by Ray Benedetti
Robert Kains, a WCTA member for over 20 years, grew up in London Ontario. He has virtually been in and around this industry all of his life. When Bob was eight years old he designed his first course on his parent's home farm - a three hole par 3 for himself to practice golf.
Bob started golfing as a junior and soon began to caddie at the London Hunt Club (a Robert Trent Jones Sr. Course), which supplemented his love for the game and the business. In 1971 Bob worked for the maintenance department at Sunningdale Golf Course in London.
Bob studied at the University of Guelph from 1973 to 1977, where he received a degree (B.Sc. in Agr.) Majoring in Environmental Horticulture. In the summer of 1976 he worked at Glen Abbey. He then gained employment with Rene Muylaert during construction of London's Green Hills in 1977. He stayed on at Green Hills as Assistant Superintendent until 1979. During this time Bob accomplished some small design jobs.
In 1980 Bob moved West to teach at Fairview College. In 1984 he expanded his education and received a diploma in Landscape Design from the University of Guelph. In 1986 Bob focused his energy towards the area of the golf buisiness that captivates him the most - design. He worked for Golf Design Services for 4 years and became a partner with Les Furber in 1990. Bob was co-designer for at least 15 courses and senior designer on 19 others including Belmont in Ft. Langley, BC and Kelowna Springs in Kelowna, BC.
In 1995 Bob formed his own company called Robert Kains Golf Course Design Ltd., and has been productive all over the globe. I asked Bob about the recent trends in Western Canada - "Previous to 1987 there wasn't a new course built in the Lower Mainland for 20 years. Since 86 there has been a large boom all over the West. The demand for better playing conditions and more facilities is constantly increasing."
Bob's own design philosophy seems to be geared more towards the average golfer. "At times the beginner golfer can be completely intimidated. Simpler golf courses and/or extensive practice facilities can be solutions to their dilemma."
One of the greatest highlights of Mr. Kains' career was working in Cuba, South Africa and Europe. "The quality of maintenance in South Africa and Europe is definitely lower. Our access to knowledge and education is of a much higher degree. The competitive nature here seems to bring out the best in us, while other places just don't seem to share that mentality. The standards in England and Scotland have been changing towards matching the North American styles of maintenance practices. The green fees have increased up to 10 times in Europe. For example; now they will cut fairways 5 to 7 times a week compared to the once a week back in 1981.
Bob insists that the future of golf course design will continue to flourish. "It will become more computerized to keep up with the times, and as long as you're willing to travel to the work, it will be there." The demand for TSN-type quality should forever keep the architects of this industry working.
Skiing is a hobby for Mr. Kains, however, "because I love my work, including the travel, I feel I'm always on a holiday. The most exciting and gratifying part is seeing all the various creations, properties, and of course the people - from all different parts of the planet!"
Stanley Thompson was Bob's main influence. "His designs are always entertaining, attractive and playable yet challenging." Working with Les Furber has also been a positive influence and experience for Mr. Kains. One of Bob's 'edges' in design philosophy is his experience in golf course maintenance. He has "empathy for the job that the Superintendent does," so his designs always keep budgets and ease of maintenance in mind.
Bob feels that the WCTA is growing in the right direction and that the organization is very solid and helpful to all members. Bob's obvious love for his work is certainly an inspiration for myself. It is these inspirations that fuel my desire to make tomorrow even better than today. It is to be hoped that you readers share this thought.
Turf Line News April/May 2000
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