Ron Kirby
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Remembering the Legacy of Golf Course Designer Ron Kirby

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In the heart of the golfing world, a poignant silence hangs in the air as we bid farewell to a true legend. The passing of renowned golf course architect Ron Kirby at the age of 90 has left an indelible void that stretches across fairways and greens, leaving an everlasting imprint on the landscape he so masterfully shaped.

A Life of Dedication and Creativity

Ron Kirby was not merely a designer of golf courses; he was an artist who painted the canvas of golfing landscapes with passion and precision. Having overseen hundreds of designs worldwide, his name became synonymous with innovation and excellence. He toiled ceaselessly on projects both solitary and collaborative, partnering with some of the most celebrated minds in the realm of golf course architecture.

The Final Fairway

Tragedy struck suddenly as Kirby’s unyielding dedication was halted by a sudden illness. With his family by his side, he peacefully departed this world in Copenhagen, where he had been tirelessly working on yet another project. The legacy he leaves behind is one of fervor and determination, as he continued to sketch golf holes until the very end.

A Farewell from the Golfing Community

Tributes have poured in from every corner of the golfing world, a testament to the impact Kirby had on the sport and its enthusiasts. Sunil Chatrani, executive chairman of Apes Hill Barbados, which was home to Kirby’s final completed design, expressed deep gratitude for the cherished bond they shared. “Ron became a wonderful friend and will be deeply missed. That he also designed our golf courses is a gift that will give forever,” Chatrani shared.

A Legacy of Friendship and Humility

Remembered not only for his architectural prowess but also for his boundless kindness, Kirby’s impact stretched far beyond the courses he crafted. Roddy Carr, instrumental in bringing Kirby to design Old Head Golf Links in Ireland and Apes Hill Barbados, reminisced about Kirby’s genuine character. “He was never an ego guy, it was never about him but always about what his clients wanted,” Carr shared. Kirby’s humility was a hallmark of his personality, with a philosophy rooted in the wisdom of golf’s greats.

From Caddie to Architect Extraordinaire

Kirby’s journey from humble beginnings as a caddie in Beverly, Massachusetts, to becoming a respected Fellow of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) is a testament to his tenacity and passion. Armed with a degree in agriculture from the University of Massachusetts-Stockbridge, Kirby’s ascent began as a design associate for Dick Wilson and later as a protege of Robert Trent Jones Snr.

An Enduring Legacy

In 1970, Kirby embarked on his own design venture alongside consulting partner Gary Player. His legacy solidified further as he joined Nicklaus Design Services, overseeing European projects with golfing legend Jack Nicklaus. The tapestry of his designs adorned courses across the world, from the London Golf Club’s International Course to the Sun City Golf Course in South Africa.

A Journey of Love and Loss

Kirby’s journey was inseparable from that of his wife Sally, who stood steadfastly by his side throughout their shared adventures. Their experiences and travels culminated in Kirby’s autobiography, ‘We Spent Half Our Lives on the Wrong Side of the Road,’ a testament to their unbreakable bond. Sadly, the chapter closed as Sally passed away in 2020. Ron Kirby is survived by his children Faye, Ron Jr., and Beverly.

An Everlasting Connection

The legacy Kirby leaves behind stretches far beyond the courses he designed. It’s the memories he crafted, the relationships he nurtured, and the spirit of dedication that will continue to inspire generations to come. ASGCA President Brit Stenson aptly summarized Kirby’s impact: “His positive impact on golf course architecture in countries around the world will serve as a professional legacy, but it was Ron’s enduring relationship with Sally that many of us will long remember.”

In Memoriam

As we bid adieu to a titan of the golfing world, we remember the indomitable spirit of Ron Kirby. His legacy is etched in the greens and fairways, the landscapes he transformed with unwavering devotion. The golfing community mourns the loss of an icon, but his memory will continue to thrive in every swing and every course he blessed with his touch.


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