“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 MANAGEMENT INSPIRATION
OAKMONT COUNTRY CLUB
Arguably, Oakmont was the original spark that got clubs to stop planting trees haphazardly, and start thinking about what proper tree management looked like for them. Obviously, the outcome at Oakmont is at the far end of the tree removal spectrum, but the impact of what Superintendent Mark Kuhns did starting in 1993 with support of key members continues to reach far beyond the boundaries of their property.
ESSEX COUNTY CLUB
The most amazing transformation that I have personally witnessed through tree removal is at Essex County Club. Before my first play of ECC, I studied up and saw pictures. The course I encountered in 2015 was not the same as the one in the photos. The Essex County membership and Superintendent Eric Richardson were already well on their way down the tree removal road, and they keep going. I have been back to play annually, and every time I visit, my jaw hits the ground again.
Following are before-and-after photos provided to me by Eric illustrating the extent of commitment that ECC has to bringing out the uniqueness of Donald Ross’s New England masterwork.
(click on images to enlarge)
The rock hill that is the central feature of the property, as seen from the 1st fairway:
From the 10th fairway, revealing the hillside:
From the 11th tee, uncovering the hill behind the green:
Looking back to the 12th tee, the drive plays blind over the hill:
From the 12th fairway looking back, with the movement of the land and skyline revealed:
From the 15th tee, with trees replaced by Ross mounds to separate 15 from 16 fairway:
Before, during and after removal of trees on 17, uncovering the wild topography on which this short par-4 is built:
The view back toward 12 from the 18th tee, set on the hill top:
From the 18th tee, looking down the fairway as it tumbles between the hills:
OLD ELM CLUB
The club where I grew up caddying has undergone an incredible transformation. The collaboration of architects Drew Rogers and Dave Zinkand, General Manager Kevin Marion, and Superintendent Curtis James has dramatically opened up the property so that the work of Harry Colt and Donald Ross can truly shine. It is not the course of my youth, and all the better for it. If I can ever pin Curtis down, there will be photos to come…
TREE REMOVAL BEFORE-AND-AFTER
(click on mosaic images to enlarge)
BROADSTONE GOLF CLUB
2013-2014 Restoration by Frank Pont of Infinite Variety Golf Design.
BRYN MAWR COUNTRY CLUB
2015 tree removal performed by Superintendent Brian Bossert as a continuation of a 2013 renovation by Jim Nagle of Forse Design. (Learn more about the project here)
CALIFORNIA GOLF CLUB OF SAN FRANCISCO
2008 Restoration by Kyle Phillips Golf Course Design
CAMBERLY HEATH GOLF CLUB
Tree removal performed by grounds staff, video courtesy of Deputy Course Manager Graeme Roberts.
COMMONWEALTH GOLF CLUB
Renovation work by Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Meade.
COUNTRY CLUB OF FAIRFIELD
1999-2000 Restoration by Bruce Hepner and Renaissance Golf Design (full course review on GolfClubAtlas.com).
COUNTRY CLUB OF PEORIA
2007-2008 Restoration by Mike Benkusky. – 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.
Photos courtesy of Superintendent Michael Vessely, who continues to polish this special Langford & Moreau 9-holer.
GOLF CLUB DE HARDELOT
2014 Restoration by Infinite Variety Golf Design and Patrice Boissonnas (more pics and information at GolfClubAtlas.com)
2007 Renovation by Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Meade.
THE LINKS AT LAWSONIA
2013 – 2014 restoration of this Langford & Moreau gem by Jim Nagle of Forse Design. Before pic courtesy of Scott LaPlant.
LINLITHGOW GOLF CLUB
2015 off-season tree removal performed by Course Manager Grant Peters
LOS ANGELES COUNTRY CLUB (NORTH)
2009-2010 Restoration by Hanse Golf Course Design with Geoff Shackelford (see the LinksGems Tour here)
LULU COUNTRY CLUB
December 2017 Tweet from the Lulu team (@lulucountryclub). Superintendent Matthew Stout and his crew have been doing tremendous work polishing up this Donald Ross gem.
July 2015 tweet from the Meadow Club Grounds Dept. (@meadow1927). In collaboration with Mike DeVries, Superintendent Sean Tully and his staff are bringing out every bit of beauty from this architectural treasure.
OAK HILL COUNTRY CLUB
June 2016 Tweet from Superintendent Jeff Corcoran (@ohccturf1), before and after pictures of #15 on the West course.
OLD TOWN CLUB
The title of tree management’s greatest champion goes to Dunlop White. Not only was he integral in the restoration of Old Town Club, which included significant tree removal, but he is also the keeper of the best set of resources on the subject that I found. Visit Dunlop’s website here.
PHILADELPHIA CRICKET CLUB (WISSAHICKON)
Photos posted to Twitter by Graylyn Loomis (@grayloomis).
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).
RIDEAU VIEW GOLF CLUB
2014 tree removal pics courtesy of RV member Steve Demers (on Twitter @LuckyDemers).
RIDGEWOOD COUNTRY CLUB
August 2015 tweet from the Ridgewood Grounds Dept (@RCC_Grounds). Beautiful work across the board by Superintendent Todd Raisch and his staff.
ROYAL CANBERRA GOLF CLUB
May 2015 Tweet from Superintendent Andrew Boyle (@Boyle_turf) highlighting OCCM work, which included improved tree management.
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). For more on Sleepy Hollow, see the LinksGems Photo Tour here.
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).
TPC PIPER GLEN
December 2017 Tweet from the Dept. of Agronomy (@TPCPG). Superintendent Steffie Saffrit revealing the beautiful movement of the land more fully.
Under the direction of Bruce Hepner, Superintendent Mike Bremmer and his crew have been peeling away the layers of overgrowth for 7+ years. According to Mike, “We are finally getting to the point after 750 removals where parts of the course come to light after falling one tree. Before we had to remove what felt like 100 to see progress.” More on Mike’s work at wisclubgrounds.blogspot.com.
ADDITIONAL TREE MANAGEMENT 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.
- A Tree Removal Before-and-After thread on GolfClubAtlas, showing other wonderful examples of the visual impacts.
- Why Oakmont Waged a War on Trees from the Wall Street Journal in the the run-up to the 2016 U.S. Open.
- Below the Trees by Dunlop White, a wonderful opinion piece on GolfClubAtlas, packed with historical perspective, information, and a nice dose of sarcasm.
- A Tree Removal List by state was created in this thread on GolfClubAtlas, and although never completed, does contain interesting removal stats.
Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf