Arthur Hills - Ohio Native Also has International Designs

Maybe he’s just fulfilling the destiny of a youngster who grew up next to a public course in his hometown of Toledo (and remembers playing it for 26 cents at the age of 9). While there are no hard statistics to back it up, nobody’s arguing when th claim is made that more people live on Arthur Hills’ golf courses than those of any other designer. And no matter where you pick up a Golfer’s Guide, you’ll find gems from the Toledo-based design firm of Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates.

Why? “Balance” might be the best word. The dictionary describes it as “stability, a state of equilibrium, a harmonious or satisfying arrangement of parts or elements.”

You get the idea. Hills’ courses are wonderfully playable by golfers of all skill levels. In Arthur’s own words, “Our end goal is to present the golfer with 18 challenging, dramatic, memorable and unique golf holes where every got shot must be thoroughly analyzed before executed. No two holes should look the same and we should strive to achieve a balance of right and left doglegs, larger and smaller greens, short and long par-3s, 4s and 5s.” But that doesn’t mean each of his courses follows that formula.

Hills’ style does run toward the traditional, even in a place like Las Vegas, where “over the top” is the norm. His Legacy layout does sport a hole with tee boxes shaped like the four card suits, but the rest of the layout is pure Hills with generous landing areas, multi-tiered fairways and undulating greens.

As with any architect, Hills loves a breathtaking piece of real estate to work with, like the cliffs and stunning Great Lakes views of Bay Harbor and other classics he’s designed in Michigan, but believes great courses can also be created from less-thanperfect sites, citing two of his favorites, Oakmont (which he’s helped update for the 2007 U.S. Open) and Merion. Modesty prevents him from mentioning a few of his more than a dozen original designs in Ohio (like nationally-ranked Longaberger in Hanover and Shaker Run in Middletown) and over two dozen renovations he’s done throughout the Buckeye state. At last count, 36 of Hills’ designs have hosted Professional Tour events around the world, or USGA and NCAA tournaments stateside, including the Women’s Amateur Public Links at Walking Stick in Colorado and the U.S. Amateur at the Chaska Town Course in Minnesota in 2006.

If there’s one design feature Hills loves to work with, its sandy soil. There, he can mound and terrace and work with “informal’ bunkers (waste areas) as well as formal ones. He’s found plenty of that to work with on one of his most exciting new projects, Paraiso del Mar on the Baja peninsula with some of the features of St. Andrews (sandy, with low vegetation), just surrounded by water. Two of his other new projects are right in his backyard, Catawba Island (scheduled for a 2007 opening) and The Ohio Club in Athens, set to open in 2008.

If there’s one issue you can get the usually placid, balanced Hills to pontificate about, it’s the race to make golf courses longer. He says he never plays the back tees on courses and knows very few people who do. Yet he has to find the room to set up 18 back tees on his designs to stretch them out well over 7,000 yards, costing his owners that much more money than the 6,300-yard layout the majority of his players play.

While Hills loves designing courses he could “play every day”, he says he only gets out to play 60-70 rounds a year, half of them on his home course, Inverness, where he’s come in to help prepare the Donald Ross original for major championships three different times. Many of the rest of us only have to look out our own back doors to sample the brilliance of Arthur Hills.


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