Golf course architect Keith Foster shocked the sport’s community earlier this week when Foster pleaded guilty to a charge of violating the Lacey Act. Foster faces a maximum 5-year prison term for brazenly importing, transporting and selling products made from animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Foster, considered one of the nation’s best restoration architects, had previously signed an agreement with Congressional Country Club to carry out an estimated $30 million plan to restore the club to its original 1924 Devereux Emmet-designed Blue Course as well other facilities improvements. The work would then almost immediately showcase in an eight-event deal Congressional signed with the PGA of America to host multiple Women’s PGA Championships, Senior PGA Championships, the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. The first event in the deal is hosting the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Understandably, in the immediate fallout of the guilty plea, made as part of a plea agreement with the federal government, Congressional Country Club has severed ties with Foster.
According to The Fried Egg, Congressional club president Bev Lane sent a letter to the membership stating the project would continue to proceed through the permitting phase of the project. In the meantime, the club would work through a list of potential replacements for Foster.
The original plan had called for work to begin in fall 2019. It’s unclear if that timeline remains feasible, and it will largely depend on the results of the search — who’s available, who is selected and how quickly they can develop a plan. The selected architect could choose to work off of Foster’s submitted plan and make alterations as desired.
Foster loses Olympia Fields, too
In addition to losing the Congressional job, Foster has lost the scheduled work at Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago, per The Fried Egg report. The 2003 US Open host is also looking for a new architect as part of a long-term restoration project.
The next great restorative architect
Foster will be sentenced in federal court in March 2019. While it’s unclear how much, if any, prison time Foster will serve, his career will no doubt be stymied by his legal trouble. It would be difficult for many high-end private clubs — the kind Foster had built his business upon in recent years — to contract with Foster given his criminal record.
With Foster exiting the restoration space in the short- and medium-term, if not permanently, there will be room for another architect specializing in the work. The likes of Gil Hanse, or Coore and Crenshaw, or Tom Doak, may not be able to fit in the work, but there are several others who, if they wished, could fully embrace the niche and the prestige that comes with the jobs.