Quitno, 45, has spent the last 22 years working with Lohmann, who founded the firm in 1984. Quitno joined the company in 1996, straight out of Ball State University where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. He joined the American Society of Golf Course Architects as an associate in 2010, and earned full member status in 2015. Quitno’s ascension and the new company name necessitated a change to the firm’s website, now to be found at www.LohmannQuitno.com.
“This is the first step in creating a company that Todd will direct, eventually as the managing partner, for 20 to 30 years to come,” said former ASGCA president Lohmann, now 65. “Fact is, Todd’s been running 90 percent of our projects — from the planning phase straight through to our work in the field — for a long time already. We’ve always run things by each other, and we’ll continue to do that.
“But Todd is so personable, so talented — he brings an element of design flair and daring that exceeds my own frankly. He’s ready to take the lead here. As a company, we have always stressed the critical relationship architects will always have with cost projection, with the client’s return on investment. I learned that as a young designer in the 1970s from Ken Killian and Dick Nugent. Todd learned it here, from me — and that priority will never change. But he’s a younger man with all the design skills in the world and a better handle on what the market requires today, including the role of technology and social media.
“I’ve been around a long time but here’s the reality: Many of my best contacts are already retired! I still understand the market today, as a private club member myself I know the inherent struggles: We’ve got 180 members. How can we improve our product to get to 200 or 230? But Todd understands the market even better because, at 45, he is the market.”
As Lohmann notes, Quitno is already carrying the design load, with renovation projects underway at clubs across the Midwest and elsewhere, including:
–Schaumburg Golf Club, Schaumburg, Ill.
–Medina Golf & Country Club, Medina, Minn.
–Rye Golf Club, Rye, New York
–Brighton Dale Golf Links, Kenosha, Wis.
“Bob has built a tremendous reputation in this business and I would like to keep that tradition going — which is why we agreed it’s important to put my name out there more prominently,” Quitno says. “We’ll always collaborate. Bob and I share a lot of similar perspectives on golf design — he has taught me so much about the business. But while I appreciate all he has done for me and my family, I’m even more grateful for this opportunity to lead the company into the future — and to look at some different approaches as to how we pursue and execute our work.”
Quitno’s path to this new position relied on some early serendipities. The course he grew up on, Rochelle (Ill.) Country Club, was designed by Perry Maxwell, something he had not known until recently.
“Crystal Downs and Prairie Dunes are both very high on my list of favorite courses. Clearly I had developed a subconscious Maxwell connection,” he says, tongue in cheek. “But all that is buttressed by the fact that my grandfather was superintendent at RCC when they added nine holes to Maxwell’s layout and apparently had a hand in the design. He passed away before I was born, so I never got to ask him about some of the questionable decisions they made out there … Kidding, Grandpa!
“Right now I’m doing some pro bono, master-planning work at Rochelle — that’s how the Maxwell thing came to light — and we’re going to make some upgrades I think my grandfather would have liked. So things have sort of come full circle. Rochelle was important in another respect: the golf pro I worked for there, back in the day, is the guy who suggested I look into Ball State. I visited, loved it, changed my focus from engineering to landscape architecture, then went straight from there to a job with Bob Lohmann.”
During his two decades with the firm, Quitno has authored a half-dozen original course designs, including Blackstone Golf Club in Marengo, Ill., a popular daily-fee club in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Following prevailing industry norms, most of his work has been focused on renovation: Quitno has authored more than 100 different projects of various size. He’s currently an ASGCA Board of Governors member and a frequent speaker on the design industry’s behalf, on topics ranging from stormwater management on golf courses to the particulars of master planning and mixed-use development.
Today’s golf market, the one Quitno has been observing and shaping for 20 years, is remarkably similar to the one a young Bob Lohmann encountered when he left Killian and Nugent to launch his own firm in 1984: precious few new builds, highly renovation-centric, ever more regional.
According to Quitno, the techniques used to deliver design/renovation work have changed dramatically, however.
