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Ron Fream

Notable Courses
Year of Birth1942
Year of Death
Place of BirthLos Angeles, California, USA

After six years of study, Ron Fream graduated from California Polytechnic Institute in Pomona with an Ornamental Horticulture degree in 1964. His intention was to then work towards a masters in turf grass management at Washington State University, followed by a position as a golf course superintendent somewhere.

Fortunately for him, his botanical talents were noted by the Robert Trent Jones design company and he was hired, as he says himself, because he “knew how to grow grass”.

In a Golf Course Architecture interview from 2009, Fream says: “They had golfers, engineers and wonderful landscape architects but they didn’t know which end of a tree you put in the ground.”

During his four years with RTJ, Ron gained his PhD while enjoying a diverse working environment that allowed him to move between drawing designs, maintenance and construction and this was an education he probably would never have got at any other firm.

Fream had a brief spell as a construction superintendent for Red Lawrence in Arizona before moving on to work for a short time with Robert Muir Graves, who emphasized the importance of detailed drawings, and Ron has embraced this important discipline all his working life.

He established Golfplan in 1972, along with ex-RTJ employee Terry Storm, then headed to Japan to meet Michael Wolveridge of Thomson Wolveridge Associates and their subsequent 7-year partnership (along with John Harris) was the catalyst for his globetrotting exploits.

One of the first courses Fream fashioned was the Bali Handra for President Suharto of Indonesia in 1973. In a Golf Course Architecture interview in 2009, Ron said: “In those days, Bali was Shangri-La, a tropical paradise and home to the gods all in one. The experience profoundly influenced me in terms of a greater awareness of the environment.

“I had studied ecology at college but when I got to Bali, it was there blatantly in front of me – it was a protected environment with terraced rice paddies, beautiful villages, flowers and bare-breasted women carrying offerings to the temples. It was wonderful and really influenced the rest of my life.”

Fream also worked on projects in Portugal, the Caribbean and Tunisia during the 1970s and these jobs, gained through John Harris’s contacts, were the springboard to future assignments – indeed, Ron returned to North Africa quite a bit during the 1980s and most of the courses in that country have been laid out by his firm.

Ron Fream on Tunisian Golf

Although a large proportion of Golfplan’s output is centred in Asia – mainly in China, Malaysia and Japan – the firm has also operated successfully in Europe, where a number of projects have been undertaken in France, Finland and Portugal, along with one-off assignments carried out in Italy, Poland and Sweden.

It mustn’t be forgotten that the company still has its roots firmly planted in Santa Rosa, California, where it all began at the start of the 1970s. Around fifty courses have been laid out or renovated in the Golden State throughout almost half a century of Golfplan’s operation, with additional work completed across another ten states during that time.

Asia remains a mainstay market for the company in the new millennium. Former exotic Ron Fream haunts like Brunei and Nepal might no longer be on the agenda (though a Mongolian design did open for play in 2013) but new courses in South Korea and Vietnam feature prominently in Golfplan’s design portfolio of recent years.

And a 2018 layout in Uganda – the first Golfplan design to open in that continent since 2000 – indicates the firm is still prepared to go the extra mile (or more) in search of commissions.

Ron Fream withdrew from Golfplan in 2010 and the design business is now in the capable hands of his former partners, David Dale (who joined in 1988) and Kevin Ramsey (who was appointed in 1998).

That’s not to say he’s entirely given up on designs or travels to far-flung golfing outposts, evidenced by reports of a 2017 visit to Russia that he made to have a look at a potential golf site outside Vladivostok, close to the border with China and North Korea. Ron was also involved in the golf project at Black Rocks Hotel on the tropical island of Belitung in Indonesia, which opened for play in 2019.


Ron is a director of The Himalayan Youth Golf Association and an international counsel to the Nepal Golf Association. He is also an Asian ambassador for IAGTO and he has been an adviser to the Vietnam Tourism Property Association. He assisted the Ministry Of Tourism for the Indian State of Assam and between 1973 and 1988 he was a consultant to the Office of National Tourism in Tunisia for golf development.

He’s authored more than a hundred articles on diverse topics such as golf economics, golf travel and growing golf, construction methods, building courses by hand, turfqrass varietal selection, promoting public golf, golf and greed, golf environmental matters and several country-specific feasibility and growth potential reports.

Ron has been a featured speaker at many professional conferences and turfgrass programs around the world. He presented seminar programs on golf course subjects for 18 years at California State University, Pomona, (Cal Poly) and he was a guest speaker at the Eighth International Conference "Working For Golf' sponsored by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews in May 2009.

Fream has been to more than a hundred and thirty countries around the world and is reckoned to have flown over four million airline miles during three thousand flights so he must be a leading contender for the title of “most travelled golf architect”. He has a 35mm slide and digital picture library with 30,000 images dating back to 1966 which would fetch a small fortune if it was ever placed on the market for offer.


We caught up with Ron in March 2019, just a week before his 77th birthday, and he gave us the following exclusive quote:

“I’m thankful I’m out of the business. The budgets and sites are often better now but the competition and challenges to get good jobs is beyond me. I did miss the gravy train of big fees and big income, but in my day (1970s-1980s) I saw a lot, learned too much, did OK and kept an office going without bank loans or a rich father from 1972 to about 2008.

I’m healthy, living in Johor Bahru, in South Malaysia on the affordable side of Singapore Straits. The cost of living in California is such that I couldn’t afford to live there now.”

Notable Courses



Albuquerque, New Mexico



Arcangues, Nouvelle-Aquitaine



Åmmeberg, Örebro län

Awana Genting Highlands

Awana Genting Highlands

Genting Highlands, Pahang

Black Rocks

Black Rocks

undefined, Bangka Belitung Islands

Bonari Kogen

Bonari Kogen

Inawashiro, Fukushima

Disneyland Paris (Rouge & Bleu)

Disneyland Paris (Rouge & Bleu)

Magny-le-Hongre, Île-de-France

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Harry Colt

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