First Solo Design Leads Architect to Scotland

The Sporting Life
By Dave Wik

Invited as a special guest, personable Kyle Phillips of Granite Bay took advantage of the opportunity with a third-place among low gross honors at the annual California Golf Writers Association Tournament held at the Resort at Squaw Creek in Olympic Valley near Lake Tahoe.

But for Phillips, who posted two rounds in the 70’s, his skill on the golf course was dwarfed by winning another prize with his real-life job – recently being commissioned to design the new Kingsbarns Golf Links, just seven miles from The Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Established in 1815 as the Kingsbarns Golf Club, the abandoned nine-hole course is being redesigned by Phillips into a par-72, 7,175-yard championship venue.

“The course, which will be accessible to the public, has views of the sea from every hole, including six holes directly adjacent to the sea,” said the enthused Phillips . “The site in many ways is reminiscent of Pebble Beach . However, the architectural style will be 100 percent Scottish.”

What makes the assignment even more dear to Phillips is that it represents his first solo design since departing from the noted Robert Trent Jones II Group golf architect firm in Palo Alto in June. “It is an incredible opportunity, and pure joy for me to give this land the thoughtful attention it deserves,” he said.

Since leaving the Jones company, Phillips set up his own golf course design office in Granite Bay , near the Granite Bay Golf Club, just outside of Roseville in the Sacramento Area. He previously served as vice president and golf architect for Jones for 16 years.

Phillips’ work has taken him to more than 20 countries – on behalf of some 60 clients – throughout Europe , South America , Asia , the Caribbean and North America . During that time, he developed an appreciation for a classical style of architecture patterned after legendary golf course designer such as H. S. Colt, Alister Mackenzie and Albert Tillinghast.

With the Jones Group, Phillips designed more than 25 courses, several of which have been the site of professional tour events and national championships. In addition, he has developed a reputation for solving difficult environmental and planning problems through projects, such as Squaw Creek, widely considered to be the most environmentally responsive course ever constructed with two-thirds of the layout dedicated to wetlands.

Phillips graduated with national honors from Kansas State University in 1981, with a degree in landscape architecture. A single-digit handicap player, he was a member of the K-State golf team for two years and was runner-up in the 1975 Missouri State Junior Golf Championship.

Phillips is a member of the American Society of Golf course architects (ASGCA) as well as the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). He has been a speaker at conventions held by the golf course superintendents in the U.S. and Europe.


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