Canadian Architects Review, Part 2: Graham Cooke

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.


Graham Cooke

Of Graham Cooke & Associates

Talking Rock Golf Resort & Quaalot Lodge. Photo credit: Salmon Arm Observer

Mr. Cooke remains a household name, especially in eastern Canada, where his work is largely based. His output seems to have slowed considerably since Robert Thompson’ original evaluation (primarily because of his age (I assume) but also because of changing trends), so mine isn’t that much different than his. 

Number of Original Designs: Over 100 golf courses worldwide, according to their website.

First Design: Golf Dorval (1982)

Best design: Dakota Dunes (83rd in Canada according to Beyond The Contour’s Top 100)

Worst Design: Fox Harb’r (Doak 0 according to author)

Strengths: 

  • In my experience, his works are utilitarian and practical, usually offering decent golf at a good value. I am fond of Owl’s Head, Oslerbrook, Le Blainvillier, for example.
  • He has shown good versatility in his portfolio, creating good products in very subpar settings. 
  • He has worked in a number of smaller, isolated communities, especially in Quebec and Eastern Canada. 
  • He has remained in constant demand, which hints to a clear business savvy and a good model. According to Robert Thompson’s article, he is well-liked in the industry. 
  • Along this line of thinking, in my very limited interactions with Mr. Cooke, he has been generous and friendly, and his pedigree as a golfer is among, if the best of any architect working in Canada. 

Weaknesses:

  • His designs tend to too often feature an odd mix of styles, as if caught in between wanting to do one thing or another.
  • His shapes and shaping tend to be quite homogenous, with lots of containment mounding and two tiered greens. Utility seems to trump over flare.
  • He seems to have a ceiling on his quality of work: he can elevate a bad site to a decent product, but perhaps not anything more. Having been given two of the better pure sites for golf in Canada in the last while, he failed to deliver a product truly worthy of them. The end product at Dakota Dunes is, by all accounts, quite good, but it could have been special. And Fox Harb’r is probably the biggest miss in Canada. 
  • His renovation work, especially at Highlands Links, has come under extreme scrutiny. And thus much subsequent effort had to be dedicated to fixing what he did. 
  • He is a part of that generation of Canadian architects that got a lot of jobs but failed to look at the wider golfing world and keep up with trends.

Original Work Grade: B-

Restorative/Renovative Work Grade: C-

Overall Grade: C/C+ (Original Grade from Robert Thompson: B-)

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