American golf course architecture lost a leading figure Monday with the death of Jay Morrish, an acclaimed designer whose notable course credits range from solo projects to collaborations with a number of golf’s biggest names.
Morrish was 78 and had suffered from heart problems in recent years.
After graduating from Colorado State University in 1964 with a degree in landscape and nursery management, Morrish taught horticulture at the university before landing a job on the construction team at Robert Trent Jones-designed Spyglass Hill. It was the start of a career that would span five decades and bring Morrish into partnerships with several of the best-known figures in the field.
In 1967, following a tenure as construction superintendent on Jones’ courses, Morrish worked with George Fazio and Desmond Muirhead. He then signed on as a designer with Jack Nicklaus in 1972. After 10 years with Nicklaus, Morrish teamed up with Tom Weiskopf. Their partnership lasted 12 years and produced more than two dozen courses, including Loch Lomond in Scotland and TPC Las Colinas in Irving, Texas.
Other notable Morrish designs include TPC Scottsdale, Troon Golf and Country Club in Scottsdale, and Forest Highlands in Flagstaff.
A former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, Morrish was known as a gifted storyteller whose easy way with people allowed him to partner with a range of personalities.
“Jay could get along with pretty much anyone,” said Jeff Brauer, a friend and fellow architect who partnered with Morrish on Whitestone Golf Club in Benbrook, Texas. “And when you had Jay with you, you knew the job would get done right.”
Though he learned his trade in the era of modern golf design, Morrish preferred steering clear of easy labels. In more recent years, as golf course minimalism came into vogue, he used a different billing for himself.
“He once told me that he thought of himself as a ‘necessitist,’” Brauer said. “If there was dirt that needed moving, he would move it.”
Morrish is survived by his wife, Louise, and two children, Carter and Kim.