Agustín Pizá: An Authority on Golf Courses
– Who is Agustín? What made you decide to specialize in golf courses architecture?
I’m an architect with a passion. I went to the Tecnológico de Monterrey and have a Master’s in Golf Course Architecture from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. It all began with a dream and the opportunity todo something that involves my tho passions: architecture and golf.
– What size is your studio and how many projects do you juggle at any one time?
Ours is a niche studio and we are known for our attention to detail and personalized services. I personally draw all our projects in person by hand and there isn’t one i’m not familiar with inside out. Our studio has a multi-cultural, multidisciplinary team and is just the right size to be able to control quality and maintain the standards our clients expect of us.
– How did your studio come to establish itself as an authority on golf courses?
It took a lot of hard work, dedication and passion, but above all it implied doing things properly, fairly and transparently. It also helps that we’re a multi-award-winning firm. We’re ranked among the 25 most sustainable golf course architects in the world and won silver at the prestigious international “Remodel of the Year” competition, which, by the way, was the first time it’s ever been won by a Latin American firm. Grupo Expansión gave us an honorable mention in sustainability and as one of the most innovative architecture firms in Mexico. I also have a golf and lifestyle program on TV Azteca and host Golf Channel Latin America.
“It all began with a dream and the opportunity todo something that involves my two passions: architecture and golf.”
– A mandatory question. Have you worked with Jack Nicklaus and if so, what did you learn from him?
I’ve had the good fortune to work with the Golden Bear on four world-class projects: Palmilla and El Dorado in Los Cabos and Grupo Vidanta and Punta Mita in Puerto Vallarta. It was this experience and a very personal conversation we had that motivated me to chase my dream of becoming the first qualified golf course architect in Mexico. His passion and dedication drove me to pursue my “major” in life.
– What’s the most important thing you learned from working in the United States and Europe?
To complete. I love a competitive, sporting spirit and working and competing with the best in the world has made me stronger and taught me that passion, preparation and perseverance are essential to professional success. I’ve learned from the best, which is why our projects combine the aesthetics and artistic voice of Tom Fazio; the game strategy and vertical expression of Robert von Hagge; and the resort design and marketing savvy of Jack Nicklaus. These four legends have been a constant in my career. Likewise, my time in Europe has allowed me to create the perfect balance between the extrovert, innovative style of North America and the more conservative, ecological one of the United Kingdom, which i think i’ve managed to successfully fuse.
– What are today’s trends in developments with golf courses?
When we talk of a golf course we automatically think of 18 holes. This is the conversational design and although it’s important we keep making them, i feel we need to be more open to alternatives. It takes a lot of time and money to maintain and play a big course. We need to reinvent golf, create a sense of place and belonging. I think we should be looking for alternatives that encourage families to spend time together, that are more inclusive and less intimidating. One of my best designs this year was a world-class six-hole course on a piece of prime real estate. Another has 18 holes spread over nine fairways and is an example of sustainability. Both formats open up a new residential market and are models of master planning.
“Designing a golf course is a science and requires knowledge of engineering, agronomy, ecology and architecture, but it is also an art and to come up with a sustainable, world-class design.”
– Now that climate change is an issue, what is the relationship between golf courses and the environment, if any?
Good environmental, financial and social management are precisely what separate a designer from an architect. Golf course architecture is among the most extensive artistic expressions you can find today. Designing a golf course is a science and requires knowledge of engineering, agronomy, ecology and architecture, but it is also an art and you have to combine in order to come up with a sustainable, world-class design, you have to master rhythm, balance, focus, proportion and harmony, all in communion with nature.
– Does Mexico have any world-class courses? If so, how many of them have you designed?
Mexico has some of the best courses in the world, in Cancún, Puerto Vallarta and, the place of excellence, Los Cabos. I worked with Tomo Fazio on the world-ranked Querencia course. Other award-winning courses i’ve worked on include Punta Mita and Vidanta by Jack Nicklaus. One of my favorites is Costa Baja, where i collaborated with Gary Player. As for my own designs, i’d have to mention Las Parotas in Huatulco, Oaxaca, which is deemed a “must play” in Mexico.
– What plans does your studio have for the future?
Right now we’re working on four projects in Mexico and are exporting our artistic talent to Brazil, Perú, Portugal and Cuba with our Integral Project Golf office in Barcelona.
We also started The First Tee Mexico, a non profit wonderful initiative by Benjamín Salinas that helps kids of all social and economic levels the opportunity to improve their lives by using golf as a tool for life.
“Mexico has some of the best courses in the world, in Cancún, Puerto Vallarta and, par excellence, Los Cabos.”