Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Working with Golf’s true sculptor – the shaper

Paul Timbers, Grant and Donnie Robb at Kawartha

The first green surface I had any involvement with was the 5th green at Greystone. It was one of the first times Doug had me join him out on site to teach me some of the basic things I needed to learn about creating greens and other features on the golf course. It was a great chance to see drainage installed among other important details that I had to learn before I could design anything. Through circumstance Doug had to go review some major drainage works and grading and suggested it would be better if I join Albert and see how a green is built first. The 5th green was set into a natural amphitheater and was an excellent green site already. Albert was in the process of making the plateau when I arrived.

I introduced myself to Albert and said I’m here to learn from you, and I received a smile and an “OK, that’s not what I’m used to but that should prove interesting.” Little did I know that a little humility was the perfect way to get to know the often cantankerous and moody Albert, who also happens to be one of the best shapers I have ever had the pleasure of working with and a good friend. Albert asked me what I wanted on the green surface, and to be honest I just kind of repeated what Doug had talked about out of fear. Albert said, “what about the swale in back it’s not on the drawings but it would be a good idea.” Lesson one - listen to what the shaper suggests - I said I agreed with him that a swale was a great idea, but asked can we keep the green surface the same size. Albert said “Sure but I need to lower it a couple of feet and take it slightly right, but that will work fine.” Lesson two - when a good shaper says he can make it work - get out of his hair and don’t give useless directions. In 15 minutes it all fit in wonderfully, and I can say I honestly had no part in this. I realized right then that Albert just knew instinctively what would work - lesson three - trust them and work “with” them.

Albert shaped up the green and we got out a laser to shoot some grades. The green looked awesome to me, but I though a pin position was impossible to access because the slope was away from the approach on a long iron in. I explained how I thought the ball should be received particularly on such a tough shot and asked what he thought. Albert smiled and said you’re right that would be too tough and said give me two minutes and he reshaped the section to receive the ball. Lesson four – always explain how the shots should work- they can make anything work but must understand clearly what you intend (as opposed to what you drew). Intent is the key direction we have to offer. Talking in broad strokes helps a shaper, micromanaging a shaper is a great way to get crap (and that’s your fault not his).

My advice to any young architects is to respect the shapers, explain yourself fully on what you expect, trust them for input, let them contribute to some of the final forms, take a stance that you have a final say to avoid and idea you don’t like but allow them to venture a little to discover better ideas. Treat them like a good friend and they will make you look better than you are, and you will end up with some of the closest and most reliable friends you will ever make.

I’m going to miss at least a couple of names, but I want to thank all the great shapers who have made me look like I have a clue:
From Evans – Albert, Louie Melo, Mike Zant, Dave Sutherland and Dan Minduik (sp.?)
Gateman – Richard Armitrage (Ballantrae), Louis Pedro, and Darren Hancocks
TDI – Steve Tate, Jamie, Domenic Carrere, Brian and Paul
NMP – Michele
And all the independents or small companies – Spencer Adams, John Northy, Doug Shwartz, Gary Elison, Ron (be gone), Peter, Dan, (I miss) “Moose” Thompson, Gord Wendover and the unbelievable talented Thomas (“Dickie Do”)
Finally the ones that have seen everything and done it all and continue to share their wealth of experience - Dick Kirkpatrick and Paul Timbers


Anonymous said...

Your story on trusting the shaper is refreshing to see. I just congratulated a client that questioned me for two years and doubted the Architect for the same on his 10th year on a course that started in house and didnt need my high priced ass on it. Come the next year after the spring rains washed their prior years work away, they decided to listen to the architect and call a shaper. The job was finished under budget but the anniversary should have been last year.Anyhow I think the Architect tripled his asking cost for design following that project and now is enjoying a full work schedual. Its always good to see some articles that remind me of the good ole days. Have fun and thanks for recognizing the Shaper. Sincerely Dan Gadd

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