Tom Fazio: In His Own WordsPosted by Tom Fazio on: May 3, 2012
Tom Fazio is a renowned golf course designer, owner of Tom Fazio Course Designers and member of aboutGolf’s Board of Innovation.
The following interview was produced by LINKS Magazine for the new publication “Fazio Premier Clubs.”
What is a Tom Fazio golf course?
It’s a special environment. I want people to feel that they’ve had a great experience. That they had a fun, enjoyable time and played in a great golf environment, as good as any place they’ve ever been. I want them to be able to compare it to another Fazio golf course and say, “I like this one just as much as the other.” I don’t want it to be difficult. If they felt that, my first thought is, I wonder what tee they played? Or whether the course was set up for low-handicap players that day.
You have more courses on the top 100 lists than any other designer. Does that please you?
It’s been great. It’s made me a lot of money. I remember one year we won all three new courses of the year—private,
public, and resort—and the industry went nuts. “How can that happen? He must be buying it.” Well, they just happened to be the best courses. I shake my head when I start thinking about the courses I’ve done, but that’s where the golf
industry was for so long. Talk about an era. The Golden Age of golf is referred to as the decade of the ‘20s. But in 50 years
from now, they’ll be saying that about the ‘90s and 2000s.
How did you get interested in golf course design?
I never wanted to do anything else. I grew up in a golfing family in the Philadelphia area. My dad worked in a locomotive
plant during the early Depression years, but was also a clarinet player in a band and loved to play golf. He was a single-digit player. All the brothers were, but George was the best. He lost to Hogan in a playoff at the 1950 U.S Open, and I always thought, “What would have happened had my uncle won the Open?” He probably would have continued to
play golf. Maybe he wouldn’t have gotten into golf course design, then what would I have done?
Is there anything in particular about design that he taught you?
He didn’t believe in making it difficult. He’s always believed you should have a bailout and another option you can play. That stuck with me.
Is it necessary to be a good golf to be a good architect?
It helps to understand the game, but you don’t need to be a low-handicap golfer. If that were the case, then the best players should be the best architects. We have certainly seen great players’ names attached to courses that aren’t that special.
What do you think about the minimalist movement and return to ruggedness?
It’s distinctive. Variety is good, but I think minimalism got carried away as a theme. Just because it didn’t take that much
to create, I don’t think that makes it any better or worse, and I don’t think because you moved a lot of earth that makes it better or worse. The only thing that counts is the end result. No one cares or wonders how much earth was moved at
Cypress Point or Pebble Beach.
Is it true that Steve Wynn was able to get an airplane flight delayed to give you a $3.5 million check for Shadow Creek that you forgot?
Gut, the check was for $1 million. He gave me the check in an envelope and I was so stunned, I put it down on his desk
and just forgot it. We left his office to go to lunch and I got a call at the airport that I left the check. I told him I was just about to board the plane and to mail it. He said, “I want you to have it before you leave town.” I said, “But the plane’s boarding.” He said, “It won’t leave. Just wait for my guy to bring it to you.” The next thing you know, the sign went up on the board, “Delayed.”
Why don’t you have a website?
My sons keep bugging me to get one, calling me old fashioned, but people know where we are. If they want us to
design a golf course, they’ll call us. I just stared doing e-mail. I got one of those new iPhones you can talk to so I can just send e-mails by speaking. But I don’t respond to e-mails. My secretary does all of that. The reason I didn’t want e-mail is that you get too many of them and everybody wants an immediate answer. I’m going to Seminole this afternoon to hit balls. I don’t have time to return e-mails.
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