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Plotting a Course

DESIGN-MINDED Brandon Johnson works for the Arnold Palmer Design Company. COURTESY BRANDON JOHNSON

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Brandon Johnson is a vice president and senior golf course architect at the Arnold Palmer Design Company. He turned his love of golf and of the great outdoors into a career. He creates golf courses around the United States and all over the world.  In many other sports, strict rules and regulations define the design of the playing field or court. In golf, almost all that’s required of the course is that it has a certain number of holes. The rest is up to nature and the architect’s imagination. Johnson explains this and more to TIME for Kids editor Jaime Joyce.

What does a golf course architect do?

I love to say we play in the dirt. We are tasked with taking a piece of property and molding the land so a game can be played on it. 

Are there any other sports for which architects design playing fields?

I don’t know how they do ski slopes or other kinds of racing courses. In football, there’s a grid and there are certain distances, and the field is a certain size. The wonderful thing about golf course architecture is that it’s ever-changing.

Is there a typical day on the job? 

There are no typical days. When you’re building and designing in the field, all kinds of things happen. 

IN THE FIELD Johnson (center) visits a job site.

COURTESY BRANDON JOHNSON

Why did you pick this career?

I love golf. If I could have gotten good enough to play professionally, I would have done it. 

What kind of training do you need to be a golf course architect?

I went to school for landscape architecture. They taught us how to draw. When I’m on-site, I can either sketch something or take a picture and manipulate it through technology.

NATURAL BEAUTY SilverRock Resort’s Arnold Palmer Classic Course is in La Quinta, California. It’s one of many golf courses designed by Johnson.

MATTHEW MAJKA PHOTOGRAPHY

What advice would you give to a young person who’s interested in doing this work?

Explore it, read about it, learn the game, learn the process. If it’s something you’re passionate about, don’t give up. 

Is there anything else that’s important for kids to know?

Within the golf industry, there are lots of other professions, whether in marketing, communications, finance, business, science—you name it. It all touches the golf industry, and in ways you might not ever dream of.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.