Dick Wilson (golf course architect)

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Dick Wilson
Dick Wilson, golf course architect.jpg
L.S. Wilson

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
OccupationGolf course architect
Known forCog Hill Golf & Country Club and others

Dick Wilson (1904–1965) was a leading American golf course architect, who designed over sixty courses. Several of these still have a high reputation. He was known for his technique of elevating the greens when designing courses in relatively flat terrain, and for using ponds and bunkers to emphasize the aerial approach.

Early years[edit]

Dick Wilson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1904.[1] His father was a contractor. He worked as a water boy on construction of the Merion Golf Course in Philadelphia. He was admitted to the University of Vermont on a football scholarship.[2] After leaving university he joined the team of Howard C. Toomey and Bill Flynn of Philadelphia. In 1931 he supervised construction when Toomey and Flynn undertook a complete overhaul of the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.[1] With Toomey & Flynn he also worked on the course for the Cleveland Country Club, two golf courses at Boca Raton, Florida, the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts and Springdale, outside Princeton, among others.[3] He was a course superintendent for a while, then during World War II (1939–1945) he worked on airfield camouflage.[1]

Course architect[edit]

After the war Wilson became a golf course designer in his own right.[3] His style included broad fairways and large greens. He gave his bunkers a curvelinear form. In the flat country of Florida he developed a style in which putting surfaces were slightly raised, making them more visible and also helping with drainage. The axis of the green would be set at a 30% – 45% diagonal to the fairway, with a large bunker guarding the approach. Wilson's courses typically included various artificial lakes, largely to provide fill for the elevated tees and greens, but also for the sake of adding challenge.[1] His designs reflected the emerging concept that the putting surfaces should be reached by aerial approaches.[4]

The West Palm Beach Golf Course (1947) is an early example of Wilson's work, a championship course with rolling terrain and elevated greens.[5] In 1954 the Deepdale Golf Club bought the W.R. Grace estate on Long Island and had a new course designed by Dick Wilson.[6] By 1959, when he designed the course for the Cypress Lake Country Club, he was at the peak of his career. He was known for his renovation of the Seminole golf course in North Palm Beach and for his course design for the Hole In The Wall Golf Club in Naples, Florida.[4]

In 1960 Wilson did some work for the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. In 1960 land had been taken from the club's course for school development. Using adjoining land, Wilson designed a set of replacement holes that have now completely blended in with the original.[7] Dick Wilson and Joe Lee designed the 18-hole course for the private Lagunita Country Club in El Hatillo Municipality, Venezuela, a relatively prosperous part of Caracas. The course, part of a real estate development, opened in 1964.[8] While he was working on Cog Hill in Chicago in 1964, Wilson was not admitted to the club house. The reason was that Joe Jemsek, his employer, knew that if he went in for lunch his drinking would destroy the rest of the day's work. Instead, his lunch was brought out to him.[2]

Dick Wilson died in 1965 at the age of 61.[2]

Notable courses[edit]

Wilson designed or renovated at least sixty courses during his career, several of which are still highly regarded.[4] Some of Wilson's best courses, many of the later ones built in partnership with Joe Lee, included:[1]




  • "Course – History". Metropolitan Golf Club. Archived from the original on 2013-11-01. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
  • "History of the Golf Club". Deepdale Golf Club. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
  • Klein, Bradley S. (2013). "Dick Wilson Golf Course Architect". Golf Magazine. Archived from the original on 2013-10-31. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
  • "Lagunita Country Club". World Golf. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
  • "Local Golf Courses". Palm Beach Golf Center. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
  • Sherman, Ed (9 February 2009). "Troubled Genius". Retrieved 2013-10-29.
  • "The Story of Cypress Lake Country Club". Cypress Lake Country Club. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
  • Wind, Herbert Warren (31 October 1955). "The Meadow Brook Club's New Course In Jericho, L.I. Has All the Hallmarks Of A 'born Classic' Of Golf". Sports Illustrated. Time Warner. Retrieved 2013-10-30.