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Kris Spence

Dappled in the world of golf course designing, one name stands out quite distinguishably; Kris Spence. With an insatiable blend of creativity, artistry, and turfgrass expertise, Spence shapes the golfing landscape into the picturesque and intriguing courses we’ve come to admire. Delving deeper into his body of work, it becomes clear how his touch transforms an ordinary course into an extraordinary golfing experience.

Born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina, Spence developed a profound appreciation for golf and its inherent connection to nature early in life – a passion that would pave his future course. His journey wasn’t straightforward; beginning with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy/Turfgrass from North Carolina State University and then professional turf management at prestigious golf clubs. A valuable learning curve that deepened Spence’s understanding of the relationship between terrain, man-made designs, and the pivotal role of turfgrass.

A decisive turning point in Spence’s career was his tenure at Old Town Club in Winston-Salem, NC. As Superintendent, Spence’s sharp eye for classical course design paired with an unwavering commitment to quality gave the vintage Perry Maxwell design the fresh lease of life it deserved. It was this project that ignited Spence’s calling to golf course architecture, pushing the greenskeeper to sharpen his design skills.

Spence’s style is hard to confine within traditional limits or definitions. His designs are conversations between the past and present, where history meets modernity. He’s deftly restored vintage golf courses and created fresh designs – all with his distinct signature. His philosophy revolves around tactical variety, strategic decision-making, and the utmost regard for the landscape’s natural features.

When tasked with restoring historical courses, Spence maintains a sensitive hand, honoring the original designs and intents. Among his remarkable restoration works, the Sedgefield Country Club, home of the famed Wyndham Championship, stands tall. A Donald Ross layout, Sedgefield was restored with painstaking detail, respecting the master’s strategic integrity while adapting to the modern game’s demands – a testament to Spence’s careful artistry and deep-seated respect for the masters.

Spence doesn’t just restore; he creates too. His creations, like the Pilot Knob Park Country Club and the Hunting Creek Country Club, boast of intricate designs integrated seamlessly into the existing landscape. They bear a harmonious relationship with the natural topography, showcasing his maturity and sophistication as a designer.

His philosophy overflows into his designs, making every hole a unique blend of artistry, strategy, and natural settings that compel golfers to rethink their approach. There’s never a dull round on a Spence course as it flows effortlessly, almost organically, with each hole offering a distinct challenge.

Despite his success in design and restoration, Spence believes in constantly growing and learning. His affinity for the long-lost architectural practices led him to establish the Donald Ross Society and immerse himself in the masters’ wisdom.

What sets Spence apart is his meticulous involvement in each project. From conceptual sketches to the finished course, he’s there, physically shaping the land, inspecting every aspect. That personal touch, combined with his design principles, reflects in the quality of his work, makes a Spence course truly special.

His contributions to the world of golf course design have been recognized by renowned publications. Golf Digest lauded his work at Southern Pines Country Club, and the Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club design was voted as the ‘Michigan Golf Course of the Year’ by the National Golf Course Owners Association’ in 2001.

Kris Spence’s contributions continue to influence the landscape of golf course architecture. It is not too far-fetched to deem him an architectural auteur of the modern golf design world. His profound respect for history, an unfazed commitment to quality, and innate understanding of the land’s language make him a touchstone in his trade.

In the grand tapestry of golf course design, Spence weaves a beautiful narrative that fuses the best of past, present, and future. His work illuminates the potential that lies at the convergence of design, nature, and historical respect. Through his dedication to his craft, Spence reminds us that a great golf course is much more than a playground; it is an experience — a living, breathing canvas of compelling and thought-provoking compositions.

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