Rees Jones is farther along in his planning
for succession. He intends to keep working as
long as his father did, which would take him
into his 90s. But like von Hagge, he has listed
one of his associates — Greg Muirhead, Bryce
Swanson or Steve Weisser — as a co-designer
on each of his assignments.
“We have the most experienced sta; in the
business, and we’ve been establishing their cre-
dentials for years,” Jones said. “I believe they’ll
be able to continue because our clients know
them and are comfortable with them.”
;e ;rm that Jones and the other brand
names will be watching closely, however, is
Palmer’s, which so far is the biggest test case
for legacy architecture.
Johnson and his design partner, ;ad Layton,
are optimistic and determined. ;ey expect to
open courses in Florida and Minnesota this
year, and their to-do list includes not only the
course on Grand Cayman but also a high-pro-
;le commission at Castle Stuart Golf Links in
Scotland. Palmer’s daughter, Amy Saunders, is
now the face of the franchise. She recently said
she plans to open 20 courses in coming years.
“Last year was great for us, and 2017 looks to
be just as good,” Johnson said. “We’re actively
engaged with potential clients around the
Von Hagge, Smelek & Baril is likewise hope-
ful these days, for at long last some of the proj-
ects on the books when von Hagge died have
gotten a second wind. ;is year, Smelek and
Baril expect to open a long-overdue track in
suburban Nashville, and they hope to break
ground on two courses in Mexico.
Smelek acknowledges, however, that the past
few years have been a struggle. He believes that
the von Hagge brand had been well established
and that the partners had done everything they
could to secure the ;rm’s future.
;e question he can’t answer is this: “Did
the work drop o; because Bob was gone or
because the economy fell o;?”
Based on his experience, Smelek isn’t con;-
dent about the prospects for legacy design.
“I don’t think the signature ;rms can be
sustained,” he said. “From a marketing standpoint, it’s really di;cult. Once the signature is
gone, what makes his ;rm attractive to potential clients?”
It’s a question the marketplace will eventually answer. ;e value of legacy architecture is
yet to be determined.
Robert J. Vasilak is a contributing editor for Golf Inc. ;e publisher of the World
Edition of the Golf Course Report, he blogs at
WorldGolfReport.blogspot.com. Follow him on
September 25 - 27, 2017
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