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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Golf-course designer Desmond Muirhead dead at 79

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Desmond Muirhead, a renowned golf-course architect who fought for responsible growth in Hawai'i in the 1960s, died May 2 at his home in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 79.

Muirhead was born March 23, 1923, in Norwich, England. He attended Cambridge University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon.

Muirhead also was a navigator in Britain's Royal Air Force and logged more than 2,000 hours of flight time in his four years of service. He moved to the United States in the 1950s and quickly became one of the most respected golf course designers in the country.

Golf Digest magazine described Muirhead as "the most innovative designer in 100 years" and he was called the "father of private golf club communities" by Executive Golfer. He designed courses with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gene Sarazen and Nick Faldo.

In the early 1960s, Muirhead lived in Honolulu and was a consultant to Henry J. Kaiser for what would become Hawai'i Kai. Muirhead spoke out against the overdevelopment of Waikiki and fought a plan that would allow high-rise buildings on Diamond Head, which he called a "great work of art that must be saved."

In the 1970s, Muirhead was engaged to then state Rep. Jean King, who would go on to become Hawai'i's lieutenant governor.

King planned to quit Hawai'i politics and move to California with Muirhead, but those plans fell through.

Muirhead is survived by his wife, Helen; daughters, Romy, Christine and Philippa; and three grandchildren.

No local services are planned.