005 | How Passion and Relationships Fuel Golf Course Design with Jim Nagle

Episode 005

How Passion and Relationships Fuel Golf Course Design

with guest Jim Nagle

After designing golf courses for 25 years, Jim Nagle knows what club executives should look for when they search for an architect to plan their course renovation.

Nagle grew up wanting to be the next Bob Vila, but when the golf bug bit him, he traded home improvement for course improvement. Nagle combined his natural design talent, a landscape architecture degree from West Virginia University, and his newfound passion for the game into a life’s work.

He benefited from influential internships and summer jobs while in college, learning from architects like Pete Dye, Perry Dye, and Don Placek. He went on to spend most of his professional career as a golf course architect with Ron Forse and Forse Golf Design, Inc., specializing in the restoration and renovation of classic and modern golf courses.

Nagle started his own business, Nagle Design Works, on March 1, 2024. His course redesign projects include Lancaster Country Club in central Pennsylvania, site of the recently completed U.S. Women’s Open.

In this episode, Nagle shares his story and lessons learned from a lifetime of work in the golf course industry.

How to Evaluate Architects for Your Golf Course Project

Golf courses, resorts, and related businesses benefited from the surge in engagement and golf activity from COVID-19, helping to offset some of the financial challenges posed by the pandemic, and also breathing new life into many facilities with capital improvements.

Often members don’t know exactly what the course needs, nor do they know who to hire. Nagel offered his top two traits an architect or designer should demonstrate before you sign him or her to a contract.

Listening skills rank at the top. The applicant has to understand what the hot-button issues are and what the timeline is, and then help you develop a written plan of action.

Recall is not far behind. Nagel puts stock in being able “to walk a golf course, sit down four hours later, and rattle off all the distinct features of that course.”

People, Not Pars

Nagle was never very good at playing golf, but he’s had a passion for the game and its people since he was a teenager.

As a designer or architect, you must be able to develop relationships with club leaders and members alike. It’s rare to simply be handed the keys to a course overhaul, so engaging with the club community early in a project sets you up for success, like a nice drive down the middle of the fairway.

Enjoy this episode of Leadership on the Links with Jim Nagle!


“When I was a kid, I wanted to be the next Bob Vila.”

“When we take that step into the unknown, in the back of your mind, it’s like, is this going to work? Is this going to work? And I saw pretty quickly that I think it’s going to work.”

“Our industry is evolving, where now we’re starting to see those courses built in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s starting to get facelifts, but also starting to get some significant rebuilds.”

“If there’s anything our industry is, it’s relationship-based. And it is so small that it will take you within a minute to find some sort of connection with the person you’re sitting next to, talking to.”

“They talk a lot about the community and what this U.S. Women’s Open means to that community. To be a part of that, although a very small part of that, there’s this community-wide success and enjoyment for this event.”

Links mentioned in this episode:

Nagle Design Works: https://www.nagledesignworks.com/

Connect with Jim on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-nagle-asgca-31031414/

U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club (Photo Tour): https://www.uswomensopen.com/2024/galleries/course-tour-of-lancaster-country-club.html

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Tyler Bloom

Who is Tyler Bloom?

Tyler Bloom is the leading expert on workforce development in the golf and turfgrass industry. He has worked with dozens of leading golf and sports companies in the United States including The PGA of America, Top 100 golf courses, public, municipal to professional sports teams, universities, and national historic landmarks.