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Kyle Phillips

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Year of Birth1958
Year of Death
Place of BirthAtlanta, Georgia, USA
Biography

Kyle Phillips graduated from Kansas State University in 1981 with a degree in Landscape Architecture. That same year, he began his career in golf working with Robert Trent Jones Junior, eventually rising from the position of Design Associate to Vice President.

During his time with RTJII, Phillips was responsible for many of the company’s European designs, including courses like Penha Longa in Portugal, The Wisley in England and Saint Donat in France. He also oversaw Caribbean projects at Royal Westmoreland, Four Seasons Nevis and Tierra del Sol in Aruba.

In 1997, he started his own company, Kyle Phillips Golf Course Design. His close rapport with Mark Parsinen, one of the developers who he’d recently worked with at Granite Bay Golf Club in California, led to him designing the critically acclaimed links at Kingsbarns in Scotland.

Kingbarns was a really big break for Kyle Phillips at the start of the new millennium, propelling him onto golf design’s world stage, and further UK commissions quickly came his way via The Grove in Hertfordshire and Dundonald Links on the west coast of Scotland.

On the wider European front, Phillips was also busy laying out courses in The Netherlands and Austria (at Laage Vuursche in 2000 and Eichenheim in 2001) before he completed a couple of 36-hole projects at the end of the decade at the PGA of Sweden National complex near Malmö and the Verdura Resort in Sicily.

Further afield, Phillips also fashioned Al Maaden in Marrakech, Morocco (2010), Yas Links in the United Arab Emirates (2010) and South Cape Club in South Korea (2013) and he’s since returned to Morocco and The Netherlands to design the Tazegzout course near Agadir (in 2014) and the 18-hole Bernardus layout (in 2018).

Like many great architects, Phillips is also a student of the past, and his appreciation of both Tom Simpson and Harry Colt has resulted in his sympathetic new millennium remodelling of the main course at Morfontaine in France and at Hilversumsche in The Netherlands.

His respect for Robert Trent Jones is also reflected in the renovation work he’s carried out at Real Valderrama and Real Las Brisas on Spain’s Costa del Sol. Back in the United States, the bulk of the Phillips endeavours have been based on restoration and renovation projects, mainly within his home state of California.

Associate Mark Thawley – who completed his Masters of Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona, including a study of the classic links and heathland courses of the UK – has assisted Phillips in projects worldwide since joining the firm in the year 2000.

The layout at the California Club of San Francisco was impressively upgraded in 2014 and both the Tom Nicholl course at Menlo Country Club (opened first in 1917) and the Norman Macbeth course at Wilshire Country Club (dating back to 1919) have since undergone successful restoration programs, overseen by Mark Thawley.

Phillips, a long-standing a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, now has more than thirty-five years of experience in the business, designing courses in over thirty countries on five continents, earning the reputation of being able to develop creative design solutions for a wide variety of environmental and planning considerations.

Each course that he designs is unique; nothing is built to a formula. This originates from his understanding that the character and personality of a layout is largely acquired from the existing natural features of a property, in addition to its location and history – and where natural landforms don’t exist, Phillips has demonstrated a fantastic ability to fashion natural looking contours that do nothing but enhance the aesthetic appeal of the property.

Extracts:

In a golfcoursearchitecture.net interview in 2006, Kyle Phillips gave the following reply in response to the question “What does strategic design mean to you?”

“Strategic design incorporates options – alternative angles of play. The next question is what elements do you use to create strategy? It seems as though many modern courses have gotten into a rut of using only water, bunkers or trees to create that strategy, while forgetting about contours and landforms. Yes, golf is more of an aerial game today, but the kind of contours seen on links courses, even if it’s not a hard-running surface, can still come into play. You can still create opportunities for the ball to run away, if it’s not struck just right, into areas the player would really rather not find himself. I like to emphasise the use of contours to create strategy.

When I began designing courses, I really liked building holes with water. Now, I have great respect for courses that don’t have any water. I think it’s due to playing and studying the great links courses of the British Isles during my work in Europe over the past 20 years. I have become more interested in the strategic use of landforms and have learned so much from the strategy of the courses and the origins of the game. This is where the spirit of golf dwells.”

In a Jay Flemma article in GolfCourseTrades.com in February 2017, Kyle Phillips had this to say about his work at The California Golf Club of San Francisco:

“The entire course was taken back to dirt, and every hole was rebuilt and reconstructed in the flavor of 1928 Alister MacKenzie. Happily, this piece of property had more natural features and better movement in the ground than anything I had worked on before.”

“I had a lot of help,” stated a grateful Phillips. “Before I got there, they had already removed a great many trees, and had opened up more light all over the course. That was a big advantage. Also, they do a fantastic job with conditioning. The green surrounds are closely cut, so around almost every green you can putt, bump and run, pitch and check, or lob wedge. You have a broad range of options, and that makes for exciting golf where everyone as a chance to score well no matter what their ability.”

Snippet

By John Schumacher, published in the Sacramento Bee: Kyle Phillips learned from Robert Jones Jr. just as Jones learned from his father, Robert Trent Jones Sr. “Kyle is a wonderful architect,” Jones Jr. says. “As I was mentored by my father, I mentored him and others. He’s part of the Jones family tree. I tend to think of him as a personality — his work speaks for itself — somewhat like a surfer. When he sees a wave coming, he knows how to ride it and knows how to get off it.”

Notable Courses

01
Al Maaden

Al Maaden

Marrakesh, Marrakesh-Safi

02
Bernardus

Bernardus

Cromvoirt, Noord-Brabant

03
Blessings

Blessings

Fayetteville, Arkansas

04
California Golf Club of San Francisco

California Golf Club of San Francisco

South San Francisco, California

05
Del Paso

Del Paso

Sacramento, California

06
Dundonald

Dundonald

Irvine, Scotland

07
Eichenheim

Eichenheim

Kitzbühel, Tirol

08
Hillcrest Country Club

Hillcrest Country Club

Los Angeles, California

09
Hilversumsche

Hilversumsche

Hilversum, Noord-Holland

10
Incline Village (Championship)

Incline Village (Championship)

Incline Village, Nevada

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