Morrish Scratching Head Over Golf's Long Technology

By David R. Holland, Contributor

FLOWER MOUND, TX - Jay Morrish has been thinking alot about long-hitting pros. Today's hot golf balls are not making it easy for golf course architects.

"I'm just trying to figure out where to put the bunkers on today's courses," said Morrish, "I don't think lengthening existing courses is the key and it just plays into the hands of long hitters like Tiger Woods. I think the only way to challenge them is with angles and placing the bunkers out there long where they hit those drives.

"Still, I don't think any architects are going to outsmart the touring pros -- they will find a way to play any course so they make the least mistakes and still score well," he said.

"The problem is technology. It's hard to think fast enough to stay ahead of how far the golf ball goes today," Morrish said. "It's a guessing game and very difficult to uphold the old standards of making golf courses that will make you hit all 14 golf clubs. We are going the wrong direction as far as the long golf ball and it's a sad situation."

One of the great examples is Cherry Hills in Denver, site of Arnold Palmer's great comeback U.S. Open victory in 1960. "It is one of the finest golf courses anywhere, I consulted there, but to these PGA guys today it is a pitch and putt course -- they don't need all 14 clubs to play it," Morrish said.

Morrish, 65, has seen a lot in his long career. He was instrumental in the early days of Jack Nicklaus' design career, helping with such courses as Castle Pines in Castle Rock, CO. Then he teamed with Tom Weiskopf to produce 26 designs, including bunches of award-winners including their very first -- Troon Golf and Country Club in Scottsdale. They later produced Troon North's Monument Course.

Morrish and Weiskopf were contrasting personalities. Weiskopf was explosive in his player days, but has calmed down as a designer. Morrish is steady and serious and is known as a studious, intelligent designer -- he attended college and taught at Colorado State University. And he studied under greats of golf design including Robert Trent Jones Sr. and George Fazio.

For 12 years the Weiskopf-Morrish team might have been the best in the business. Could both excel in solo endeavors? You bet.

When Morrish and Weiskopf ended their association in 1994, Morrish's son Carter was ready to start working for dad. Carter is currently working on an old classic -- Ojai Valley in California.

"Carter is my right-hand guy," Morrish said. "He's a bonafide architect in his own right and he's working on some of his own projects. We confer on what we want to do on a project, I make certain he gets out and works with contractor and gets what we want, but he also has the right to tweak things."

Morrish is seeing a new twist in the phone calls he's getting today. "I think the pendulum is swinging back to more calls about private course designs," he said. "People are talking about over-saturation of daily-fee courses in some metro
areas and I think that's true."

He's an admirer of Alister MacKenzie and Donald Ross, but really likes George Thomas, who designed the North Course of the Los Angeles Country Club, Bel-Air and Riviera in LA, Ojai Valley (at right) and San Francisco Golf Club. "Some of the best bunkers in the USA are at Bel-Air."

What are other favorites? "I love Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Pine Valley, Seminole, Loch Lomond and Pinehurst No. 2," he said. "One I really like that I just finished is Pine Dunes in Frankston, TX, in East Texas. It opened last summer."

Which of his courses will stand the test of time? "I think Stone Canyon (pictured, Tucson, AZ) will hold up over the years. It has everything but an ocean -- changes of elevation, beautiful rock formations, desert flora. It's an awesome piece of land," he said. "Others I've worked on include Troon North, Forest Highlands, Double Eagle (Columbus, OH), Loch Lomond (Scotland) and Muirfield (with Nicklaus). They have played three majors there."

Does Morrish have a trademark? "I think the standard Weiskopf and I created was the reachable par-4 holes. I think just about every architect is doing that today. It's the kind of golf hole that everyone has the physical ability to play well if they use their head. It is strategic golf that's much more fun than those long par 4s that only the young big-hitters can reach in two. I know I couldn't compress a ball like that at age 65."

Morrish also admitted he hasn't play golf in two years.

Current Projects

Vista Ridge, a daily-fee course on the plains north of Denver. This project west of I-25 in the Erie area has just made news because of extensive vandalism in December.

"Vista Ridge is wide-open prairie," Morrish said, "It will feature lots of native areas and prairie grasses. We are working with the Redstone Golf group out of Denver on it."

Lantana Golf Club is north of Dallas in the Argyle, Double Oak area on the northern border of Flower Mound. "It's a very traditional high-end daily-fee course with some exceptional bunkering," he said. "I doubt many people have seen anything like it around here. The bunkers have multiple fingers, twists, turns, and irregular edges and some are very deep."

A resort hotel is planned for the future and Lantana is scheduled to open in June 2002.

A resort golf course in Austin is also on the drawing board.

In Flagstaff, AZ, Morrish is working on Pine Canyon Club, a private club set to open in 2003, and another private course in Prescott named Talking Rock, which will be grassed in the spring.

"Forest Highlands is currently a measuring stick by which many mountain courses are compared, but we have high hopes for Pine Canyon, too. It's truly a remarkable setting and we are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to create something wonderful in the mountains. We designed and built a marvelous facility with Stone Canyon and I firmly believe that Pine Canyon will evolve into an equally impressive golf course," added Morrish.

In California, Morrish is working on another course at Tejon Ranch, just north of Los Angeles. "They are planning several courses by different architects and we hope to build one of them," he said.

Jay Morrish's Profile

Morrish graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Landscape and Nursery Management. In 1964 he taught Horticulture at that university while pursuing graduate degrees.

Since 1964, he has been active in golf course design, serving a four-year apprenticeship with Robert Trent Jones, and two years with George Fazio. In 1970 he met Jack Nicklaus and joined his design support firm in 1972, working on all the Nicklaus golf courses built through 1982.

In 1983, Jay left the Nicklaus organization to pursue his own golf course design career. He formed a partnership with Weiskopf to design more than twenty courses, but now works only with his son, Carter.

Jay has been deeply involved with the design and construction of several golf courses ranked in the top 100 in the United States. He has also been involved with courses in Spain, Canada, Australia and Japan. He is a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and currently serves as an officer.

In 1996 he was selected Architect of the Year by Golf World Magazine.

Carter Morrish studied Landscape Architecture at Northwestern Oklahoma A&M and Tulsa Junior College.

In 1986 he joined Wadsworth Golf Construction and worked on the overall construction of several golf courses. This included construction layout, drainage construction, finish grading, cart path construction, feature construction and irrigation construction.


Jay Morrish & Associates, Ltd.
3700 Forums Drive
Suite 207
Flower Mound, TX 75028

Phone: 972-539-3465.
Fax: 972-539-3544

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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