Like Perry Maxwell who began his career working with golf course designers such as Alister Mackenzie, Jim Urbina began his education in golf design working with legendary golf course designer Pete Dye. Jim did not have any preconceived notions of what a good golf course should look like nor did he have a golf game that formed a design philosophy that he must adhere to. He learned from the ground up. Walking with Pete listening to what was important to him, sometimes kneeling down in the dirt with Pete so he could shape with his hands what he wanted the feature to look like. Pete Dye would look on as Jim would shape a green or sometimes even climbing on a tractor to show Jim what he wanted. When Pete knew Jim didn’t understand a concept he would send him packing on a plane to look at a golf hole he was trying to emulate. Today, Jim is still spending considerable time looking at golf courses gathering ideas and formulating plans.
Jim went on to work for Pete and his son Perry on many of their designs in the Asian rim during the Japanese golf boom. He quickly was put to work assisting with the large grading maps for many of the golf courses being built in the late 80’s. Jim has a degree from University of Northern Colorado in Education. He taught high school drafting prior to golf; it’s that ability to visualize in three dimensions and his knowledge of topographical mapping that helped his learning process.
During the tenure with the Dye family he met Tom Doak. Jim would later leave the Dyes and for the next 17 years he would design and build golf courses with Tom Doak. Always in the same fashion he first learned with Pete Dye, using the model of design/build. Jim went on to build many golf courses using in-house crews, including Apache Stronghold, Pacific Dunes, Sebonack and Old Macdonald.
Under the Jim Urbina Golf Design banner, Jim continues his close working relationship with several talented shapers and construction crews that he has worked with over many years. The foundation he first learned from Pete Dye has served Jim well in his many years in the golf business. "A talented team is the foundation for every great golf course built in the last 100 years." Studying great golf courses like St. Andrews, Cypress Point, Prairie Dunes, the National Golf Links and Pinehurst #2 helped build a foundation for the future. From the very first days in the field crafting and shaping ideas to co-designing Old Macdonald, the foundation has always stayed the same. Being on the ground "in the field willing to try new ideas"; he trys to use local labor crews when possible and recently created the new Punchbowl Green at the Bandon Dunes Resort relying on the Pacific Dunes maintenance crew to complete all of the construction work.
Jim uses that same in the field philosophy when consulting on Golden Age designs, including several golf courses designed by Alister Mackenzie. He has also consulted on the works of Charles Blair Macdonald, William Flynn, Donald Ross, Seth Raynor, A.W. Tillinghast, Vernon Macan, Devereux Emmett, Walter Travis and C.H. Alison to name a few. By preserving these classic courses Jim not only encapsulates these timeless designs he gains knowledge from what made these courses so legendary. Never out of style and created with a personal touch. He continues to search out clubs with an interest in preserving the past without the notion of change for sake of modernization.
Jim spent several years restoring Pasatiempo Golf Club. The club’s inability to close the course required that the restoration of the bunkers and greens to happen over a longer period of time. The meticulous work that Mackenzie and Hunters construction crews took to create the bunkers also required that we spend the same amount of time to faithfully restore that flare. The Valley Club of Montecito and Claremont were the other Mackenzie designs that received that special attention. He continues these long term relationships to this day.
Many of the clubs that have experienced Jim’s work include Yeamans Hall, The Valley Club of Montecito and San Francisco Golf. Jim spent his time surveying and floating out each and every green, ensuring that no details were left undone. Jim oversaw all of the work and assisted the clubs with construction costs, construction timelines and overseeing the shapers that performed the work. Recently Jim had the chance to restore Sankaty Head Golf Club over the past two seasons, keeping the spirit of Emerson Armstrong's one off design alive and well. The membership is ecstatic and enjoying the true flavor of 'Links Golf' on the Atlantic Ocean.
Jim believes that not every golf course should be 8,500 yards long and prepped for championship play. This is the standard he conveys when consulting at established clubs across the country. These ideas are not sustainable in today’s golfing climate. Make the course enjoyable for most players providing ample variety and testing shots.
During this time when golf is evolving, Jim looks forward too many more years of hand crafting timeless golf courses.
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