Tim Lobb is one of this country’s proudest exports when it comes to golf course design. We caught up with the Surrey-based architect to talk everything golf.
How many courses have you personally designed?
I have probably designed over 25 courses in more than 20 countries but in this business more probably stay on the drawings boards than get built. Of the built courses I believe it is around 10 courses completed. We have three new 18-hole projects in design and construction at present in Egypt, Turkey and Poland.
Additionally, we have consulted to more than 50 existing golf courses, mostly in and around the Surrey/Berkshire region. There are probably 300 golf courses within an hour drive of my house in Woking, Surrey.
Who were/are some of your idols?
In the golf design world some of the classic architects such as Harry Colt and Tom Simpson had an incredible ability to route golf courses to encompass all the natural features apparent on a site. Their courses have stood the test of time and are as enjoyable and visually striking today as they were when they were created.
Of the modern era, David McLay Kidd and Kyle Phillips have both been personal supporters and great idols of mine. They have a very distinctive vision for their projects which adds to the playing and landscape experience. I love playing their courses as they are so playable and always visually striking – the complete package.
How might somebody recognise that they’re playing one of your courses?
I hope that they see a course that allows golfers to get off the tee. We always try to create a safe and secure playing option off every tee. In recent times, we have been designing courses with less bunkers and more ground contours, so I hope that will be a recognisable characteristic for our courses.
For every project, we take a deep thought into the sustainability and landscape treatment for the golf course. Many new golf courses have an external landscape architect do the landscape plan. We make sure that we do the landscape strategy for every project and ensure it gives the golfing experience a boost by the landscape form.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing your profession?
I think the greatest challenge is people/clients not fully understanding the value of great design. Some short-sighted clients or clubs feel they don’t want to invest in the design process and consider it a luxury. History has shown that many of these clubs and clients have wasted excessive amounts of cash with amateur decision making through committees or rushing to construction.
Does the modern ball go too far?
For me the modern ball doesn’t really have a massive effect though I can probably play better now with little practice than when I was younger and practiced a lot.
For professional and tournament golf, the ball is definitely going too far. I am not sure if it will be resolved but I hope it will be drawn back to ensure the longevity of classic tournament courses around the world.
What are some of the challenges living internationally?
The greatest challenge is missing my family and friends in Melbourne. I speak with my parents every week via FaceTime which is lovely but not the same as sitting down and having a cup of coffee together.
Where we live in Woking, Surrey it is very nice with vegetation and good transport links to London or Heathrow. As our projects are scattered around Europe, Middle East, Africa and upcoming in Canada, travel is a major part of my time.
Do you come back to Australia often?
We come to Australia every two years with my parents visiting us in Surrey on the other year. We normally base ourselves in Melbourne at my parents’ house in Hampton but now as our daughter gets older we are trying to explore more of Australia. Last visit we went to Sydney for four days which was fantastic.
Can you tell me about your family?
I have been married for 17 years and we have a 13-year-old daughter. Both don’t play golf, which makes golf on holidays pretty difficult. Both my parents are fit and healthy and play golf at Yarra Yarra and Cheltenham Golf Club. I also have a sister based in Melbourne.
Where do you see yourself working/living in 10 years?
We as a family have no plans to move away from the UK. It is very nice living here in Surrey – except for winter. Once our daughter goes to university or leaves home we might consider living in other destinations for a period of time.
What are some of your greatest aspirations?
I would love to design or work on a course in Australia one day, as throughout my 25 year career in the golf design business, I am yet to work in Australia. I hope one day that might change. A few clubs in Australia have approached us but as yet we have not secured a commission.
We have recently opened an office on the West Coast of Canada in Whistler and we seek to make an impact in the region over the coming years.
Perhaps the greatest aspiration would be to continue to design golf courses and turn my 25 years in the business into 50. I truly hope that will happen.