After more than 40 years and countless course designs, Arthur Hills has left a last imprint on the golf industry. He has designed some of the world’s most terrific courses, in varied style and topography, each with its own unique characteristics. From the great plains of Walking Stick Golf Club in Pueblo, CO to the stunning views and links-style play of Michigan’s Bay Harbor to Ohio’s Best, Shaker Run, Hills has done a bit of everything. And while many of their contemporaries build signature features into their courses each time out, the design team of Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest & Associates approaches each design much differently.
“Every time you do a golf course you’re trying to do the best you can do, better than you’ve ever done,” Hills says. “People do say they recognize things about my courses, but I guess that’s true of anything people design. But I like to think of our courses as being quite different from one another.”
But different as they may be, they all are made up of the same key principles that Hills and his staff bring to each project.
“To me, playability is very important,” Hills explains. “Strategy is very important. To me, if you’re going to have a good golf course, you’ve got to have strategy, playability, and the aesthetics are very important. if you look at the golf courses in the British Isles, some of them are kind of brutish looking, or rugged looking. But to me, they’re very attractive, because they’re not trying for pretty.”
As the years go by and the game changes, Hills’ designs change with it, altering to better challenge today’s players. But Hills himself hasn’t changed much through the years, other than the level of success he has achieved. He’s watched his business, Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest & Associates, grow into an acclaimed force in the industry. He works with several accomplished and up-and-coming designers, including his partner, Forrest, as wel as Brian Yoder, Drew Rogers and Chris Wilczynski. It’s come a long way from a side business in the back of a house to a team of 10 with courses all over the world, but it hasn’t gone to his head. His principles remained unchanged.
It’s that common-sense approach to business that Hills brings to his work, where the land dictates design, where form always follows function. Like those courses in the British Isles, Hills never tries too hard to pretty. Luckily for us, it just works out that way.