The most underrated course designers, according to Tom Doak

Of today’s age, Tom Doak is one of the most sought-after names in golf course design.

Having authored some of the top modern designs in the world such as Pacific Dunes, Ballyneal, Barnbougle Dunes, Streamsong Blue, Tara Iti, Sebonank and the newly opened Pinehurst No. 10, among others, Doak has quite the pedigree.

But on the latest episode of GOLF Originals with Michael Bamberger, Doak was asked to name some of his favorite golf course architects of previous generations, including those who may not have gotten the recognition of Dr. Alister MacKenzie, Seth Raynor, C.B. Macdonald or A.W. Tillinghast.

The first name Doak thought of was William Flynn, a Philadelphia-native like Bambeger and our videographer Darren Riehl (and this writer), as Doak points out.

“He was a great architect, built a bunch of stuff, but he was never the most famous golf course architect of the day,” Doak said. “So people now don’t know him.”

tom doak opener for golf originals
Tom Doak isn’t your typical golf-course designer. Ask Tom Doak | GOLF Originals
By: Michael Bamberger

Flynn was part of the famous “Philadelphia School” of golf course architecture, which included the likes of Tillinghast, George C. Thomas, George Crump, Hugh Wilson and William Fownes. Many of his top designs are around the Philadelphia area and include Lancaster Country Club, site of this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, Atlantic City Country Club, Cherry Hills Country Club and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

Perry Maxwell, the designer of the 2022 PGA Championship host Southern Hills, is next on the list of underrated architects for Doak.

“Who built two or three of MacKenzie’s most famous golf courses and then after MacKenzie was done, Maxwell went and did some great stuff on his own too,” Doak said. “But not in quantity because a lot of his career was during and after the depression instead of before.”

Doak added that someone like George Thomas, who designed Los Angeles Country Club, Bel-Air and Riviera in Southern California, is more famous than he could have been thanks to his book and the fact that three of his top designs were all in Los Angeles.

“For every guy like that who got some press for doing a handful of great courses,” Doak said, “there’s five other guys like William Watson or Tom Simpson or… I could just keep naming names of guys who did some really great work, but it just didn’t compete with the big time stuff.”

For more from Doak, check out the full episode of GOLF Originals below.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at