American golf course architect Tom Fazio is world renowned for combining playability and difficulty across designs of aesthetic grandeur. Perhaps best known for his improvements at Augusta National, the 74-year-old also renovated Kasumigaseki Country Club’s East course, host layout for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
All Square reviews five of his greatest designs.
Waterville Golf Links, Ireland
Fazio improved the layout here in 2006 and upon completion of the redesign listed it as one of his top three golf courses along with Pine Valley and Augusta National. Rated by All Square as the world’s 64th best course, Waterville is a classics links course surrounded by the sea. Combining sand dunes, firm fairways and subtle putting surfaces, it has in the past drawn the praise of Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara. It’s a wonderfully secluded and natural dunescape and its got a great closing stretch. The terrain on the right-to-left dogleg 16th pushes you towards the water; the 17th is a stunning par-3; and the 18th is a long par-5 where the beach remains a constant threat. Fazio also added a new practice area and a state-of-the-art health facility.
Rated by All Square as the 45th best course in the US, Shadow Creek was co-designed by Fazio in the late 80s and redesigned by him in 2008. It has the reputation of being one of the most expensive courses built in America – a reported $47 million at the time. Fazio used the budget for what he called “total site manipulation”, carving rolling hills and canyons from the flat desert floor north of Las Vegas and pumping in plenty of water. The result was very successful. The most memorable aspect of the layout are the greens, which are tiered and have plenty of flow, so that precision and spin are required to make birdies. This course hosted the Phil Mickelson vs Tiger Woods matchplay showdown in 2018. Almost every hole makes a signature statement in this typically grand design from Fazio which features contoured, manicured fairways, sparkling creeks, towering waterfalls and lush gardens.
Fazio created two courses for the Pelican Hill resort in 1991, which is located down the coast from Los Angeles. Of the pair, Ocean South is slightly better owing to its orientation to the shore. Fazio returned for renovations in the mid-2000s and made Ocean South even better. The ground is rugged and cut with ravines leading to the ocean, and the routing proceeds up and down. Each of the holes is distinct; some are links-like, and nearly every one features fantastic ocean panoramas. At the Ocean North course, there are panoramic ocean views from every tee box and open canyons and elevated plateaus dot the landscape. Several holes weave their way right down to the cliff’s edge. A pair of ocean-side gems.
Sandy Lane Golf Club – The Green Monkey Course, Barbados
Opened in 2004, this course is rated by All Square as the 3rd best course on the Caribbean island of Barbados. Fazio carved the layout from an old limestone quarry and its rock faces form dramatic contrasts to the lush green rolling fairways and offer challenging elevation changes. Almost every hole at this par-72, 7,343-yard parkland course have beautiful views of the coast. The bunker at the par-3 16th has a grass island in the middle in the shape of one of the island’s native monkeys after which the course is named. Typical of Fazio, this is a breathtaking course with a unique and striking aesthetic which includes stepped fairways, clusters of scallop shaped bunkers, ravines, cross hazards and lakes.
Designed by Fazio and opened in 2009, Corales is a stunning world class 18-hole course with six ocean-side holes. He used the natural cliffs, bays and coves of the sea and the inland lakes and quarries to make a visually striking layout. The challenge culminates at the Devil’s Elbow, the memorable final three holes. The dramatic 18th is the pick of them with its forced carry over the cliff-lined Bay of Corales. It’s an inspired and memorable ending to a breathtaking golf experience. Fazio’s design is able to test the best of golfers while remaining fun and exciting for those with a high handicap, echoing his design philosophy of balancing playability and difficulty.