Jan Bel Jan, a renowned golf course architect headquartered in Jupiter, Florida, is the second woman in the history of the American Society of Golf Course Architects to become its President in 2019. The late Alice Dye was the first in the 73 years of the Society’s existence. Jan was elected to the ASGCA in 1990 and is one of only four lady members in its history.
Jan Bel Jan grew up in golf. Her father George and her five uncles were all involved in the golf business. “I often overheard conversations between them after they played tournaments, discussing why they liked certain holes and I was fascinated by what they were describing,” said Jan. “My father designed and supervised the construction of the course where I grew up in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania,” she added. “He grew-in the course and was the pro-superintendent at Mannitto Haven Country Club. When I was only 5 or 6, I was captivated by the massive scrapers, bulldozers and front-end loaders.”
Jan was introduced to the business of golf as a teenager. “On weekends and during the summer, I mowed greens and raked bunkers in the morning, then worked in the golf shop in the afternoons,” recalled Jan. “I arranged tee times, sold merchandise, managed the golf carts, coordinated tournaments, reported event results to the local newspaper and computed handicaps by hand.” Bel Jan learned a valuable lesson-golf and the course experience has to be fun; make it enjoyable enough for golfers to want to come back.
After studying landscape architecture at West Virginia University, in 1978 as a sales representative/ lawn care technician for Davey Tree, she had a fortuitous meeting on the porch of Oakmont Country Club with a golf course architect by the name of Tom Fazio, and joined the golf course design firm headed by Tom and his uncle George, both ASGCA members in Philadelphia. “Tom provided me an opportunity,” she said. “This was a chance to join a successful design firm. I knew I had to learn something before I could do something. I am grateful that Tom saw in me a willingness to learn and to do.”
Today, Jan Bel Jan Golf Course Design’s portfolio includes Jupiter Island Club in Hobe Sound and Boca Lago Country Club’s 27 holes in Boca Raton on the east coast of Florida. On the Platinum Coast, Pelican’s Nest in Bonita Springs, Old Collier Golf Club and Pelican Marsh in Naples are just some of her recent projects. She has been recognized by the USGA in their museum exhibit, “Women and Golf Course Architecture,” and serves on the board for the National Alliance for Accessible Golf. To learn more visit JanBelJan.com
Speaking of accessible golf, when I met Jan years ago at a Golf Industry Show, she was expounding the need for ‘Scoring Tees.’ Jan as well as Alice Dye believe the game is hard enough without making the length for high-handicappers and ladies way too long to score well. The frustration of not being able to reach the green in regulation, time to play and terrible scores were not doing anything but chasing those players from the game. And we need everyone who attempts the game to enjoy the experience, not go away mad.
“I read Bill Amick, ASGCA, and his work charting a variety or players and how they hit the ball. It made sense that players should be accommodated,” said Jan. She also noted the work of Past ASGCA President Bob Cupp in promoting additional tee options as helping lead the way for the many architects of today. She went through 20 different terms before deciding on ‘Scoring Tees.’ Everyone wants to score better, especially the best players.
How will she determine a successful ASGCA presidency? “I want to carry on the mission of the recent Past Presidents through leadership, greater recognition for our members, thoughtfulness for our clients so we may continue providing the best product with better economic ways to do things. We want to help ASGCA members be successful with their clients and our clients to be successful with their golfers.” For more information you may visit ASGCA.org.