GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. -- When you sit down for a chat with Arthur Hills, you sit down with a book of knowledge. In today's modern world he's still a relative youngster at age 73, but his adventures can tell a story that would keep any golf aficionado riveted.
Down-to-earth, personable, friendly and willing to share his wisdom -- Hills is an ultimate example of what is good in the business.
Take a journey with Mr. Hills and he can bring you on board for experiences covering five decades. He paid 26 cents for his first round of golf at age 8. He captained his Michigan State golf team. And he placed a Yellow Pages ad in 1966 proclaiming his entrance into the world of golf-course architecture.
The ad produced one phone call and one job, but that was enough of a springboard to propel him to his current heights as one of the busiest architects in the industry.
When he placed that ad, Hills was already a successful landscape architect with five children, but the draw into the golf business was a natural for him.
Today, Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates have designed 180 new courses in North America, Europe and Asia, and have renovated more than 120 courses like the historic beauties of Oakmont, Inverness and Oakland Hills. Brian Yoder, Drew Rogers and Chris Wilczynski are other notable designers under his design banner.
In July he was in Colorado to attend grand opening festivities of Ironbridge Golf Club, a new private club on the banks of the Roaring Fork River, that he designed along with associate Wilczynski.
"Ironbridge was quite a challenge," Hills said. "I don't know if we have seen such diversity. We started out by laying a new course on top of seven existing holes of an old nine, then added a couple along the Roaring Fork River."
The front nine is meadows golf, but with strategic water hazards and superb Rocky Mountain scenery. Then Hills and his team really had to get creative with holes 10-13 running through the ravines 300 feet above the front-nine meadow through rugged piñon and juniper covered land.
But probably one of the best success stories surrounds his public-access Longaberger Golf Club in Nashport, Ohio, not far from his home of Toledo. In 2000 the course was named Golf Digest's Best New Upscale Public Course. This year it climbed to No. 34 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play List.
"That first year we announced green fees of $65 with tee times every 15 minutes where the market called for about $40 to $45," Hills recalled. Longaberger sold out of tee times for the entire year shortly after it opened.
The next few years the rates increased and the times between tee-offs decreased, but the course continued to sell out. "I think that says a lot for good service and a fun experience," Hills said. In 2004 Longaberger will host the National Club Pro Championship.
"My design philosophy comes from a very traditional or historic approach to the game," Hills said. "I have always admired the more traditional courses like Pinehurst No. 2, Shinnecock Hills, Cypress Point, Seminole, Prairie Dunes, Inverness and Merion."
Hills' design objectives include the nature of the land that minimizes earth moving. "We also always keep in mind the strategy of the game and the elements that provide beauty in a golf course -- textures and colors, shadowing and framing," he says.
He has also written about designing golf holes from the green complex back to the tee, not from tee to green. Shot angles, interesting grasses and plants, gently-plateaued greens, waters and views also come into the design work.
"All of these subtleties help us build a fair and balanced course which is both aesthetically pleasing and strategically sound," Hills said.
Keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of golf is a challenge, too. In the beginning Hills said one could position fairway bunkers at doglegs 250 yards out.
"I recently went to the Honda Classic (played at his Mirasol Golf and Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida) and watched the pros fly fairway bunkers 290 yards against a mild wind," he said. "So the game has changed for the pros with the new equipment and golf balls. But there is a driving-range dichotomy, too. You can still watch amateur golfers on the range and see the majority of them struggling with the game."
Golfers all over the world are enjoying his designs. Bay Harbor, located in Petoskey, Michigan overlooking Lake Michigan is a 27-hole sand bluffs award-winner with its Links and Quarry nines. It is ranked No. 36 on Golf Digest's list of 100 Greatest Public Courses.
Lighthouse Sound on Maryland's eastern shore near Ocean City is another favorite, blending classical golf with links and modern holes.
New entrants in California include CrossCreek in Temecula and Black Gold in Yorba Linda. The Half Moon Bay Ocean Course just south of San Francisco is a rugged links-like beauty on the Pacific Ocean and includes a Ritz-Carlton. The Skins game was played at his Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert.
Go to Texas and enjoy the beautiful Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio and Heritage Ranch Golf and Country Club north of Dallas.
Take notice, too, of Quinta da Marinha Oitavos Golfe in Cascais, Portugal, another award-winner opened in 2002 -- it is the host of the European PGA Tour Oitavos Open.
Another notable international design is the Hills Golf Club in Gothenberg, Sweden. It is a 7,800-yard course scheduled to open in 2004 with aspirations of hosting the Scandinavian Masters and the first ever Ryder Cup in Sweden.
In Puerto Rico, the 2003 Wyndham El Conquistador Resort in Los Croabas is another winning lots of looks from travel golfers.
Diversity? He has conquered sites like the 1990 Harbour Pointe Golf Club in Everett, Washington, with spectacular views of Puget Sound. And Walking Stick municipal in Pueblo, Colorado where he teamed with Keith Foster through an arid plain across arroyos with Rocky Mountain views.
Hills has also landed a prestigious assignment with real estate magnate Donald Trump to build an exclusive country club in Westchester, New York.
The Hills' portfolio is impressive and ever-increasing. Stay tuned.
Web site: ArthurHills.com
Home: Toledo, Ohio
College: Michigan State (B.A. in horticulture); Michigan (M.S. in landscape architecture)
Courses designed : 180
Twenty-eight courses selected as USGA, PGA, LPGA, NCAA and PGA of America tournament venues.
Honors: Past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. Architect of the Year in 1991 and 1998. Boardroom Magazine Architect of the Year in 2002. Voted into the Ohio Golf Hall of Fame in 1993.
A few of Arthur Hills' best:
TPC at Eagle Trace, Coral Springs, FL (1983)
Bonita Bay-Marsh Course, Bonita Springs, FL (1985)
Persimmon Ridge, Louisville, KY (1988)
Palmetto Dunes-Arthur Hills Course, Hilton Head, SC (1988)
Big Horn, Palm Desert, CA (1989)
Walking Stick, Pueblo, CO (1989)
Harbour Pointe, Everett, WA (1990)
GC of Georgia-Lakeside, Alpharetta, GA (1991)
Champions, Lexington, KY (1988)
Collier's Reserve, Naples, FL (1993)
Longaberger Golf Club, Nashport, OH (2000)
Bay Harbor Golf Club, Petoskey, MI (2000)
Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club, Clarkston, MI (2003)
Shaker Run Golf Club, Lebanon, OH (2003)
Half Moon Bay Ocean Course, Half Moon Bay, CA (1998)
Red Hawk Run Golf Club, Findlay, OH (2000)
Chaska Town Course, Chaska, MN (1998)
Quail Hollow Golf Club, Percy Quin State Park, MS (1997)
The Thoroughbred at Double JJ Resort, Rothbury, MI (1994)
The Sanctuary on Sanibel Island, Sanibel Island, FL (1994)
Black Gold Golf Club, Yorba Linda, CA (2002)
Quinta da Marinha Oitavos Golfe - Cascais, Portugal (2002)
Wyndham El Conquistador Resort, Los Croabas, Puerto Rico (2003)
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort, San Antonio, TX (1994)
CrossCreek Golf Club, Temecula, CA (2001)
August 4, 2003