August 3, 2017
You can find the original article in Spanish on Turfes.com HERE
1. Tell us your names and how you involved in golf course architecture.
Dana Fry. In the summer of 1983 I met Tom Fazio’s right hand man Andy Banfield at a bar. They were just starting a new job in Tucson, Arizona then called Ventana Canyon. He invited out for a tour and then offered me a part time job. After that job Tom Fazio offered me a full time job and my career was off. I worked with Tom Fazio from Aug. 1983 thru March 1998. Then worked with Dr. Hurdzan from April 1988 thru July 2012. I then formed Fry Straka Global Golf Design with Jason Straka, who worked with Dr. Hurdzan and me for 17 years.
Jason Straka. I started off as a greenskeeper for three years in northern Ohio to gain experience in maintenance. I attended Cornell University and received a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture where I completed a senior thesis under Tom Doak. I worked two seasons with McDonald and Sons (golf construction) and completed a master’s degree in agronomy under Dr. Norm Hummel at Cornell. My thesis was on the environmental design of Widow’s Walk Golf Course, which is widely recognized as the United States first environmental demonstration golf course. Norm introduced me to Mike Hurdzan in 1991. In 1995 I went to work with Mike and Dana until July 2012.
2. Assumption is always that architects play golf. What level of golfer are you and how does that help in your architecture?
Dana Fry. I was a scratch player for a number of years and played a little for the Univ. of Arizona from 1980 thru 1983. I am currently a 4.8 index at my home club Calusa Pines GC in Naples, Florida. I think being a pretty good golfer and playing and seeing a couple thousand courses around the world has exposed me to many different types of golf courses in all types of terrains, soil conditions, climates, etc. All of this has helped mold me into the architect I am today. Playing at a decent level helped me to understand shot values and how to create a fair but stern test of golf.
Jason Straka. I played competitive golf as a junior, carried a 3 handicap and won smaller tournaments like our city championship. I still maintain an index around a 9 but I do not shoot nearly the low scores as I used to. Having been able to break par at one time, but now as someone who struggles to break 80 has given me perspective on what it takes to make golf courses fun and playable, but yet how to challenge excellent players. I think what gets lost on many average golfers is that what is hard for them is not necessarily so for the games better players.
3. What has been the greatest lesson you have learned along the arc of your design careers?
Dana Fry. That there are many ways to create a great golf hole.
Jason Straka. I hold a paper to this day from Dr. Karl von Terzaghi, who is considered “The Father of Soil Mechanics”. He wrote, “The worst habit you can possibly acquire is to become uncritical towards your own concepts and at the same time skeptical towards those of others. Once you arrive at that state you are in the grip of senility, regardless of your age.” I drag that out and force myself to read it every so often. I try to keep myself humble and open to learning from others.
4. What property has been the most enjoyable to work with? This is not to slight any other property, but to highlight a special one.
Dana Fry. Obviously this is a very difficult question to answer but with Erin Hills hosting the US Open this summer it goes without saying this is going to be the course I am remembered for. It also happened to be the best site I have ever worked on and the process of building the course was a very memorable one.
Jason Straka. Tough question because the best or most enjoyable property doesn’t necessarily equivalate to a favorite project. I am excited for our new project in Brazil, both because of the site and the client. The site is reminicent of The Boulders in Scottsdale, AZ with it’s large and unique rock outcroppings, and our client is a golf fanatic and all-world great person. It has the potential to be right up there with my favorite sites and projects we’ve worked on.
5. Describe a bit of the international flavor of golf course architecture these days. You have offices in many countries, speaking many different languages.
Dana Fry. I started traveling regularly overseas to Asia for work in 2006 and moved to Hong Kong full time for several years until moving back to the U.S. in Dec. 2013. I have now traveled to over 100 countries and it goes without saying that if you want to continue to build new golf courses you will in fact have to work internationally. As for myself I love the adventure, travel and challenge of working in foreign countries but it isn’t easy. The language barriers, lack of qualified golf course contractors and limited knowledge of golf in some of these countries presents many obstacles but I found the rewards far greater. I plan on working overseas for the rest of my career.
Jason Straka. Dana said it perfectly. I too enjoy immersing myself in other cultures and exposing my family and friends to them as well. It makes the world a smaller place and a better one to live in. The work challenges are indeed greater, but it’s rewarding to leave a legacy where many golfers will enjoy the course and all the benfits the game brings for a long time. In fact, that is what is most rewarding for me in my chosen profession. Many of my fondest memories throughout my life, as well as life-long values, were developed in and around the game of golf. I am honored to be able to bring that to others, especially on an international stage.
6. How much does course maintenance come into mind when designing/renovating a golf course?
Dana Fry. Very much so. We work with the supt. to select the varieties of grass to use, type of greens construction, amendments to be added, etc. Also in working with the owner & supt. we learn to understand the maintenance level that is expected on the course when completed. We determine if the greens and tees will be walk mowed or by a riding mower, will the bunkers be hand raked or by a machine. Once we know the answers to those questions it helps us determine the style and final shaping that we will do on the course. For example: If it is a lower budgeted facility obviously it is shaped with more distance between the greens and bunkers so they can be mowed with a riding greens mowers but if it is a high level club with a larger maint. budget the bunkers will be far closer to the greens edge and they will be walk mowed. In short we as golf course architects work very closely with the supt. during the entire planning and construction process.
Jason Straka. I actually started off my career as a greenskeeper. I knew that to be a successful architect I needed an intricate understanding of how my decisions as a designer would impact the long term ability to properly maintain a golf course. I also have a masters degree in agronomy and during my advanced studies I completed environmental research on putting green construction, among other topics. So, I take that training and couple it with decades of experience to tailor our construction specifications to each individual project. In addition to the items Dana mentioned we also closely research such things as irrigation water quality and quantity, soil types, ground and surface water, seasonal temperatures and rainfall amounts, microclimates on the site, available construction materials and even labor, before we ever begin laying out golf holes. Our detailed research and analysis allows our courses to be well maintained given all of a particular site’s challenges and opportunities and for a reasonable budget.
7. How are you going to help the Spanish Golf Course Superintendent Turfes Community?
Jason Straka. First, it’s important to understand that Fry/Straka is committed to expanding its business in Latin America, and to successfully do so we know that begins with developing strong relationships with Latin American, Spanish-speaking superintendents. This group is the foundation of golf in this region. We know that we can bring our global experience in design, construction and maintenance to Latin America to assist in creating better designs and construction to more easily maintain golf courses for a reasonable budget, but at higher levels of conditioning. Further, we have several Spanish-speaking associates who can assist us in overcoming any language barriers. F/S also has developed a strong business relationship with many Latin American material suppliers and professional consultants to more easily create a team who can overcome most design challenges. Lastly, we are willing to travel to many Latin American venues to instruct professional classes, just as we have done throughout Europe, Asia and North America. It would be our pleasure to organize several trips and seminars if any groups are interested.