Golf architect Larry Packard, 101, dies

Larry Packard, one of the most prolific golf course architects of the post-World War II era, died Jan. 28. He was 101.

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Larry Packard, one of the most prolific golf course architects of the post-World War II era, died Jan. 28 at his home at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla. Packard was 101.

Packard was proud to design courses for the common man, but with an aesthetic flair. He typically made the first five holes of his courses among the easiest of each routing so that players could ease their way into their rounds.

“He represented the average golfer rather than being worried about the low handicapper,” Dick Phelps, a retired architect and longtime friend of Packard’s, told Golfweek last year. “Larry was doing beautiful courses for the masses.”

Packard didn’t start out to be a golf architect, and didn’t take up the game until he was in his 30s. He graduated in 1935 from Massachusetts’ School of Landscape Architecture, and in 1944 he landed a job with Chicago-based architect Robert Bruce Harris. It was there that he first began designing golf courses, among other projects. During that part of his career he also helped design the O’Hare airfield.

He soon set up his own practice and focused on designing golf courses. It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise number of courses he designed, but his son and former business partner, Roger Packard, estimated that his father built at least 250 courses before retiring in 1986.

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Larry's Packard’s signature design trait was the double-dogleg par 5, just like the 14th hole at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course.

Packard’s signature design trait was the double-dogleg par 5, as exemplified by the 14th hole at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course, a regular stop on the PGA Tour.

"I don’t want you to play my courses once," Packard said during a March 2013 interview with Golfweek, shortly before the Tour event. "I want you to come back. . . . I want you to have fun."

Packard also gets much of the credit for transforming the American Society of Golf Course Architects from a social organization to a professional trade group that debated serious architectural issues. It was Packard who famously went to Marshall Field's department store in Chicago and picked out the bright red tartan blazer worn by members of the society.

Packard often was referred to as a “perfectionist” who was dedicated to his craft. His drawings were known to be pristine, and he expected the same from colleagues.

But he also had a playful side. Packard had many gifts – he played the piano, banjo and organ, could sing and dance, and recite poetry from memory. At ASGCA gatherings, Packard, with his booming voice and expansive personality, led the post-meeting festivities, often gathering counterparts to sing barber-shop songs late into the night.

In an email last year, Roger Packard, who moved his design practice to China, wrote this about his father: “Always the gentleman. Family came first. A great teacher and partner. A great sense of humor. Talented in so many ways. He’s very old school, which is refreshing today.”

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