CPGA Member Kirsten Brown: Sculpting the Future in Golf Course Architecture

CPGA Member Kirsten Brown: Sculpting the Future in Golf Course Architecture

ACTON, ON (July 6, 2007) - Kirsten Brown was a bit of a late bloomer in the world of golf. She started her career in golf at the age of 19 in the pro shop at Camden Braes Golf and Country Club, a small family owned golf course near Kingston, Ontario. It wasn’t long after until she was given the run of the place, from conducting the tournaments, to coordinating events, Kirsten had the opportunity to learn all aspects of the business of golf and loved every facet of the facility. After a short and unsuccessful stint in the real estate business, Kirsten decided to talk with Kevin Wolfram, the Head Professional at Camden Braes, for some advice on whether she should pursue a career in golf. “Kevin told me right away that he thought I would be a great golf pro, and that I had a perfect background already in what others in the industry would desire,” says Kirsten. Little did Kirsten know that taking this advice from Wolfram would forever change her life. Kirsten decided to head to Toronto to complete the three year Professional Golf Management (PGM) course at Humber College to start her career as a golf pro.

In her first year at the College, she took a course in ‘Careers in Professional Golf Management’ that would inadvertently decide the outcome of her fate in the world of golf. “One of the first speakers at this course was Allan Chud, he stood up in front of the class and explained to us all what he did in the golf course architecture business, and right then a light bulb went off in my head; I wanted to do this,” Kirsten recalls, “I talked to him after class was finished and told him of my interest, I think the class was on the Wednesday, and I was working for him the next Monday, and I have been working with him for the last seven years”. Kirsten says that many in the PGM program perceive the course in 'careers' like “under-water basket weaving”, but she explains that it was one of the best decisions she has ever made in her life, as the contacts she made are now essential. Kirsten became a CPGA member in 2003, and apprenticed at Wooden Sticks, Oakdale Golf and Country Club, as well as Hunters’ Glen Golf Club all while working for Allan Chud at the Chud Group Inc. Kirsten would work 15 hour days at the course and then complete her work for golf course architecture to ensure that she wouldn’t lose the opportunity to learn from Allan. After completing her PGM, Kirsten continued to work at Chud Group Inc., and taught golf lessons on the side.

Kirsten knew that her passion was in golf course architecture, and thought that it would be best to gain education that was more specific in the landscape/architecture world. She decided to head over to the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA), in Surrey England, to pursue a program that is dedicated to her love of golf course architecture. The entry into this program is extremely rigorous; over 60 people apply for 16 spots. The program is a distance learning course over a period of two years with ten weeks of intensive tuition at the five centres: Merrist Wood College, Surrey, England, Myerscough College, Lancashire, England, Deula, Kempen, Germany, Boavista, Algarve, Portugal, Elmwood College, Fife, Scotland. There are only 16 students admitted to the program every second year, to maintain a high quality of learning. The teaching takes the form of five modules of lectures, field studies, and design workshops, the last of which includes the final presentation and assessment of course work. “It was a great experience studying there, the students came from all over the world, so we got such a creative boost by just listening to others stories and hearing about courses from their homeland,” says Kirsten. “It is so interesting to see different backgrounds and watch how some countries seem to take more caution in ensuring environmental sensitivity issues are met in their designs”. Every few months the class would travel to one of the five centres for a two week period to study the architecture of nearby courses and complete their field work. Kirsten will finish this program mid-August, and then head to the University of Guelph in the fall to begin her Masters in landscape architecture (a two year course with an additional year of thesis work).

While Kirsten worked on completing her course overseas, she still completed her day to day work at Chud Group Inc. At Chud Group Inc., Kirsten and Allan do a lot of work using autoCAD, a program used to design holes and create plans for courses. Both Allan and Kirsten also create many responses for client’s requests for proposals. Kirsten finds herself doing a lot of field work, being the on-site contact at the course working with contractors and making sure the design created is implemented in the field. Currently, Kirsten is working on a few hole designs at Oakdale Golf and Country Club where she is in charge of ensuring that decisions are made with artistic intent while on site at the course.

Kirsten is looking forward to one day creating courses that will have a forever timeless design. “I would like to create something that will look the same in 100 years as it does now, that is environmentally sensitive, and will still hold up as a challenge when designs change in the future. When I think of courses like that today, I think of architects like Stanley Thompson, or Alister MacKenzie, and they are the type of people that I would like to frame myself after” says Kirsten.

When asked what she believes would be the best advice for those getting started in the golf industry or for those interested in golf course architecture, she says to “leave all of your options open, because you never know what opportunities lie around the corner”. Kirsten is the only female golf course architect in Canada, and believes that it is a growing field and great opportunity for other women to get involved. “There was one other female in my program from Europe, and in the history of the EIGCA there are three female graduates and 157 male graduates, so it is definitely a field in which more women can get involved”. She explained that it was the best idea to pursue a CPGA membership, as her career was sparked by the interest in one of her classes in the CPGA education program. She suggests to those who are contemplating going into PGM programs to absolutely take every opportunity to network and work closely with teachers and mentors. “The people that come in and dedicate their time to these courses can change your life, and can be extremely inspiring,” explains Kirsten. “They have definitely changed my life, and I owe it to them; although my work may take me overseas, I will always have my roots here in Canada”.

Pictured above in descending order: Kirsten Brown, EIGCA headquarters in Surrey, England, Kirsten Brown in the field, Kirsten Brown with EIGCA collegues

For more information please contact:

Erica Bury
Communications Coordinator
Canadian PGA

About the CPGA:

Established in 1911, the Canadian Professional Golfers’ Association is a non-profit association comprised of approximately 3,500 golf professionals across the country with a mandate to promote and advance the game of golf, serving the needs of both its membership and the golf public through professional and junior golf development programs and high-calibre competitive events. The National Office is located in Acton, Ontario with nine Zone Offices across the country. For more information, visit www.cpga.com