If artists only become famous when they die, it is now time to honor the collective works of golf course designer Mike Strantz.
His death on June 10 at age 50, following a three-year battle with tongue cancer, brings to a premature close the most creative burst of energy in the history of golf design. Over a 10-year period, Strantz created eight brilliant designs, each of them unlike anything that had been imagined before. Each of them leaving golfers thrilled, in awe, and sometimes a bit confused. But always amazed at what they had seen.
In the late 1970s, Strantz was on the maintenance crew at the Inverness Club in Toledo when George and Tom Fazio were engaged in a renovation project. Strantz had a feel for the work, and Tom Fazio was so impressed he asked Strantz to join his rapidly expanding design crew. Soon Strantz was lead man on such successful, eye-catching projects as Wild Dunes, Black Diamond Ranch and Wade Hampton.
Tired of the travel and hoping to settle down in Charleston, S.C., Strantz tried his hand as a commercial artist before going back into golf course design and construction.
He went solo in 1994 with Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. Working on a cramped piece of land south of Myrtle Beach, he said he was “terrified, scared stiff,” to be working on it alone. But the classic feel and the boldness of the features he created resonated with golfers. Today, the course is No. 73 on Golfweek’s list of America’s Best Modern courses. More work followed, all of it done in collaboration with former PGA Tour player Forrest Fezler.
Strantz is survived by his wife, Heidi, and two daughters, Dana and Andrea.