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Brian Silva

Notable Courses
Year of Birth1953
Year of Death
Place of BirthFramingham, Massachusetts, USA

Brian Silva’s father, John Silva, was a feature shaper who was really handy operating a D4 bulldozer in the light construction business. Brian was only 8 or 9 when he was sitting on his dad’s lap while he worked on projects for architects like Geoff Cornish, George Fazio and Phil Wogan.

He thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps but his dad realized such people in the golf business don’t get enough credit for what they did, despite their undoubted talents, so he encouraged Brian to go up another level and become involved in golf course design.

Architect Geoff Cornish urged him to combine turf management and landscape architecture in his study program so he worked on maintenance crews during the summer while attending the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and Turf Management at the University of Massachusetts.

He graduated in the mid-1970s, just as the golf course business was going through a slack patch, so he returned to education for another two years of graduate study in plant and soil sciences. Whilst at university, Brian took over from one of the professors who left for another position and enjoyed it so much he took up a similar job in Florida.

His three-year teaching stint at Lake City Community College combined classroom instruction with on-site visits to projects his students were undertaking and in 1981 the Florida Turfgrass Association awarded him its highest honour, the Wreath of Grass.

Silva then returned to New England, where he became the first USGA Green Section agronomist assigned to the region. It was during a site visit that he bumped into Geoff Cornish again, who offered him a job with his design company.

Brian joined Cornish and his partner, Bill Robinson, who was moving to the West Coast, in 1983 and he remained with the company until 2000, when he left to establish his own design practice.

Most of Silva’s design work in the new millennium has focused on renovation and restoration projects and he’s considered one of America’s foremost experts on the work of great Golden Age architects like Seth Raynor, Donald Ross and A.W. Tillinghast.


The Architects of Golf by Geoff Cornish and Ron Whitten: “An unabashed fan of Donald Ross, Silva studied the architect's works extensively over the years and authored a comprehensive critique of the man. A spirited and tireless worker, it was once said facetiously that Silva was the first person to find twenty-eight hours in a day.”

From“He’s never at a loss for words, never wanting for a laugh, never lacking a story and never ceases to berate himself with self-deprecating humour. Boston golf course architect Brian Silva calls himself a ‘golf artichoke.’ If he means infinite layers, depth, complexity and great taste, then the analogy is perfect.

Silva is only 5’7” in spikes. He stridently laments that ‘my courses are not designed for short, old fat guys like me,’ but don’t let him fool you. He bicycles 25 miles every day, walks the course with the energy of a college student and rarely misses a fairway.

A round with Silva is a steady stream of witty observations, banter, and jokes. One could momentarily forget he was the celebrated favorite son of New England golf, a multiple award winning designer, a renovator of USGA sites, a professor of golf history and a genius of strategic design.

But despite the humility of a blue-collar Bostonian and the humour of a teasing college buddy, Silva takes golf course architecture to its most complex level, challenging golfers to think their way around courses filled with strategic options and nuanced design features.

Silva designs are a refreshing and inimitable blend of design concepts of old masters like Seth Raynor and C.B. Macdonald.

Using random geometric shaped bunkers, hazards turned perpendicular to the line of play, and varied green complexes such as Biarritzes and punchbowls mixed with modern twists he invented such as vertically stacked bunkers, he sends straightforward, parkland-style golf-loving traditionalists into apoplectic confusion.

It’s needed. For too long, American golfers have thought a ‘Redan’ was a pterodactyl that fought Godzilla and that a ‘Biarritz’ was a ’79 Oldsmobile. Yet Silva designs are not just an artistic exercise, but a history lesson, an architecture lesson, a non-stop run of surprises and perhaps the most fun one can have in four and a half hours while vertical.

Silva’s renovation list alone looks like a tick list of the best courses in the nation – Seminole, Cherry Hill, Olympia Fields, Rolling Rock, The Broadmoor. But Silva believed he could do better. And soon thereafter a sea change occurred in his views of architecture.

‘I began to think that golf holes were becoming too narrow, including my own,’ he said. ‘Target style golf limited playing options and had resulted in cookie cutter, predictable courses. It’s easy to defend par by simply making a hole narrow and trouble-lined on both sides. But it also takes strategic options out of the player’s arsenal.’

Silva had his epiphany while looking at a flyover picture of the fifth hole at PGA West’s Stadium Course. ‘I was inspired by a centrefold, but don’t get the wrong idea,’ he quips puckishly. ‘Looking at that colour picture of #5 the light bulb went on. PGA West is all about the angles and risk-reward options. Plus Pete Dye is great with alternating shot requirements.’

Silva’s thoughts have been echoed by any number of designers, but effectuating change is difficult. Many architect’s long for the chance to incorporate more advanced features, but owners and players have been so preconditioned as to their notion of acceptable course design that they fear to ask for anything radical.”

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