In Memoriam: Arthur Hills 1930-2021

Architect designed more than 200 courses worldwide, advances his industry

Photo by Nile Young Jr.

He was a legend in Great Lakes golf, an architect with more than 200 courses to his name worldwide (including several great tracks in Metro Detroit, see page 52), yet he shouldered all his success with a simple ethos and his trademark unassuming manner.

Hills died in May at the age of 91, leaving behind a long legacy in the golf architecture industry, one he helped foster throughout his 55-year career. After graduating from Michigan State with a landscape architecture degree, Hills designed his first course on a whim at the age of 36, taking that landscape design aesthetic to the courses he built — they should be as pretty as they are playable.

From Bay Harbor, Shepherd’s Hollow and Chicago’s Bolingbrook Golf Club in the Midwest, to Bighorn and Half Moon Bay out west, Hills had more than his share of big-name, jaw-dropping designs to his credit. He also designed several courses overseas, from Portugal to Thailand and plenty in between.

Hills also was a past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, helping grow the profession and fostering new talent such as Ray Hearn, Brian Huntley and Steve Forrest, his longtime business partner.

“He started the business by placing an ad in the Toledo, Ohio, Yellow Pages under ‘Golf Course Architect’ while operating a landscape contracting business,” Forrest said. “I had the great privilege of learning all aspects of golf course architecture from a distinguished professional practitioner and humble gentleman over 42 years. Arthur became a father-like figure to me who was a mentor, an instructor, exhorter and admonisher while always trying to improve his own skills and increase his personal knowledge every day.”

Rest in peace, sir.