Australia’s most successful professional golfer, Peter Thomson won 5 British Opens as a player before turning his hand to course design with Michael Wolveridge in the 1960s. The pair started a firm that became globally renowned for their links-like style, and was prolific with more than 180 projects completed in all corners of the globe. Ross Perrett joined as a partner before the departure of Michael Wolveridge when the company reverted to its current name Thomson Perrett Golf Course Architects.
There was a period in the 1980s and 90s when this company seemed to win every major design contract in Australia, be it new courses or renovation/redesign work at some of the country’s celebrated older clubs. With little genuine competition and a marketable ‘signature’ the firm prospered, and it wasn’t really until the arrival of Greg Norman Golf Course Design and Michael Clayton's talented team that Australian business started to slow for Thomson and Perrett.
Initially the company was best known for building linksy courses in tropical or sub-tropical climates where neither the terrain nor the grass growing conditions were suited to that style of golf. Then came the big break, the opportunity to design on the pure dune country of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. The National Golf Club’s Ocean course was the first to open, principally designed by Michael Wolveridge it was a hugely disappointing creation when compared directly to the Norman/Harrison Course next door or the nature of the virgin terrain. Peter Thomson then had a go designing the Open Course at nearby Moonah Links, which is a juiced up championship links designed to torment professional players yet, being a resort, it was somehow to bring pleasure to the average golfer. Opinions are divided, but few believe this to be an elite Australian course despite the perfectly pitched undulation of the property. Ross Perrett’s Legends Course next door is the clear standout of the three, it too has the odd issue with green designs and a slightly squeezed routing but it’s a fine course that most will thoroughly enjoy tackling. Legends has been ranked among the top 15 courses in Australia.
Given the love affair with new Peter Thomson courses in Australia seems to be on the wane, the company is looking abroad and has plenty of contracts and courses under construction in places like Asia and the Middle East. The redesign work in Australia has also dried up, with Michael Clayton snapping up Thomson Perrett clients such as Royal Adelaide, Victoria, Peninsula, Lake Karrinyup, The Lakes and Royal Queensland and consistently helping these clubs improve.
Thomson Perrett don’t build bad golf courses, but Australia is a sophisticated market and Aussie golfers tend to demand more than just nice looking holes. The company would need to reinvent itself to repair some of the damage done by a decade of what could be viewed as substandard work, the sins of poor design compounded by the fact that some of their projects were on such fine golf land.