Douglas Carrick first became interested in the game of golf around the age of 13, when he began caddying and developing his skills as a competitive golfer. His involvement in the game also inspired his interest in golf course design and he began to explore the field of landscape architecture in relation to golf course design and golf course maintenance. In 1981, he graduated from the University of Toronto and soon began apprenticing under Clinton (“Robbie”) Robinson, who learned the tricks of the trade himself under the renowned golf course architect, Stanley Thompson. The experience and contact base provided to him by Robinson helped Carrick established his practice in 1985. He continued to work with Robinson until he passed away in 1989.
For more than 30 years, Carrick Design has specialized in golf course design, with both the remodelling of older golf courses and the building of new ones. The overall goal of the practice is to provide “great service and outstanding value, with creative design solutions that withstand the test of time.” According to Carrick, the scope of services provided by his team are very comprehensive, beginning with initial consultation, conceptual design, land planning and carrying through to the preparation of construction drawings and specifications and the provision of on- site supervision during construction. “A lot of our newer golf courses are associated with residential development and resort development,” he says. “So, we’ll often get involved in the overall initial master planning of where residential areas – resort areas – are integrated with the layout of the golf course.”
When beginning a project, Carrick’s philosophy is to eliminate any preconceived notions about how the course “should” look. He explains that he and his team try to react to the client’s vision to the best of their ability, but also to adapt to the “unique characteristics” of each site. Every course environment is different, and may have elements that are more “environmentally sensitive or significant” than others, so the ability to be innovative and adaptable is key throughout each project. While the client’s vision is always first and foremost, Carrick Design aims to optimize each project to reflect sustainability and functionality throughout its framework. “We really try and work within the vision that’s been communicated by our clients and by the requirements of the site that we’re working with, and try to work within that framework to develop the scheme for the golf course, including the design style of the golf course. We try to vary our design style from project to project, depending on what we feel is most appropriate.”
Currently, one of Carrick Design’s main projects is the development of a new golf resort at Big Bay Point on Lake Simcoe called Friday Harbour Resort. According to Carrick, the large resort development project has just over 2,000 planned resort units, which are centred around a 1,000-slip marina along Lake Simcoe, as well as an 18-hole golf course. While Carrick’s involvement has mainly been around the development of the golf course, the earth from the excavation of the marina has also played a key part for his design. “All the material from the excavation of the marina was hauled to golf course and utilized to create a dramatically undulating landscape,” he says. “So, it was a way to reduce some of the cost for our client, by not having to haul the material away to another site. The golf course will be completed this year, and will be open for play in 2018.”
Another major project for Carrick Design was Aurora’s Lebovic Golf Club, which features a small residential development of 75 homes. A single long cul-de-sac extends into the golf course, says Carrick, with each home having an exclusive view. Lebovic opened for play in 2016, and was ranked as the Third Best New Public Course in North America by Golf Digest. That same year, it also won the Design Excellence Award for environmental sustainability through the American Society of Golf Architects, and more recently, it earned third place for Golf Inc. Magazine’s Development of the Year. One of the unique aspects of Lebovic Golf Club is its location on the Oak Ridges Moraine; this particular geographical detail required Carrick and his team to be very environmentally sensitive in regards to the details of the project.
“We weren’t allowed to use any ground water from the aquifer for irrigation, so the course is designed to capture storm water runoff in a series of ponds, and that water is utilized for irrigation purposes,” he says. “Once the homes come online, the storm water will be mixed with the treated effluent from the homes, and will be used for irrigation. There’s half a dozen ponds on the course that are all interconnected. So, water can be taken from the various ponds and transferred into the main irrigation pond, which will also store the treated effluent from the residential area and the clubhouse – and that water is utilized for irrigating the golf course.”
After establishing his career based on strong partnerships, Carrick has a firm understanding of the importance of relationships within the industry. Not only do relationships with various architects, engineers, environmental consultants, contractors and suppliers help businesses like Carrick’s meet the needs of their clients, but they are also very important in advancing the sustainability of golf courses that has been so desperately needed over the last decade. “I think there have been a couple of issues that are challenging the golf industry,” he says. “Environmental issues have certainly been an important aspect that the golf industry has had to react to over the past 20 to 25 years and, in general, are doing a very good job of creating more sustainable, environmentally responsible golf courses – along with golf course superintendents who have developed and promoted -integrated pest management programs to enhance the landscapes and golf courses that they maintain.
The other aspect that I think has been very challenging in the last 10 years or so is the economic viability of golf courses. In 2008, the economic crisis had quite a big impact on the golf industry, and made a lot of operators and developers realize that they had to be a little more financially aware of making golf courses viable business entities – and finding ways to build, maintain, and run golf courses a little more efficiently, economically, and make the game more affordable for people, to try and keep participation rates up; keep people interested in the game. So, I think that’s been one of the bigger challenges facing the industry now. Just keeping people engaged in the game of golf; trying to find ways to make it a little more affordable, maybe a little more welcoming to people, and making the golf courses a little more enjoyable and fun to play – so that people don’t get frustrated and leave the game. It’s important for golfers to have a good experience while playing golf.”
Ultimately, Carrick believes that the future of golf has improved significantly, with more young people and women showing an interest in the game and many golfers returning to the game after a short hiatus. Going forward, he believes the increase in participation from a variety of different demographics will help grow the game. “I think a number of people are coming back to the game and we’re seeing a little bit of growth in the game, or at least it’s stabilized to the point where the industry’s feeling a little more positive in general about participation,” he says. “So, that’s encouraging to see. Now we’re starting to see some good junior programs being developed at a number of different clubs and really trying to encourage young people to get involved in the game, and we’re certainly seeing more women getting involved. Those are all very encouraging signs for the future. I think, in general, clubs are trying to be a lot more family-friendly, and trying to encourage that participation – especially in young people, and certainly in women. So, those have all been very positive things for the game.”