- Top 100
- Cabell Robinson
Cabell Robinson was born in Washington DC and grew up in the suburbs of Maryland. He attended the Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virgina then enrolled at Princeton University, graduating with a degree in history. He went on to study landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, becoming friends with another student, Rees Jones.
James R. Hansen, author of the book A Difficult Par , takes up the story:
“After a year together studying at Harvard, Cabell convinced Rees to leave Harvard, move out to California, and enter an undergraduate degree program in landscape architecture offered at the University of California at Berkeley… After the first year, however, Rees lost his draft deferment and was about to be drafted into the Army, choosing instead to go into the Army Reserves.
In 1965, following a year of training, Rees returned home, where he joined his father’s firm, soon taking over supervision of the East Coast office in Montclair. When Cabell Robinson graduated from the Berkeley program in June 1967, Rees persuaded him to come to work with him in New Jersey.
In 1970, with prospects for a number of Jones courses in Europe, Robert Trent Jones sent Cabell to Spain to organize a European office. Over the next seventeen years, Robinson handled most of the Jones projects done in Britain, Europe, and North Africa.”
In an interview before the one-off NH Collection Open at La Reserva in 2014, Cabell gave his version of the transition he made from the United States to Europe:
“I came to Spain in 1970. I’d started working for Robert Trent Jones in 1967 but after three years I told him: ‘I really like working for you but I want to move.’ I did not enjoy at all living in New Jersey. He asked me to open his office in Europe to which I responded: ‘No!’ So he said: ‘Why, have you ever been to Europe? No, you haven’t so don’t give me a stupid answer and go!’
At that time, Trent Jones had already done Sotogrande and Las Brisas and was working at Las Aves (known as Valderrama), where I was involved. I ended up opening the office in Fuengirola (Málaga), which Mr. Jones could never pronounce and used to call ‘Funny Gorilla’. I worked in all his projects in Europe until I went on my own in 1987.”
Although Robert Trent Jones Sr. is credited with designing more than a dozen courses throughout Europe during the 1970s and 1980s, you can bet your bottom dollar that Cabell Robinson also played a big part in their creation.
The list is impressive, including Continental Europe Top 100 layouts such as Troia in Portugal and Royal Park I Roveri in Italy. Other well-regarded courses include new build assignments at El Bosque and Los Naranjos in Spain, along with remodelling commissions at Geneva in Switzerland and Chamonix in France.
Robinson’s base on the Costa del Sol has served him well over the last thirty years or so, with more than half his output emanating from Spain and Morocco.
La Reserva (2004), Finca Cortesin (2007), and Las Colinas (2010) are the best offerings among the nine courses he has built in his adopted Spain, while the two 27-hole layouts at Golf Les Dunes in Agadir and Amelkis in Marrakech are probably the pick of his six layouts that lie across the Strait of Gibraltar in the Western Kingdom.
Elsewhere in mainland Europe, Cabell has designed several courses in France, in addition to setting out the highly regarded Praia D’El Rey on Portugal’s Atlantic coast. Offshore, he fashioned Palheiro in Madeira in 1993 and Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus in 2002.
From an interview with andaluciagolf.com: "Unhurried and deliberate in his speech, with an amiable countenance highlighted by the distinctive moustache that has remained with him all his life, and wearing an eye-catching, ethnic-style, silver-plated watch on his right forearm, Cabell doesn’t mince his words, giving a stern ticking off – albeit in a polite manner – to those designers who only think about money and not about doing a good job. “I’ve rejected commissions because the terrain wasn’t ideal, but not everyone does that,” he says.
Robinson’s ‘bêtes noires’ are top golfers who become designers. He considers all of them, in a certain way, to be interlopers in the world of design, due to their lack of a profound knowledge of the subject matter apart from their experience as players, although he does separate them into two categories: those who surround themselves with good design professionals; and others who allow themselves to be advised by amateurs in design matters. ‘None of them actually do the routing work,’ he notes.
Returning to his own teacher, he continues, ‘When Jones began in the 1930s, he had to do everything. These days no one does everything: I, for example, don’t design the irrigation, now that it is so technical, and it’s contracted out to an independent specialist. I don’t believe that golf professionals are properly trained to design golf courses. However, they have the name, the fame, and that competition is very tough for architects, especially in Dubai and places like that where they always seek out a top player.’"