Geeked on Golf


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Desert Forest Daydreaming

This post started as a cure for the winter blues.  My business travels usually take me to Scottsdale in December, affording an opportunity to see my favorite desert golf course – Desert Forest.  No such luck in 2017, and I found myself missing it greatly.

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The understated clubhouse at Desert Forest – Photo by Dan Moore

My first visit to Desert Forest was with Dan Moore, after David Zinkand had already done the bulk of his renovation work.  I never played Red Lawrence’s original, but Dave Zinkand’s update immediately grabbed ahold of my heart.  Wonderfully routed, minimally bunkered, with interest-packed greens, the course demands strategic thought and creative execution to score.  It is a fantastic golf course, presented beautifully by Superintendent Todd Storm, at a club with just the kind of friendly, low-key vibe that resonates with me.

Dave and Dan both graciously offered their contributions to this post, which turned my simple daydreaming into a comprehensive tour, with a unique twist.  Dave provided his commentary on the changes he made during the renovation, and the reasoning behind those changes.  Dan added his beautiful feature photos (his are the rectangular ones and are copyright Dan Moore) and his player’s knowledge of the course.  Although nowhere near as good as Dan’s, I pitched in the best of my photos for some additional perspective (mine are in the circles and can be clicked to enlarge).

Think of what follows as a conversation among three geeks out at twilight, walking, playing, talking architecture and snapping photos.  Hopefully, all in, we have done justice to this special place.

Enjoy!


THE RENOVATION

DZ: Desert Forest Golf Club attained its status in the golf world thanks to Red Lawrence’s strategic minimalism.  Other venues in the Southwest United States predate Desert Forest, yet Lawrence’s routing was the first desert golf course truly integrated into this unique and inspiring ecosystem.  His patient study of the terrain yielded undulating fairways resting easily upon the rugged Sonoran desert.  He complemented these natural contours with perched greens shedding in multiple directions to provide a particularly challenging test of which one never grows tired.  The appreciation Members showed through the Club’s first fifty years maintained the integrity of this layout.  

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The foremost goal of my 2013 Masterplan was to fulfill a directive set out by Staff and Members during the architect selection process – secure the long-term vitality of the Club.  Deteriorating turf conditions, advances in playing equipment and somewhat elemental aesthetics from an original construction budget of $250,000, combined to hamper the Club’s legitimate status as a pioneering gem of American golf.  Fifty years after the Club’s inception, the course had undergone relatively little in the way of alterations.  Club Leadership wished to address both how the course plays and how it will be perceived over the next fifty years.

After years of gradual agronomic decline, establishing strong turf, healthy soil profiles and maximum pin-able space were the utmost priorities with Desert Forest’s greens.  Doing so while maintaining the small, push-up green complexes for which the Club is known would maintain its challenge and design integrity, but increasing pin-able space within the footprint of the existing green complexes required compromises.  The Membership clearly wished to retain the rigorous demands of putting at Desert Forest.  The original strategic concepts related beautifully with the fairways, and so were maintained.  Though small, the greens exhibited many long slopes, often steep with five or six percent grades.  This meant that in providing putting surfaces which allow enough cupping area and still ensuring a challenge, the transitions between pin locations would necessarily be more abrupt.  Internal contours were given more individuality and complexity than the original, rather repetitive surfaces.  The results left a learning curve for Members who had never before experienced such change at the Club.  The new challenge was offset, however, by a thoughtfully considered long-term directive to provide moderate green speeds (around 10.5 on the Stimp Meter).  This enables the Club to produce high quality turf conditions while ensuring environmental sustainability, even in the desert surrounds.

Green perimeters had become disjointed from their surrounds after years of topdressing up to their edges.  This hindered the running game, as well as being unattractive; a seamless transition was returned with installation of the new profiles.  Sand recycled during demolition was incorporated during the reshaping of approaches to provide firm entries and enhance the ground game.  A topdressing program for surrounds has also been devised to ensure a fulfilling running game year-round.

Advancing the strategy and aesthetics of the course to fulfill modern expectations of such a minimalist gem rounded out the primary masterplan goals.  Plenty of Members were vocal about the need to increase course difficulty even though the challenge of Desert Forest had very much remained substantial for the vast majority of golfers.  My intention was therefore to maintain the degree of difficulty overall, while increasing the test for low-handicappers and providing high-handicappers a more reasonable path.  The finished results produced an increased Course Rating to challenge the best players combined with a reduced Slope rating to accommodate less-skilled play.

