Donald Ross played in the local bagpipers band in his native Dornoch, Scotland. It’s unlikely, however, that he ever gave a concert at one of his own designs. That’s where Brian Curley’s got him.
Curley, who led the design effort at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes in Maricopa, Arizona, returned on Saturday, April 30 this year to the 20-year-old Schmidt-Curley (with Fred Couples consulting) creation. He played the highly ranked course in the morning and capped the day by performing a 2.5 hour show with his band, the Gitty-Ups!, on the club’s patio, overlooking the ninth hole.
For members of the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes community of golfers and area residents, this was an unexpected treat. Regulars ﬂock to the acclaimed Arroyo Grille on Saturdays for Prime Rib night and the occasional musical entertainment. What a surprise, however, to ﬁnd out that the guy singing the songs is the same guy that designed the golf course! While it’s a remarkable novelty to play a musical gig at the site of a course design gig, it’s hardly the most unusual venue he’s played.
China,” reported Curley. He also jammed with a make-shift band in October 2021 on a stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Performing, apparently, is in his blood. “I’ve been playing in bands since I was 16,” he said. “I started on drums. In college and post-college, I usually played bass in bands. During all those years where I was traveling for work, it was nearly impossible to be in a band. But what I did a lot was play open mics all over the world. Like in Hanoi, there’s open mics almost every night, all over the place. I’d rather do that
than watch TV.”
When COVID hit, Curley’s traveling ceased and so the Par-adise Valley, Ariz., resident took up with a band again. The Git-ty-Ups!, are billed as Americana Music, though what the audience hears is a bewitching brew of country, blues, rock and roll, and roots music, with a touch of honky-tonk. Curley sings lead with a raspy twang, punctuat-ed by yelps here and there and mostly plays ampliﬁed acoustic guitar, occasionally electric.
The sound is all their own. “What I like to do is take songs that people know but do our own versions and kind of countrify them. I describe it like, if cowboy boots represent country music and Doc Martens represent edgy rock and roll, I call our music ‘spurs on a pair of Doc Martens.’”
“BUT WHAT I DID A LOT WAS PLAY OPEN MICS ALL OVER THE WORLD. LIKE IN HANOI, THERE’S OPEN MICS ALMOST EVERY NIGHT, ALL OVER THE PLACE.”
Curley’s bandmates played percussion and harmonica while the architect picked and strummed. The eclectic set list at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes included tunes rom Garth Brooks and Chris Stapleton, but also from Van Halen, Tom Petty, and the Temptations. Patrons thigh-slapped, toe-tapped, and hand-clapped to such efforts as Curley’s favorite, a slow, bluesy interpretation of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.”
Curley is a gifted designer, but it’s clear he relishes the freedom that playing music brings “Being a golf course architect, you’ve got to wear a lot of hats. With music, I play what I know and like, and we keep it simple. I can change how I interpret a song every time I play it. It’s just pure fun.”