construction. In 1982 Doak visited Alister MacKenzie’s Crystal Downs in Frankfort. It captivated him, he joined the club and settled in Traverse City.
He designed High Pointe and Black Forest and then took on the world with four courses ranked in Golf Digest’s Top 100 – Pacific Dunes in seaside Oregon, Ballyneal in Colorado, Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand and Barnbougle in Tasmania, Australia.
He established Renaissance Design Group and is the principal with more than 30 courses. The Loop at Forest Dunes in Roscommon earned Best New Course You Can Play honors from GOLF and Best New Public from Golf Digest. Over the years Doak thought about using the same area of land for a course that could be played in reverse. The Loop was the answer with players walking it easily and playing it “front to back” one day and turning around and playing it back to front the next day convinced it was a different course.
Renaissanceman Doak also is a well-published author. His initial The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses included frank appraisals and delighted some critics and raised some eyebrows and tempers. Consequently Doak, who has visited more than 1,000 courses around the world, expanded the Guide to five separate books covering different sections of the world, enlisting friends to cover 2,500 courses.