The fourth hole at Manchester Golf & Country Club, in Manchester, Iowa, is a short par four that runs along a country road across from cornfields. Each of the nine holes was designed in 1927 by one of the club’s founding members. Local attorney Shannon B. Charlton designed number four. And while the hole has remained virtually unchanged for 80 years, it has been remodeled numerous times in the mind of Charlton’s grandson.
President, Chief Design Officer
“It seems that golf course design was in my blood before I was born,” says Bruce Charlton, President and Chief Design Officer of Robert Trent Jones II (RTJ II). Although he might have been expected to follow in the line of Charlton family lawyers spanning four generations, Bruce Charlton knew from the time he was a teenager working as an assistant golf course superintendent, exactly what he wanted to do.
“I would be on the course the first thing in the morning, and then again late in the evening,” Charlton recalls, “and I thought, ‘This is as close to heaven as I can be.’ If you talk to my high school golf team buddies, they will say that I told them back then, ‘I am going to become a golf course architect.’”
While Charlton and his teammates were able to lead their high school team into the state tournament for the first time, college golf was another matter. Charlton tried out at Arizona, where his consistent rounds in the 70s weren’t quite good enough. Still, the climate beat Iowa’s, and Charlton focused on his studies, combining classes on turfgrass, business law, and real estate. And as a future golf course architect he always paid close attention to the land.
“The most important factor in being a good golf course architect is understanding what the land is doing,” Charlton says. “The flow of the land is the inspiration on any given site.”
Following graduation with honors and a degree in landscape architecture from Arizona in 1981, Charlton joined RTJ II. He honed his skills under Robert Trent Jones, Jr.’s tutelage and has grown into a highly respected architect in his own right. Charlton is a member of the executive committee of the prestigious American Society of Golf Course Architects, and is and is a former president of the organization.
Charlton’s body of work with the RTJ II team is as remarkable as it is global, and has won countless awards and accolades. His more than 50 designs include Trans Strait Golf Club and Yalong Bay Golf Club in China; The Marshes Golf Club in Canada; Skjoldenaesholm Golf Center in Denmark; Bjaavann Golfklubb and Holtsmark Golf Club in Norway; and Sky Hill Jeju Country Club in South Korea. He has also designed courses in Australia, South America, and Japan.
Charlton’s domestic creations include Arizona National Golf Club in Arizona; The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe and Rancho San Marcos Golf Course in California; Raven Golf Club at Sandestin in Florida; Osprey Meadows at Tamarack Resort in Idaho; Prairie Landing Golf Club and ThunderHawk Golf Club in Illinois; Southern Highlands Golf Club in Nevada; Chambers Bay in Washington; and University Ridge Golf Course in Wisconsin.
Charlton says he has thrived at RTJ II thanks to the team creativity encouraged throughout the company, starting with Robert Trent Jones, Jr., himself. “Bobby gives people tremendous flexibility to express themselves,” Charlton explains. “He is terrifically open-minded – a collaborative mentor. What we have at RTJ II is a team of creative people who are passionate about golf. We are all driven by that.”
Charlton lives in Los Altos, Calif., with his wife Maridee and their daughter Casey. His golf designs live in many countries on most of the world’s continents.