Mike Clayton

Full Name
Michael Andrew Clayton
Website:
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Year of Birth
1957
Place Born
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Playing on Melbourne’s sand belt courses as a young man sparked an early interest in golf course architecture for Clayton so it was really just a natural progression for him to form his own design practice in the latter stages of his playing career, founding Michael Clayton Golf Design in 1995 with John Sloan and Bruce Grant.

Mike Clayton was a successful amateur player, winning his state championship in Victoria in 1977 then the Australian Amateur the following year (when he beat Tony Gresham 1-up in the Final match at Royal Queensland), before turning professional at the age of twenty-four in 1981.

He claimed the first of nine world-wide titles in his second season as a pro when he won the Victorian Open at Metropolitan and he also represented Australia at the 1982 World Cup in Mexico the same year (he also featured in the national 2-man team for that event in Puerto Rico in 1994).

His best placing on the Australian Order of Merit was in 1994 when the finished 4th and he never lost his playing status on the professional circuit until he reached the age of 50 and became eligible for the Australian Legends Tour.

Playing on Melbourne’s sand belt courses as a young man sparked an early interest in golf course architecture for Clayton so it was really just a natural progression for him to form his own design practice in the latter stages of his playing career, founding Michael Clayton Golf Design in 1995 with John Sloan and Bruce Grant.

“I was always interested in golf course architecture, so I read all the books and wrote a little about it for the newspapers,” says Mike. “But I never thought about getting into the business until John and Bruce rang me out of the blue and asked me if I was interested in starting the business.”

The company’s first projects involved redesigning courses such as Portsea and Peninsula, and restoring the layout at Victoria, where Mike has now been consulting for two decades; restoring bunkers, reducing the influence of trees and replacing areas of rough with either short grass or uncovering the native sandy ground.

Into the new millennium and Mike teamed up with Michael Cocking and Ashley Mead to continue renovating other classic Australian courses like Commonwealth, Lake Karrinyup, Royal Canberra and The Lakes.

The design team was joined by former US Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy in 2010, with the firm now known as Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Mead, or OCCM for short. According to the company website, its aim is to “make the journey to the hole a more interesting one for the golfer. The contour of a green, the position of hazards, and the shape and slope of the fairway can all be used to create holes that make the golfer think.”

The architectural side of the company is now complemented by Business Manager Peter Bessey, Project Manager Rob Swift and shapers Jason McCarthy and Nick Henry.

“Great holes aren’t created in an office,” the company states on its website. “Time at the desk is important but the quality of ones work won’t be measured by the pretty plans the client signed off on. The true test will always be what has been left for the golfers to play and enjoy.”

With construction just an extension of the design process, OCCM spend a great deal of time in the field, refining holes as they emerge from the land. As far as the company is concerned, “the most enjoyable and creative part of the process (is spending) countless hours pushing dirt around, refining and shaping” to achieve the best outcome.

Mike has been busy with redesign, renovation and restoration projects for more than twenty years now as new build assignments in Australia have been very few and far between. Indeed, his only solo design from scratch has been the course at Ranfurlie, to the south east of Melbourne, in 2002.

Shortly after this, he did, of course, co-design the Barnbougle Dunes layout near Bridport in Tasmania and the St Andrews Beach course on the Mornington Peninsula with Tom Doak, and those two fabulous golfing tracks were the ones to first gain Mike Clayton international recognition as an architect.

In more recent times, OCCM has undertaken a major three-phase overhaul of the course at Bonnie Doon in Sydney and both the South and North course at Peninsula Kingswood in Frankston have undergone substantial upgrading by the company.

OCCM spread its wings in 2017 when it was commissioned to redesign the former Links course at Lanhai International Country Club in Shanghai, fashioning the new Yangtze Dunes layout over a lengthy period of time.

On the recommendation of Bill Coore, they were also appointed to redesign the course at Ben Hogan’s old home club at Shady Oaks in Texas. The Little 9 layout where Hogan used to practice was updated in 2017, with work on the main course carried out two years later.

Extracts:

Graylyn Loomis writing in Links Magazine: "A former European and Australasian Tour player (nine pro wins), Clayton was always curious about design but never thought it would become his job. However, in 1995 he saw an aerial photo of Victoria Golf Club and offered the club his opinion on how to restore what he called the “amazing bunkering.” The rest is history and, 21 years later, he remains Victoria’s consulting architect."

Bibliography:

Preferred Lies: And Other True Golf Stories by Mike Clayton and Charles Happell (2019)

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Courses designed by and courses remodelled and added to by Mike Clayton

Bonnie Doon

9th New South Wales - Best in Area 44th Australia Ranking

The third oldest club in Sydney, Bonnie Doon began life as Marrickville Golf Club in 1897 when members played on a 12-hole course laid out in the Sydney suburb of Tempe.

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Curlewis

31st Victoria - Best in Area 77th Australia Ranking

Situated on the Bellarine Peninsula, just over an hour’s drive from downtown Melbourne, the sandy soiled fairways at Curlewis Golf Club overlook the sparkling waters of Corio Bay.

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Healesville

25th Victoria - Best in Area 57th Australia Ranking

RACV Healesville Country Club nestles in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, on the edge of the Yarra Valley, and the course itself is routed over fairly undulating terrain.

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Lakes - Sydney

4th New South Wales - Best in Area 19th Australia Ranking

Lakes are not the only hazard at the Lakes Golf Club. In fact, the front nine – with the exception of the opening hole – is water free...

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Peninsula Kingswood (North)

13th Victoria - Best in Area 24th Australia Ranking

There's fantastic variety on the Peninsula Kingswood North course - good elevation changes, interesting turns and irregular greens and recent renovations have elevated the course to a completely new level.

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Port Fairy

24th Victoria - Best in Area 54th Australia Ranking

Port Fairy Golf Links co-hosts (along with nearby Warrnambool Golf Club) a very popular annual 36-hole amateur championship, the Shipwreck Coast Golf Classic...

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Ranfurlie

32nd Victoria - Best in Area 78th Australia Ranking

The doors to Ranfurlie Golf Club's course first opened in 2002 and its generally wide, open fairways were the perfect foil for the tighter, tree-lined holes on the older Amstel Park course, which closed in 2016.

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