Call it a hat trick, not to mention a career highlight. Golf course architect Mike Hurdzan, one of the most respected designers in the profession, will have three courses on which he has hosted “Open” championships in the next two years.
Hurdzan’s third “goal” happened in early October, when it was announced that the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club in Ontario, Canada, a 1924 Willie Park Jr. design extensively renovated by Hurdzan in 2013, would host the 2017 LPGA Canadian Pacific Women’s Open.
Previously, it was announced that Erin Hills in Erin, Wisconsin, which Hurdzan designed with Dana Fry and Ron Whitten, would host the U.S. Open in 2017, and that Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, designed by Donald Ross in 1916 and extensively renovated by Hurdzan and Jack Nicklaus in 2008, would host the 2016 U.S. Senior Open.
The 72-year-old Hurdzan, who has been honored time and again for his work, is humbled by the hat trick.
“This is beyond my wildest dreams and an extraordinary honor,” he says. “I’m happy for the clubs that had confidence in us and now are being rewarded with these championships.”
Hurdzan realizes there have been few architects, if any, who have had three major tournaments played on courses that featured their work in a two-year span.
He calls Scioto, where he caddied and played junior golf as a kid, a “great American country club that is played by all ages and all skill sets…yet it is going to host a very well-known set of senior professionals.”
To go back to the course later in life as an architect and make improvements in the design was an enormous personal honor, Hurdzan says.
“Growing up in Columbus, I always idolized Scioto,” he adds.
Erin Hills, a public course that opened in 2006, is a simple design and was constructed with no-till fairways and two-row irrigation.
“The entire course was shaped by one small bulldozer in a few weeks,” Hurdzan says.
Erin Hills features fescue fairways and bentgrass greens. Like Chambers Bay was this year, Erin Hills is a newbie to the U.S. Open. But Hurdzan predicts Erin Hills will be a better venue – for players and spectators – than Chambers Bay.
“Those were not U.S. Open-quality greens,” he says of the fescue putting surfaces at Chambers Bay. “Erin Hills will have perfect bentgrass greens.”
Hurdzan has always been regarded as a minimalist and an environmentally minded architect. He has brought environmental components to golf courses gracefully and subtly. He believes more superintendents have become more environmentally focused because they have had to – they’re reducing inputs to deal with slashed maintenance budgets.
In 2020, Hurdzan expects most golf courses to look like they did in 1920.
“I think we’re getting back to simpler times,” he says. “I think we will start to see more bluegrass fairway courses instead of bentgrass fairway courses because bluegrass has improved. We also recognize that it’s more sustainable to have bluegrass fairways than bentgrass fairways.”
At 72, Hurdzan has no intention of retiring from the business anytime soon. He and his son, Chris, who are based in Columbus, are keeping busy with projects in Ohio and surrounding states. Hurdzan welcomes the slower pace and doesn’t miss the manic pace of the late 1990s, when golf courses were being designed and built like Starbucks.
“I’m back on the drawing boards and doing all the things that got me interested in the business to begin with,” he says.
COVER PHOTO: MIKE HURZDAN