“Best We’ve Built By Far”

Mike Strantz


Mike Strantz

Mike Strantz, while a master at his craft and out-of-the-box thinker when it came to course design, but was misunderstood by many. A former owner was able to capture Mike throughout the course construction process to get his thoughts on the design. Those are shared below, as well as some neat insight on Mike’s philosophies from a GolfClubAtlas.com interview.

GolfClubAtlas.com Interview of Mike Strantz

What is the biggest misconception about your work?

Here is a short list:

Misconception #1 — That I am this weird, unconventional guy that is putting products out there just to uphold my reputation as a weird, unconventional guy.

I don’t run around this entire country like a chicken with my head cut off dealing with 4, 5, 15, 20 jobs at one time. I love to sleep in my own bed more than two nights a week, and any off time I have, you will probably find me on a farm with my horses versus being on the golf course. I would much rather check out the progress on the job from horseback than from the front seat of an SUV with the AC blasting. Weird? Unconventional?

Look, the product may look a little different when compared with a lot of work that has been done in this country in the last 20-30 years because it contains many of the elements and principles used by the men who practiced this profession before ‘modern’ times. I see our work (myself, Forrest, and my crew) and our methods as a throw back and a tribute to these men.

Misconception #2 – I tend to look at a golf course as a work of art and let golf take a back seat.

I do think the golf course should surround a person with as much visual stimulation as possible, so did Mackenzie (go back to question #1 and reread Dr. Mackenzie’s second quote).

At the same time, I don’t think that anyone in this business puts more thought into golf strategies and play options on every golf hole than we do. I’m not saying that other people or firms don’t put as much thought into it as we do, but I don’t think anyone puts in more.

It seems to me that the great golf courses are a marriage of both and we wouldn’t approach it any differently.

Misconception #3 – Our golf courses are overblown and expensive to construct.

First, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Second, this really rubs me the wrong way because it is a myth being perpetuated by people in my profession with ready access to the print media who are coming to this conclusion without benefit of possessing the first fact to back it up. I know I haven’t been approached by anyone regarding relative costs of my projects for publication and I’m damn sure my clients are not releasing any detailed information for such.

Look, maybe I should take it as a compliment that people, seeing the finished product, assume it costs twice more than it actually did, but when it gets into print and gets passed around the country as fact, instead of someone’s opinion, it has a potential effect on my occupational future and that is not going to make me happy.

The facts are our projects are running approximately half the price of other public upscale courses being constructed today. Not possible? There’s no secret; we do it by working our tails off every day from start to finish. I have a very talented, dedicated bunch of guys from shapers to laborers who work with me job after job, who know what I expect and are willing, on their own, to take it beyond those expectations. If I am not on site every day, Forrest is, so the guys always have direction which amounts to very little wasted time.

I know what I want the holes to look like and do detailed eye level drawings of the look we’re trying to get from tees, doglegs, etc. These are great ways to communicate with the guys and it insures that we make a minimum amount of attempts to get it right. Remember the old saying that ‘Time is money’?

Misconception #4 — Your courses are too hard.

It would probably be more accurate to say that more often than not a golfer makes our courses too hard by succumbing to one or several of the following:

  • Becomes ‘visually intimidated’ by what sits before him. Remember Mackenzie’s fourth quote in answer to question #1. ‘It is important to make the golf hole look more difficult than it really is. That is almost always the case on our courses, but if your mind convinces you that it really is a difficult shot, you’re beat before you even take the club back.
    Fails to observe the multiple options to attack any golf hole. Who says you have to go at every pin no matter its location, or hit every green in regulation to have a good score? Or a good time? For most players, the direct line to the hole is fraught with frustration and failure. Access your strengths and your limitations and use all the hole offers to you to maximize your effort.
  • Tries to play outside of his ability. How may times have you seen it? A 20 handicapper is ankle high in rough with 200 yards to the pin over a lake. With plenty of fairway curving around the lake to his right, he can barely see the top of his ball as he addresses it. Where will he set up? You got it! Right at the pin! What are this guy’s chances? About the same as you and me winning the $325 million Georgia lottery! Now, I’m all for the guy going for it if that’s his decision. The lake is there so he is forced to make that decision. But if he chooses poorly and dumps it in the lake (as the odds dictate he probably will) when there are all kinds of ways to play around the hazard and still make par “ at worst bogey on the hole, don’t come to me and say ‘that hole is too hard.’ The player made a bad decision when he had other options that suited his game better and he paid for it…that’s golf.
  • Plays the wrong set of tees. The easiest mistake to correct before you ever stick the first tee into the ground. Also, the most common mistake made day in and day out on our golf courses (or any courses for that matter). Swallow a little pride, step up to the next set of tees and you have a hell of a better chance to enjoy your day. Forget about looking at only the total yardage. If you cannot carry the ball to the turning points on dog legs or are consistently hitting into bunkers that are well short of the landing area, chances are you’re on the wrong set of tees.

Misconception #5 – Your courses are expensive to maintain. Please go to question #14.

(A quick note on width. As I understand, it was a topic of discussion a couple of months back and my name got linked to it because of our practice of constructing wide fairways.

WIDTH IS KEY! When you start reducing width (and I mean air space as well as fairway width) you begin to reduce the number of options for players of various skill levels, thereby reducing the total number of players who can successfully navigate their way around the course. I guess that’s fine if we only want scratch to 10 handicaps playing golf.

The comment about wide fairways presenting no challenge to the good player is pretty weak, at least on our courses. Go check out any of our fairways and it becomes apparent that you must be in certain spots to gain an advantage on the next shot or approach to the green.