“As beautiful as trees are, and as fond as you and I are of them, we still must not lose sight of the fact that there is a limited place for them in golf. We must not allow our sentiments to crowd out the real intent of a golf course, that of providing fair playing conditions. If it in any way interferes with a properly played stroke, I think the tree is an unfair hazard and should not be allowed to stand.”
– Donald Ross, from Golf Has Never Failed Me
First things first – I love trees. They are magical to me. Growing up on Chicago’s North Shore and finally settling in Evanston, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by big, old trees all my life. Time spent hiking in the woods of northern Michigan is second in enjoyment for me only to golf.
My tree-hugging tendencies having been disclosed, I have to agree with Mr. Ross 100%. On many golf courses, over-planting and invasiveness of trees are a detractor – they create turf health issues, add to maintenance costs, hinder playability, and block sight-lines. Further, when trees are overgrown, true specimens are not allowed to stand out, reducing aesthetic pleasure.
In spite of high-profile tree removal victories such as at Oakmont, architects and superintendents are often saddled in their work by club memberships that apparently don’t know the difference in function and intent between a golf course and an arboretum. To illustrate what they deal with, a superintendent friend of mine was confronted by a club member while overseeing tree removal and accused of “raping the golf course”. The restoration of that same course, which included substantial tree removal, has subsequently been lauded by the members as an unequivocal success.
As the sunlight can better reach the turf once the trees are thinned, so is this page intended as an attempt to shine a light that gets through to tree-ignorant golfers. Architects and superintendents are invited to share their tree removal before-and-after photos and I will keep them organized. Hopefully, by creating such a resource with visual proof of the improvements, we can raise awareness and make the lives of GCAs and Supers a bit easier.
Photos and commentary can be submitted to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @jasonway1493.
TREE REMOVAL BEFORE-AND-AFTER PHOTO ARCHIVE
Oakmont Country Club
1993-1995 Removal led by former Superintendent Mark Kuhns (read the story on Links Magazine)
The California Golf Club of San Francisco
2008 Restoration by Kyle Phillips Golf Course Design
Country Club of Peoria
2007-2008 Restoration by Michael J. Benkusky, Inc. – According to Mike, more than 500 more trees have been removed since the renovation was completed, and the membership continues to love the new look and playability of the course.
Golf Club de Hardelot
Old Elm Club
2010-2014 Restoration by J. Drew Rogers – This being my original home course, it has been quite incredible to see its transformation over the past several years. It was a special place before, and now that over 1000 trees have been removed (leaving only specimen oaks, elms and hickories), it is simply off-the-charts beautiful.
Los Angeles Country Club (North)
Philadelphia Cricket Club (Wissahickon)
2007 Renovation by Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Meade.
Sun City Country Club
Renovation by Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Meade. The opening up of the property that resulted from the tree removal allowed for the combination and creation of new holes (click images for slideshow).
2015 off-season tree removal performed by Course Manager Grant Peters
Country Club of Fairfield
Commonwealth Golf Club
Renovation work by Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Meade.
Tree removal performed by grounds staff, video courtesy of Deputy Course Manager Graeme Roberts.
Sleepy Hollow Country Club
2006-2007 Restoration by Gil Hanse and George Bahto, with subsequent additional tree removal. (pre- and post-restoration photos from course review on GolfClubAtlas.com; post-tree removal photo from recent course tour from GCA member Jon C.)
Side note: Highly recommend George Bahto’s book The Evangelist of Golf for anyone interested in golf course architecture, and certainly for any fans of C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor.
Broadstone Golf Club
2013-2014 Restoration by Frank Pont of Infinite Variety Golf Design.
Plum Hollow Country Club
Tree removal directed by Superintendent Adam Garr. This video illustrates perfectly the necessity for proactive tree management to ensure turf health (for more information, check out Adam’s PHCC Greens blog).
2014 tree removal pics courtesy of RV member Steve Demers (on Twitter @LuckyDemers).
Bryn Mawr CC
The Links at Lawsonia
2013 – 2014 restoration of this Langford & Moreau gem by Jim Nagle of Forse Design. Before pic courtesy of Scott LaPlant.
Additional Tree Removal Resources:
Recent Tree Removal Update by Chris Tritabaugh, Superintendent at Hazeltine National – This post from the club’s blog details reasoning and strategy behind selective off-season tree removal in preparation for the 2015 season, and 2016 Ryder Cup matches.
Timber! by Golf Course Architect Jeff Brauer – This column from Golf Course Industry Magazine makes a case for the benefits of thoughtful tree removal.