By Design – Issue 56, Winter 2021

22 It’s the ‘chicken and the egg’ question for golf course architects: ‘which came first, a love of golf that led you to appreciate the environment, or a love of the environment that impacts how you view golf course design?’ For ASGCA President Jason Straka, it is undoubtedly the latter. “The great outdoors was something I really cared about and continue to do so,” he said. “I spent countless days as a young man fishing, wilderness camping, hunting, canoeing, hiking and skiing. That was an important part of my upbringing. I became enamored with the natural environment and its importance to mental and physical health, recreation and ultimately its protection for all of us as well as future generations. When I began to play golf, I really enjoyed the artistic and creative aspects of the game. It made perfect sense to marry my love of the outdoors and golf.” Wilderness canoe trips throughout northern Minnesota and Canada, camping in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and skiing in Vermont all impacted the Ohio native’s view of both the beauty and value of nature, as well as the importance of maintaining it so it may be enjoyed by others. As Straka embarks on his ASGCA presidency, he spoke with By Design about the path that has taken him around the world, yet always brings himback to the Buckeye state. “I come from a big golfing family and started playing at age five or six,” he recalled. “I played in junior events and through high school, but realized college play was a whole different level. “At an early age I considered building architecture because the creative aspect of design appealed to me, however it didn’t fulfill my desire to stay involved in the outdoors, not did it focus on protecting our environment. Then I learned about landscape architecture while considering Cornell University. I always wanted to get my hands dirty. I love the study of trees and grass, the whole horticulture element of design. And I learned I could take classes in natural resources, agronomy, wetland science, ecology and more. Utilizing my study of landscape architecture alongside environmental classes was my window toward designing golf courses. Golf course architecture is about engineering and drainage, but it is also about agronomy and a living environment. I chose to focus on environmental design not because I had to, but because I wanted to.” The importance of education has been a constant through Straka’s life and career. He comes by this naturally. “My father was an educator for 38 years,” he said. “Watching him and what it meant to mentor students and have an impact on their lives At one with nature and golf INTERVIEW Marc Whitney sits down with ASGCA President Jason Straka, who discusses how his love of the outdoors led to a career in golf course design, what impact the Society and its members have had on him, and the ideas he aims to bring to his new role.