By Tony Dear
For years, the unofficial title of “golf’s most interesting man” has belonged to Miguel Angel Jimenez. But let us make the case for Beau Welling.
Consider the course designer’s extensive range of interests and accomplishments. He is a great fan of the arts and sits on the board of the Carolina Ballet Theatre. During the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, he saw curling for the first time and over the next two decades became so fascinated by the sport he wound up on the board of the U.S. Curling Association, recently returning from PyeongChang where the U.S. team won gold. He has a degree in physics from Brown University, where he played on the college golf team, an International MBA from the University of South Carolina, and studied landscape design at the Rhode Island School of Design as well as Irish Drama at Trinity College in Dublin. After earning his MBA, he worked in the Power Generation Group at Siemens in Karlsruhe, Germany, before returning to North Carolina and becoming a successful investment banker.
There’s more. Because his father was on the team that developed Thornblade Club in South Carolina during the late 1980s (Jay and Bill Haas and Lucas Glover play out of the club), Welling became well acquainted with the course’s designer, Tom Fazio. Having decided at Brown to one day combine his interests in science, art, and golf, he interned at Fazio Design for three summers, eventually becoming a full-time employee in 1997.
And, oh yeah, he now builds courses with Tiger Woods.
The two met about 15 years ago when Woods had Fazio and his team design the golf facility at the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif. When Welling left Fazio following the economic meltdown in 2007 and set up his own firm—Beau Welling Design (BWD)—Woods hired him to consult on the course he was building in Dubai, Al Ruwaya.
Since then, Welling has played a pivotal role in Woods’s designs. “Beau has been part of our TGR Design team for over 10 years now,” says TGR President Bryon Bell. “As our lead designer, he has been instrumental in helping us execute Tiger’s vision of creating fun golf courses, enjoyable for everyone.”
The first Woods course opened for play, in December 2014, was El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas. Bluejack National in Houston followed in April 2016, then the splendid Oasis Short Course at Diamante a few months later. Courses now under construction are Jack’s Bay in the Bahamas, The Oasis at Diamante, Payne’s Valley in Missouri, Trump World Dubai (what was Al Ruwaya), and Jackson Park and South Shore in Chicago where Woods and Welling have completely rerouted the existing courses, created six extra acres of natural space for non-golfers, added trails and paths, and relocated the clubhouse to a spot where they hope it can become a hive of community activity.
Welling says incorporating that community aspect into each project has become very important to him and his team, adding that the company emphasizes a “holistic approach.” “It’s a direct result of our wide-ranging backgrounds,” he says. “We have a different perspective than most, one that I believe helps us create more well-rounded designs. Today’s technology, though amazing, can prevent face-to-face time. We’re land planners, too, and I want to use our skills and expertise to create places where people can experience human moments.”
BWD has been, and currently is, involved in non-golf land-planning developments, predominantly in South Carolina. But the company remains a golf course design firm at its core.
Besides his work with Woods, Welling collaborated with Paul McGinley on a highly regarded renovation of the North Course at Quinta Do Lago in Portugal. He worked alongside Canadian architect Tom McBroom in designing the ambitious 27 Club in Tianjin, China, where input was sought from 27 major champions including Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, and Greg Norman. Works in progress include renovations to Pelican Golf Club in Tampa, Fla. (a Donald Ross design originally known as the Belleview Biltmore), the Valley Club in Sun Valley, Idaho, Greenwich Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., and the course at Stanford University.
Welling’s design philosophy, as you’d expect of a man hoping to maximize human interaction, is to build easily walkable, player-friendly courses. “Our greens and tees are in close proximity to each other,” he says, “and we’re careful to locate hazards, cut fairways, and angle/shape greens in a way that allows high-handicaps to have a fun experience but also test the player looking to score.”
Welling also likes to provide several different routes to the hole requiring many different types of shot, an approach he learned while living in Ireland 20-plus years ago. “The links courses I played encouraged you to think,” he says. “That made the game more enjoyable and interesting.” He’s pretty interesting, as well.