“The pace, the sheer speed and efficiency of what we can do and what we’re expected to do today is pretty striking,” Quitno says. “Our time frame on most projects is much shorter than what it was just 10 years ago, technology has really influenced that. Nuanced, accurate plans are always the starting point — the pathway to getting the most efficient and accurate pricing when jobs are put out to bid. But they remain a concept, on paper.
“What’s changed the most — and what will animate Lohmann-Quitno going forward — is our ability and obligation to be responsive to changes, to new opportunities, and to utilize a variety of delivery methods to satisfy our clients’ needs. There’s no end to the variables that influence a project these days and the vast majority of them are not necessarily resolvable at the drafting table. To be honest, design is the straightforward part. It’s all of the nuances now — like regulatory requirements, multiple agency involvement, short delivery timelines and project marketing needs — that require so much of our attention. In the old days, it seemed like we just designed a project and built it, boom-boom.
“These days, though, we’re constantly reviewing, revising and reporting, and it requires the ability to process and deliver information quickly to avoid delays. This is especially true in the field where the real decision-making ultimately happens. I love the in-the-dirt approach to design, it’s the most exciting part of our job and we are doing more and more of it these days. But it has to be supported by solid planning and this responsive flexibility to ensure we are meeting a project’s long-term management and sustainability goals.”
Quitno pointed to the firm’s recent hire of landscape architect Zach Tegge, a 2011 Arizona State University grad. Tegge’s job is based primarily around the application of GPS and drone technologies to the design and development process.
“I feel as though our whole business is becoming both more technology based and collaborative,” Quitno says. “Social media is a great example of how they go together, on the marketing side. But I see it in larger terms, including the appreciation of what other people are doing in the industry and how they’re doing it. That means going to see it, playing it, getting feedback on it — and exploring how we as a firm can learn from it. The older guys in our industry, it seems to me, have always been a little bit guarded about what they do and how they do it. I see that falling away with the younger architects and find it really exciting.”
Lohmann says that close observers can already see the difference in what the firm has produced of late, having leveraged this technology and industry insight to explore different design techniques.
“It’s been a real advance for us,” Lohmann says, “and Todd will take chances where I might not. He’s more eager to try different things, like the use of extensive collection areas that filter into adjacent holes or bunkering with a little more flash and depth. And he’s been an innovator in the incorporation of stormwater management techniques on golf courses — some of our work in that regard has been pretty stunning, aesthetically, and incredibly useful to clients both municipal and private.
“He and I were at a private club recently where the board — after a good bit of prodding — was ready to remove some bunkering that didn’t affect strategy but were excessive/expensive to maintain. The superintendent there and the board studied the course every which way and identified six bunkers to remove. Todd identified 25 — and he showed them how each hole would strategically be improved, by subtraction and repositioning. He’s very clever and creative that way — and such a good communicator. I think this move is going to turn him loose a little bit.”
The formation of Lohmann Quitno also signals the formal separation of the design and contracting operations in Marengo. Golf Creations, the course construction firm founded by Lohmann in 1987, has always been a separate entity from design, but the two have historically been marketed together as a design-build duo. Going forward, the companies will pursue work independently of each other, Golf Creations under the leadership of Lohmann and his son, Jim Lohmann.
The elder Lohmann, whose career has bookended golf’s development boom (1990-2005), sees this separation of services as another idea whose time came, got a bit blurred, but has returned in spades.
“Every job needs a good owner, a good contractor and a good architect to get it done right,” he says. “For a good long time, we have played two of those three roles, but that makes some people a bit uncomfortable in today’s market. I’m still a firm believer in the design-build approach, and think it has its advantages and place in the market, but we’re always adapting — something we’ve been doing since 1984, to be honest — and right now I feel the separation of the companies gives us the best chance to grow and meet the current market demand.
“There is one thing, however, that hasn’t changed and never will: The architect is vital to making any renovation project work, creatively and financially. So we’re rededicating ourselves to that model, which will always produce the best course product for the best price, with all the checks and balances an owner needs.”