Architect & Project Spotlight: Todd Clark

I caught up with ASGCA member, Todd Clark recently to talk about how he got into the business and what he is seeing in his travels. The interview is below:

Hi Todd, Thank you for your time today. How did you end up becoming a golf course architect?

I attended Kansas State University and was an intern for Dick Nugent in 1990.  After graduation, I worked full time for him until 1994.  During that time, I was involved with Green Bay CC and Harborside International.  I learned golf course architecture and document preparation from Dick, which formed my career path and work.  Dick was a great mentor to me and many other architects in ASGCA.

After moving back to Kansas City in the summer of 1994, I met Craig Schreiner.  Craig and I worked together from the time we met until 2003.  We had a great run together and did some really nice work over the 9 years.  Brent Hugo joined our team in 1995 to assist with the plan production as an associate designer.  Brent and I continued working together and established CE Golf Design.  Brent became a partner 5 years ago in the firm.

CE Golf Design started out as a division of Clark Enterprises, which was a family business that my Dad owned.  Clark Enterprises had three divisions, CE Golf Design, CE Water Management and CE Distribution, all working together under the parent company.  As a legacy to our father, my siblings and I decide to keep the “CE” for Clark Enterprises in all of our company names.

As a licensed Landscape Architect, we have diversified our portfolio to include some traditional landscape architecture and sport fields.  We have had several clients where we have done all of the site planning and landscape architecture for their new clubhouses.  It is just another extension of design services that we can offer to our existing clients.  One of our recent clubhouse projects was for the City of Overland Park’s Sykes/Lady Golf Course.  We prepared a renovation master plan 10 years ago, which included a new clubhouse that was instrumental for their planning and execution of this new capital improvement.   The clubhouse is completed and has been a huge benefit to the City.

We have worked a lot with you recently in the Kansas City area.  What are some of the courses you have recently been working on?

We have just completed major bunker renovations at Falcon Ridge Golf Club and Prairie Highlands Golf Club with the Premier Play Sand and Better Billy Bunker.  On both projects, we reduced the overall size of the bunkers dramatically while creating a new look for the golf courses.

hole 18 on prairie highlands golf course before and after
Prairie Highlands Golf Course bunker renovations completed by Todd Clark with the Premier Play Sand and Better Billy Bunker

We are currently working on a major renovation for Oakwood Country Club that includes some new holes, practice facility and major renovation to existing holes.  We will be using Premier White Sand for this project since the owner like the firmness of the sand.

Last year in the Dallas area, we completed a bunker renovation at Waterview Golf Club for the City of Rowlett which had Bunker Solutions as the liner and Premier Play Sand.  We also completed a 4 million dollar renovation at Indian Creek Golf Club – The Lakes Course for the City of Carrollton.

On the drawing table, major renovations for J.S. Clark Golf Course in Baton Rouge, LA, Long Beach Country Club in Michigan City, IN, and master planning for Willow Bend Golf Club and Tallgrass Country Club in Wichita, KS.

The game seems to have changed quite a lot in the last several years. New technology has had a hand in that.  When you meet with a prospective client, what items are you discussing and what do you think is important for them to consider?

We are encouraging our clients to reinvest in their properties to stay competitive. We have completed several bunker master plans showing the reduction of bunker square footage while maintaining the course character.  In the end this is a huge savings for the owner or club when it comes to their maintenance cost for bunkers.

As far as overall course distance, we are obviously looking for added length where we can find it. But today, that is not the driving factor like it was 15 years ago for most owners.  When it comes to green design, our philosophy is pretty simple.  We err to the conservative side when it comes to green contours.  We will have slopes from 1-3% percent in areas that we want pin locations.  We like incorporating subtle breaks to challenge the better players and we feel that greens with subtle breaks are more difficult to read compared with greens that have extreme contours.

We are also designing more practice areas, short courses and putting courses lately. Practice is a big deal at most clubs and more golfers are enjoying practicing today.  This really becomes the decision maker when it comes to selecting a facility, based on comments from the general managers that we work with.

Our bunkering style varies greatly depending on the site and the course.  Today, with all of the new liners and better sands that are available we can create artistic bunkers that flash up for visibility.  I firmly believe bunkers that are properly designed, shaped, lined and with high quality sand, we can build a bunker that is easier to maintain than the flat bottom bunkers that we did 20 years ago. Liners and sand have been game changers for architects over the last 10 years.

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