Drawing Inspiration: Q&A with greenskeeper / aspiring golf course designer Cameron Hurdus

View of the golf course

The people who spend the most time on golf course aren’t the golfers – they’re the greenskeepers. Green Industry professionals are comprised of a variety of workers with differing talents and vocations – but they all share a passion for sculpting and caring for these green pastures because of what the finished product becomes – a unique landscape transformed into a manicured beauty.

While he is a lifelong golfer, Cameron Hurdus isn’t your typical greenskeeper. He is a self-taught student of famed course architect Alister Mackenzie, and has his eye for detail – fully appreciating a course’s swales and hollows as he mows and rolls greens. Like his amateur designs, he no doubt notes the playability of a hole for amateurs and pros alike as he lays new sod on a tee box. You see, Hurdus does more than simply work on the course at Sand Point Country Club in Seattle, WA – he designs them.

Hurdus is the 2016 winner of the Lido Prize (in-addition to his 2012 victory and multiple runner-ups) which may or may not be familiar to those in the green industry. The Lido Prize Competition is a chance for up-and-coming golf course architects to design a par 3, 4 or 5 hole (it changes every year). The hole should show yardages, tee locations, hazards, bunkers and alternative playing routes – in other words, the hand-drawn designs should be incredibly detailed and realistic.

As the golf industry changes, grounds crews are certainly important in shaping the future of the game. But few draw inspiration from the landscape, the scenic serenity the game provides, and the lessons the game can teach like Hurdus. Here’s a quick Q&A with the 2016 Lido winner.

Q. What are your duties at Sand Point, and how does that help you as a budding course designer?

A. Right now I\’m a full-time greenskeeper on a 13-man crew (give or take). I do a little bit of everything from mowing tees, fairways, and greens; laying sod; doing tree maintenance; rolling greens; setting the course; bunker maintenance, etc.

I think it really helps anyone interested in golf course design to work on a course and get the experience maintaining all different features. It was my goal when I started the job to really gain some knowledge and background as it relates to course design and it has absolutely done that for me.

Greenkeepers maintaining a golf course
(Hurdus works on a bunker at Sand Point CC)

Q. What inspires you and how do you use working on the ground’s crew at Sand Point as inspiration for your designs?

A. One of my main inspirations is landscapes (hills, mountains, vista) which is one reason why, I think, golf is so attractive to me. The views at Sand Point really are second to none in the whole Seattle area. The course is essentially on the side of a hill which slopes towards Lake Washington so we have great views of the north end of the lake plus massive panoramic vistas of a huge chunk of the Cascade Mountain range. It’s really awesome.

View of the golf course
(Sand Point CC sits just above the shores of Lake Washington)

Q. Was your passion for golf the reason you pursued course design or did your interest for overall design cause you to look at golf courses?

A. I think my interest in golf led to my interest in course design. I remember getting more serious about golf between ages 7-10 and then starting to realize that someone has design and build these courses. I just love how different it is from every other sport/game. There are some basic standards for every course but, otherwise, each venue can be completely unique from the previous. It’s why creative and competent course designers are so important to the sport.

Q. Who is your favorite course designer and how did you get interested in course design?

A. One of the great parts about winning a competition named for Alister MacKenzie is that he has always been my favorite designer! The reason I got into course design originally was it was a great way for me to combine my art interests with my love of golf. I was drawing quite a bit, and creating my own golf holes from scratch was a really great way to be creative and expand my own understanding of golf and golf strategy.

Cameron’s 2016 Lido Competition Hole Design
(Cameron’s 2016 Lido Competition Hole Design)

Q. What has been the most memorable part of the Lido Design Competition experience?

A. Getting to travel to the MacKenzie Society meetings, without a doubt. Apparently, I only win when it’s held in the Southern Hemisphere because my last trip was to Buenos Aires. Not only did I get to play a relatively unknown Mackenzie course in the Jockey Club, I got to meet a ton of great people from his other courses around the world. It was a seriously cool experience.

Q. How is the golf (and golf design) industry changing and what do you think about the changes?

A. I think the golf design industry specifically is in a great place right now, even if the amount of work isn’t near where it was 15 years ago. The business feels like it’s moved away from large firms centered in offices to more site-specific crews, many of whom do their own construction. Architects spend a ton of time working on-site and often do a lot of shaping and hands-on work themselves. Most importantly though, there has been a return to creative, aesthetic, and strategic design. It certainly feels like a renaissance in that respect which I think a lot Lido winners, being fans of Dr. MacKenzie, really appreciate.

Q. What are some of the courses in the Midwest you hope to play someday?

A. If I did have to pick my top courses I’d like to play, Erin Hills would have to be No. 1. The courses at Whistling Strait would also be a blast to experience, but, the images coming out of the new Sand Valley resort look pretty stunning. It certainly feels like that could be one of the golf destinations in the region.

Cameron’s mower of choice on the course: Toro
(Cameron’s mower of choice on the course: Toro)

The greenskeepers don’t always get the praise or the glory on Sunday afternoons, but they very well should. The superintendents and greenskeepers across the world work tirelessly to make sure the game of golf is as enjoyable as it’s ever been. It’s the green industries’ job to highlight the hard work and dedication of golf course workers like Cameron who don’t just show up at the crack of dawn and keep the course in perfect condition, but push the game of golf to grow and make advancements. Surely, the game is in good hands.

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