How Gil Hanse became one of golf’s busiest architects, and how he balances all his work

Courses

For the last five years, nearly everything Gil Hanse touches seems to turn to gold. Hanse is arguably the hottest, and hardest working, golf architect in the business and has had an incredible string of successes, with both original designs and restorations of storied courses, since the debut of his Rio Olympics course in 2016.

He has opened three essentially new, highly acclaimed U.S. courses since late 2017—Streamsong Black, Pinehurst No. 4 and Ohoopee Match Club—and is the architect of record for the recent restorations of major championship venues like Winged Foot West (site of this year’s U.S. Open), Merion, The Country Club, Southern Hills and numerous other clubs. He’s currently renovating Oakland Hills’ South Course and Baltusrol’s Upper and Lower courses, while also constructing a new course in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, among other projects.

As high as he’s flying, Hanse didn’t explode onto the architectural scene. He and design partner Jim Wagner put in their time for nearly two decades preceding their current run, working dozens of significant but less nationally recognized jobs. Hanse joins the Salon to discuss the way he and Wagner build golf courses with their crew of shapers known as the Cavemen, the goal of maximizing the potential of each property they touch, his love of working on machinery and how he’s better able to exercise—and sometimes not exercise—artistic restraint.

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