In the firmament of the American golf
establishment, Steve Smyers is one of the
most interesting and likeable people you
will come across. And in this busy, fast-
paced world we live in, he is a champion
multi-tasker in golf – juggling his career
as a golf course designer with service to
the USGA while maintaining a golf game
most of us would kill for.
Smyers, 57, has been in the golf course
architecture business since graduating
from the University of
Florida. He trained un-
der the respected Ron
Garl, and then went
off on his own in 1983.
Since then, he has
been involved in some
60 projects. Among his
designs are the highly
ranked Wolf Run in Indianapolis, Southern
Dunes near Orlando and Old Memorial in
He also did the redesign of Isleworth,
home to the world’s No. 1 player and a
host of other Tour players.
Smyers is a leader in the “firm and
fast” school of design. He has been for
more than 30 years, long before the USGA
rolled out its “brown is beautiful’ cam-
paign. He was deeply influenced by a 1977
trip to the Sandbelt area of Australia,
where he studied Royal Melbourne and
the other great golf courses in that region.
The fairways were fast and firm, the rough
was not well irrigated and contained many
native grasses, and the bunkers were not
nearly as well maintained as they are in
He found the game as played down un-
der to be “a game of angles,” one that was
strategically challenging and aestheti-
cally pleasing. The experience shaped his
thinking for a lifetime.
For Smyers, firm and fast makes sense
for a lot of reasons. First, it makes for a
more interesting game, one that requires
a certain amount of course management.
It also makes for a more enjoyable experi-
ence for the higher handicapper, who can
benefit from a little roll. Secondly, it re-
duces maintenance costs, thereby making
the game more affordable and, hopefully,
more attractive to youth. Finally, it con-
serves water, which is a very eco-friendly
point of view.
Smyers is also very involved in USGA
affairs, serving on the Executive Com-
mittee since 2006. His breadth of USGA
involvement, dating back to 1986, is
impressive. He has served on the Champi-
onship Committee, Equipment Standards
Committee, Green Section, Turf Grass
and Environmental Research Committee,
Amateur Status Committee and Interna-
tional Team Selection Committee.
Earlier this year, he captained the U.S.
team that won the Copa de las Americas
in South America, and he was also inti-
mately involved in selecting this year’s
Eisenhower Trophy team.
Smyers served on the Equipment
Standards committee during what he
calls “the drama days,” when there was
real disagreement in certain circles about
the impact technology was having on the
game. He acknowledges that equipment
has made a difference in the modern
game, but for him, the discussion about
equipment must include the gear that is
used to maintain today’s golf courses. As
an example, he points out that the fair-
ways played a week ago at Atlantic Golf
Club during the U.S. Mid-Amateur were
as fast and firm as the greens of his Texas
That wasn’t possible with yesteryear’s
course maintenance gear.
Finally, Smyers remains a competitive
amateur. His lifelong passion for the game
began as an adolescent, first in the D.C.
area when he attended the 1964 U.S Open
at Congressional. Five years later, he
found himself on the bag for Miller Barber
in the 1969 Open at Champions Golf Club
in Houston when Barber tied for sixth
behind winner Orville Moody.
He became a talented junior, playing
competitively against Ben Crenshaw and
Bruce Lietzke, and later earned a scholar-
ship to Florida, where he was a member
of the 1973 NCAA championship team. His
teammates? Former PGA Tour winners
Gary Koch, Woody Blackburn and Phil
Hancock, and former USGA president Fred
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