Jul 24, 1939
Montclair, New Jersey, USA


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Interview with golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

Carrying the same name as the world's most famous golf course designer could have been a burden for Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

But the firstborn of the first family of golf course architecture has proven himself every bit the artist as his illustrious father.

In a career that has spanned more than five decades, Jones has designed or renovated more than 300 courses with his works appearing in 40 countries and six continents.

And his resume isn't just about quantity. Nine of his courses were among Golf Digest's top 100 you can play in 2013-14, a figure topped only by Pete Dye (13) and Tom Fazio (10).

Among his most recognized works in the U.S. are Chambers Bay in Washington; Hawaiian gems The Prince, Makai, Poipu Bay and Wailea; and California classics Poppy Hills, the Links at Spanish Bay, CordeValle and Silverado, his amazing debut effort in Napa which opened when he was just 27 years old.

If there's a decidedly Western theme, there's a reason. After Jones' graduation from Yale, he went to Stanford for graduate school and eventually set up shop in Palo Alto, Calif. Meanwhile younger brother Rees, also a Yale graduate, settled near the family headquarters in Montclair, N.J. and took jobs largely on the east coast.

Like his father, Robert Trent Jones Jr. was known for building courses that commune with their environment and use deception and camouflage.

But Jones also was profoundly influenced by A.W. Tillinghast, whose courses Jones' said consistently "rise to the level of art."

"I'd have to say I emulated A.W. Tilinghast the most. His shot options influenced me, that you can access the green through an easy route or fly the ball to a tucked pin in a harder location."

It's Jones' emphasis on the creative process that led him overseas, where projects aren't as likely to be tied to real estate ventures or hindered by environmental regulations.

He has designed 12 of the top 100 courses in Japan, four of the top 10 in China, and according to Golf Digest, the no. 1 course in 10 nations and the no. 1 in 10 U.S. states.

That resume is the product of Jones' ambition, fueled by his desire to set himself apart as an artist.

"All my courses are symphonies with dominant themes," Jones said. "They have crescendos and lulls. There are different rhythms, you can feel the changes."

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