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- David McLay Kidd
David McLay Kidd
David McLay Kidd was born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, ten miles to the west of Glasgow city centre. His father, Jimmy Kidd, was a greenkeeper at Glasgow (Killermont) Golf Club, and as a child he’d listen with enthusiasm to his father’s ramblings about golf course maintenance, while as a teenager he’d earn pocket money raking bunkers for his dad. Jimmy later moved to the Gleneagles estate where he became Director of Golf Courses.
Kidd’s upbringing was modest, but his golfing indoctrination started at an early age while hanging around with course maintenance staff. He headed south to England for formal education, obtaining a HND in Horticulture at Writtle College near Chelmsford in Essex. He completed his apprenticeship with Southern Golf, a well-respected golf course construction company, whose extensive portfolio consists of builds from the drawing boards of Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer among others.
David then joined the English firm, Swan Golf Designs, originally founded following collaboration between Sir Henry Cotton and Alex Swan. In 1991, Kidd returned to Scotland to work as Director of Design for Gleneagles Golf Developments (GGD), a role he retained until 1999. (GGD was set up by Gleneagles’ parent company, Guinness, to develop high-end golf resorts globally.)
In 1994, 27-year-old Kidd went to Oregon to survey a vast stretch of sandy coastline to the north of Bandon, Oregon. To his amazement, he was hired by Chicago billionaire Mike Keiser to design the first course at Bandon Dunes. “I’d never done anything of any note,” Kidd said. “I wasn’t a conventionally-trained architect in any regard. To this day, I’m still not entirely sure why Mike Keiser chose me… I scratch my head and thank my lucky stars.”
In 1996, Kidd moved to Oregon, three years later Bandon Dunes opened for play to a universal fanfare of bagpipes. The blue touch paper had just been lit and Kidd’s architectural career was on its way. Soon after Kidd founded DMK Golf Design with a “natural, seamless and sustainable” philosophy and a “hands-on” methodology.
Queenwood was DMK’s next course to open in 2001. Unfortunately this ultra-private course in Surrey, England, was launched without fanfare and remains inaccessible to most golfers. The West course at the inclusive Powerscourt, located in the foothills of Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains, opened in 2003, but it failed to capture any notable attention. Nanea in Hawaii also opened in 2003, yet the most exclusive club in the state of Hawaii did little to help with DMK’s marketing.
Next up was an upgrade to Gary Player’s Montagu course at Fancourt in South Africa, which remains eclipsed by the Black Knight’s Links course at the same property. TPC Stonebrae in California opened quietly in 2007, but things changed the following year when Kidd was handed the responsibility to fashion the seventh course at The Home of Golf. The Castle course at St Andrews remains the most controversial design in Kidd’s burgeoning portfolio – the greensites are Marmite – loved and hated in equal measure.
By now, Kidd was based in Oregon where he was building Tetherow, named “Best New Course of the Year” by Golf Magazine. In a similar vein to the Castle course, Tetherow is lambasted for its wild greens. So, in 2009, Kidd and a couple of colleagues returned to Bandon Dunes to learn, in detail, what made this course so admired.
Kidd learned that harder isn’t better. Bandon Dunes is fun and playable whereas Tetherow and the Castle course are arguably not. Armed with a rediscovered approach, DMK built Gamble Sands in Brewster, Washington. Ron Whitten writing in Golf Digest commented: “This isn’t Golf for Dummies, it’s Golf for Ordinary Golfers, for those who play expecting pleasure, not penance.” Mike Keiser’s target audience is the “retail golfer” and he was so impressed with Gamble Sands that he commissioned Kidd to fashion a second course at Sand Valley. Mammoth Dunes (and Gamble Sands) has propelled the Scotsman back to the architectural forefront.
Austrian Red Bull billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz bought the Fijian 3,500-acre Laucala Island in 2003 and you can rent it for $170,000 a night with a minimum stay of five nights. Golf is inclusive.
Comporta Dunes in Portugal was due to open in 2015, but this promising course has not yet opened.
Beaverbrook, a Tom Watson co-design, opened in 2016 but it’s reserved for wealthy members only in the Queenwood mould.
The Seventh at St. Andrews: How Scotsman David McLay Kidd and His Ragtag Band Built the First New Course on Golf's Holy Soil in Nearly a Century by Scott Gummer
Dream Golf – The Making of Bandon Dunes by Stephen Goodwin