About Robert Von Hagge
HOUSTON, TX – Robert von Hagge passed away Saturday, October 16, 2010 at the age of 83, with his wife Greta at his side when he peacefully slipped away.
A Celebration of Robert von Hagge's Life event was held at Northgate Country Club, Saturday October 23, 2010. A private burial was held prior to the service at Forest Park, The Woodlands.
The family requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial /honor donations be made to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (online at www.mdanderson.org, by mail to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, PO Box 4486, Houston, Texas 77210, or by way of phone 713-792-3450). To leave a written tribute in memory of Robert visit www.forestparkthewoodlands.com.
Robert’s professional life stretched from his early teen years as a caddy to international fame as a master golf course designer and architect. During his fascinating career, he vaulted to the top ranks of golf course design and architecture, became a dominant force in the European and Mexican golf world, and moved effortlessly into golf design throughout the world – arguably one of the most influential course designers in the history of golf.
von Hagge, was literally born and raised on a golf course, and had worked as a caddy, a shop boy (cleaning and repairing golf clubs), a caddy master, a golf course maintenance crewman, an assistant greens superintendent, assistant golf professional, and commercial illustrator for sporting magazines before his 17th birthday. After high school, he attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis and Purdue University Agriculture School, majoring in landscape architecture.
The son of noted course designer and developer Ben von Hagge, who worked briefly with none other than Donald Ross in the 1920s, Chicago-born (Robert) von Hagge learned the trade from his mentor, design legend Dick Wilson, when Wilson, one of America's foremost golf course architects, employed him in 1955 as an apprentice golf course designer. By 1959, he was being recognized within the profession as a principal designer with the Wilson firm. By the year's end in 1962, he had been involved in all or part of the design of 40 golf courses in the U.S. and the Caribbean and four foreign countries. Late that same year, he resigned his affiliation with the Dick Wilson Company in order to start his own firm. Von Hagge was the last living associate from the original post-war architect Dick Wilson's organization
During his six plus decades as a master golf course designer, von Hagge created some of the world's most outstanding and award-winning courses, and has been responsible for the design, re-design, or partial design of more than 250 courses in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and 16 foreign countries. At one time he had worldwide offices ranging from South Florida and California to Australia, before he decided to move his headquarters to The Woodlands.
He and his partners Mike Smelek and Rick Baril have created internationally-recognized courses in more than 50 cities including Paris, Milan, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Mexico City, Sydney, Tokyo, Madrid, and Genoa. In the U. S. they have courses in Miami, Philadelphia, Long Island, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Naples, Ft. Myers, Phoenix, Tampa, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and literally dozens more. Their courses have received more than 500 awards of distinction.
Les Bordes, set in the middle of the Loire Valley in France and ranked as the Number 1 golf course in Europe, is considered von Hagge's piece de resistance. According to Top 100 Golf Courses website, “It's been said that when he designed this beast he was at his most wickedly creative” … and [the course] “is a supreme challenge.”
Golf writer for PerryGolf.com said, “Robert Von Hagge earns top honors for Les Bordes, the country's premier layout since it opened in 1986. ... Les Bordes is king because it is a truly total experience … von Hagge's masterpiece.”
As Founder and Senior Partner/Architect of von Hagge, Smelek and Baril, he actively maintained hands-on involvement in the creation of their distinctive designs all over the world even in his early eighties. Of course he wasn’t racking up the air miles to the extent he used to- something he said he regretted. “I miss a lot of the dirt, the rain and the mud, squeezing something out of primitive circumstances.”
For decades his name has been synonymous with “premier global golf course architect.” Always following his own philosophy propelled him into greatness – “Every shot situation should be one where the golfer walks up to the ball and has his breath taken away. It should be a ritual experience.”
He often spoke warmly of his partners of more than a quarter of a century. “Both Mike and Rick have been a driving force behind the creation of many major projects throughout the world and largely responsible for the creation of some of the world's finest golfing experiences.”
“I am personally grateful for the obvious creative talent and responsible dedication that is a part of the very fiber that these two outstanding men bring to the team. I am simultaneously proud and delighted that we are all on the same company design team, one which they will someday inherit along with its history, credentials and worldwide reputation; a reputation which they both have so richly contributed to over the past several years.
Robert Von Hagge's Timeline
April 27, 1927
October 16, 2010
von Hagge, Smelek & Baril