Jeff Brauer: Transplanted Texan's Portfolio Admired Coast to Coast
"The hallmark of each of my golf courses is beauty and aesthetics -- because every good golfer, regardless of handicap, enjoys the outdoor experience." ~ Jeff Brauer
ARLINGTON, TX -- When Jeff Brauer moved to Texas from Chicago in 1984 he was rolling the dice.
"I figured being from Chicago that it would take Texans a good six years before they would accept a damn Yankee golf architect like me," Brauer recalled.
Once the Texans realized what a find they had, Brauer's success skyrocketed. Currently he has projects in Texas, California, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, and Illinois; including the new Colbert Hills Golf Course at Kansas State University, which is aligned with the First Tee Program, the PGA Tour and the Golf Course Superintendent's Association of America. This course will be used for competitive collegiate events, as well as scientific research and education.
His Dallas-Fort Worth area portfolio includes the spanking new daily-fee upscale Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine and he's currently designing the Opryland Golf Club which will be right next door to Cowboys GC and the new Opryland Hotel and Conference Center.
Other Metroplex winners include Grand Prairie's Tangle Ridge Golf Club, Glen Rose's Squaw Valley Golf Club, Benbrook's Whitestone Golf Club, Azle's Cross Timbers Golf Club, Plano's Ridgeview Ranch Golf Course and Frisco's Trails of Frisco.
As with many contemporary golf course architects, Brauer loves to study the work of Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Alister MacKenzie, and tries to play the best courses in the world.
"I've played 65 of the top 100 courses and I travel and see as many as I can to the classic courses," Brauer said. "Designing a golf course is almost like a jigsaw puzzle, you adapt the design to the land, work with the ideas from a few tour pros, take designs and flip them, take out a bunker here and add one there.
"I went to Australia in 1994 and studied the best courses. I love the MacKenzie style of fingered bunkering with caps, bays and mounding. But I was playing with some amateurs at Squaw Valley in Glen Rose one day and I saw how much trouble they had with the mounds and hitting from uneven lies, so I have toned down my bunkering some."
Trademarks of a Brauer design? Look for the MacKenzie-inspired bunkers, at least one double fairway, giving you a choice of directions, and wider fairways with more options on the line of play. But also look for more simple bunkering, as inspired by Ross, on some of his newer designs.
Brauer said architects like to try new things, too. "I remodeled a green in California at San Dimas Golf Club and I contoured it toward the mountain, instead of letting it fall away from the mountain like it is normally done. The people back there told me no one has made a putt on that green in 15 years," Brauer said, with a laugh.
Which Brauer courses does he think will stand the test of time?
"I have a hard time evaluating my golf courses," Brauer said. "Right now I love Cowboys Golf Club, but if I evaluate it in three to five years I might hate it. I might have taken a new path stylistically. Then I might come back in 10 years and love it again. I'm just trying to put the best golf courses on the best sites I can. Some will be worthy of tournament play and some will be just golf courses anyone can go out on and have fun without being punished from the toughness."
He definitely thinks there are still good sites for golf courses.
"Every so often people in the business talk that all the good sites are taken, but just look at Bandon Dunes," he said. "I don't think it is true. Tangle Ridge is good site and so is Whitestone in Benbrook. Cowboys Golf Club is an incredible site. In the old days they just put golf courses in the flood plains, but now can put them in much better locations."
What about over-saturation of daily-fee courses?
"I think the Dallas market is worried about over-saturation," he said. "Last year play was down about 5 percent. Cowboys Golf Club started slow, but now it is booked solid. I even have a hard time getting a tee time. The main thing about Dallas-Fort Worth golf is that in the summer no one wants to play from noon to 2 p.m., so I think more and more courses will come up with inventive pricing structures and give discounts during the middle of the day."
Brauer and his firm, Golf Scapes, have designed 40 golf courses and remodeled 80 throughout.
So what does Brauer tell his Yankee friends back in Chicago now? "I tell them I just took a dip in my pool and its December."
Brauer began his career in the Chicago area and his first project was the Kemper Lakes Golf Course, site of the 1989 U.S. PGA Championship. In 1984, he formed his own practice and moved to Arlington.
He has been commended for his work in all the major golf magazines. Giants Ridge Golf Club in Biwabik, Minnesota was honored as third best in the State of Minnesota. Other courses taking awards include Tangle Ridge Golf Course in Grand Prairie, noted as the best low budget project in the United States for the year 1991.
The Links at Sierra Blanca in Ruidoso, N.M. has been cited along with Colorado's Canterberry Golf Course and The Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Brauer has been a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects since 1980, serving as President in that organizations milestone "50th Anniversary" year, in 1995-1996.
2225 East Randol Mill Road
Arlington, TX 76011
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December 1, 2001