The art of design

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Tom Fazio

The architect of such gems as Shady Canyon and Pelican Hill is credited as a modern design pioneer.

BY JOEL BEERSPublished: August, 2009

Fazio's artistic touch is evident at Pelican Hill.
Tom Fazio’s designs in Southern California include private tracks such as The Quarry at La Quinta and Shady Canyon in Irvine, and public offerings such as Pelican Hill Golf Resort in Newport Coast and Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine.

In “Secrets of the Great Golf Course Architects,” author Michael Patrick Shiels quotes Fazio as saying that his chief goal is to provide golfers “a feeling, a picture of the setting, so they say ‘this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen or experienced.’ I want them to say it again on the next hole and the next hole after that.”

While being an old-school adherent, Fazio isn’t averse to moving huge quantities of dirt to create something dazzling out of nothing. Perhaps his most famous course in that regard is Shadow Creek in Las Vegas — a former barren piece of desert that is one of the most acclaimed courses of the past 20 years.

“In the Golden Age of golf during the 1920s, the land was the key to creating golf courses,” Fazio wrote in “Golf Course Designs.” “But no more. For me, the most important thing in choosing a new project is not the site, but the client. It’s important because the golf course that emerges will be determined as much or more by the client’s commitment as it will be by mine, or even by the quality of the raw land.”

In Fazio’s mind, technology gives designers room for imagination.

“What fits best on a piece of property is a matter of judgment, and it’s also a matter of skill and practical imagination,” he wrote. “If we can visualize it, we can make it playable.”


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