Canadian Architects Review, Part 1: Rod Whitman

Back in 2008, Robert Thompson published a series of blog posts in which he reviewed and evaluated most of the top architects working in Canada at the time, found here. I absolutely loved reading these, so, I figured, it’s time to revisit the concept. My hope is to try to publish one or two of these a week for the next little while.


Rod Whitman

of Whitman, Axland, and Cutten

Cabot Links

Much has changed in the golf world, in Canada and abroad, since 2008, but Whitman remains the pinnacle of the profession.

Number of original designs in Canada: 5, and soon to be 6.

First design: Wolf Creek, 1987

Best design: Cabot Links (2nd in Canada according to the author; 4th according to BTC’s top 100)

Worst design: Wolf Creek, Old (56th in Canada according to BTC’s top 100)

Strengths:

  • One of the premier shapers in the business, who commits himself totally to every project. His attention to detail is unmatched.
  • His set of green complexes at Cabot Links is, in my opinion, the best ever conceived in Canada. They stand toe to toe with any modern set.
  • He essentially introduced the minimalist movement to Canada with the construction of Blackhawk in 2004. No other course so reflects the ethos of Stanley Thompson.
  • His portfolio, though small, is varied and adaptive. He took a risk with Sagebrush, and it paid off.
  • He has struck the right balance between conservation and innovation in his renovative/restorative work.
  • He gave many of the bright young architects of today and tomorrow an opportunity on his various crews.
  • He seems to have secured a reliable partnership with the budding Cabot empire, which might bring about more opportunities outside of Canada.

Weaknesses:

  • 5 new courses in Canada in nearly 40 years is a small footprint so far. Hopefully he can grace us with a few more beyond Cabot Revelstoke.
  • He didn’t really build upon his early success at Wolf Creek and a few big misses (Angus Glen and Sand Valley) likely cost him the opportunity to work some of the elite projects throughout the 90s and 2000s.
  • He hasn’t yet worked in or that near a major market (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal), which means that few get to see his genius.
  • His work at Cabot, unfortunately and unfairly, seems to have been overshadowed by Coore’s and Crenshaw’s—though I don’t think this is necessarily his fault.
  • His continental European efforts have not garnered that much fanfare (According to Top100golfcourses, Golf du Medoc, a co-design with Bill Coore, is ranked 11th France; while Golf Langenstein, a solo effort, is ranked 17th in Germany), nor did they really seem to jumpstart his career over there.
  • Perhaps he could have done more as a custodian for and preserver of the history of golf architecture in Canada. His words carry weight, yet we almost never hear nor read them.

Original work grade: A+

Renovative/restorative work grade: A

Overall: A+ (Original Grade from Robert Thompson: A)

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