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Rendering by Patrick Burton

With so little change in the layout since the course was opened in 1962, tees were necessarily a priority.  Advances in length meant many of the Club’s toughest holes no longer required a driver for better players.  Holes intended to provide such a test were lengthened, as well as given new angles from the back tees where appropriate.  A new set of “Copper Tees” were installed as a shorter option.  The suitability of all tees in between were considered; as islands of turf amongst the desert, many were added, shifted or eliminated to best suit existing and future Members.

While we substantially enhanced the aesthetics of Desert Forest’s feature work, we did so mostly through subtle, often handcrafted, implementation of the objectives.  More than a dozen objectives were typically addressed on each hole through such refinements.  We expanded and refined many fairway edges for strategic, playability and aesthetic considerations.  On others we removed turf to ensure good custodianship of the Sonoran Desert.  This allowed for returning native vegetation to areas that had been lost over the years.  In conjunction with mending native areas, many non-native trees were removed.  This allowed improved strategy, turf conditions and vistas. The limited budget for Desert Forest’s original construction meant a great many areas along the edges of holes were cut to enable contouring nearby.  This left an artificial feel to the perimeters of holes. We utilized good spoils from other renovation tasks to recontour these areas, tying them naturally back into the surrounding desert, improving the look and feel of the holes.  A less desirable variety of Bermuda grass was simultaneously removed from the rough to improve playability, expand and refine fairway mow lines, as well as produce better grow-in during overseed.

The most visible change at Desert Forest is the greenside bunkering.  The course has never had fairway bunkers.  As Brad Klein says, “there’s just one big one” – the desert.  The greenside bunkers, though eventually deepened in the 1990’s, were originally very shallow dishes with simple oval forms.  Members used to have a photo contest in their weekly e-newsletter to determine on which hole the image was taken.  This proved highly challenging and competitive because of the repetitive contouring and bunkering around each green.  Fortunately, the contest lost its challenge due to the identity instilled within each green complex during the renovation, which includes a rugged, natural feel to the bunker forms and edging to complement the desert.

Altering an historic layout after so many years without change is a difficult path to navigate.  However, the rewards to Members are now evident, providing a bright forecast for the Club’s next fifty years.


DESERT FOREST

DM: Lawrence routed the course through the desert taking care not to disrupt the natural flow of the desert floor while expertly utilizing the ebb and flow of the terrain.  He reportedly walked alongside the machines clearing the fairways to make sure they disrupted the native desert as little as possible, and he even left a few trees and saguaros in the fairways.

Lawrence was quoted at the time Desert Forest opened, “This is a desert course. We used as rough and hazard only desert material.  No two fairways offered the same two problems.  If anything, there was an overabundance of opportunity.  The trouble was in leaving a maximum of the raw desert growth.”  He called Desert Forest “the most challenging and satisfying piece of construction I have ever enjoyed.”

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My doodle illustrates Lawrence’s intimate routing

HOLE 1 – Par 4 – 397 yards

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JW: The 1st at DF is a hard dogleg right par-4.  The drive is semi-blind, which is a theme throughout Red Lawrence’s wonderful routing.  This is a course that takes multiple plays to learn.

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DM: The drive on the first hole hammers home that hitting the fairway is paramount at Desert Forest, a course with no fairway bunkers.  To provide strategic interest off the tee Red Lawrence relied on the desert flanking each fairway and natural undulations of the desert floor.  An uphill 2nd shot takes you to one of the nicest green sites on the course.

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DZ: Both the first tee complex and the practice range tee were lowered 3-4 feet to improve vistas, gain valuable ground and simplify the elegant grounds radiating out from the clubhouse.  This enabled a new rear tee to be built, the opportunity to re-establish the uphill feel of the fairway, and rethinking of nearby practice amenities. 

This hole’s dogleg provides a challenging opening drive for Members and new forward tees help to soften the degree of difficulty.  The challenge of skirting the dogleg off of the tee was complicated by a back-right green section that fell sharply towards the desert and cart path.  In recontouring the green complex, I supported this section of the green and expanded the surrounds slightly to ensure the fall-away pin position was retained, while providing reasonable playability.  Turf behind the left bunker was eliminated to better focus one’s eye in on the target and enhance the native surrounds.

HOLE 2 – Par 4 – 428 yards

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JW: The subtle angles on this hole are genius.  The fairway winds between two protrusions of the desert, making the tee shot disorienting.  The green, which is protected by a large bunker right, is best approached from the left half.

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DM: A great example of how Lawrence used natural terrain to define the tee shot without fairway bunkers.  Utilizing natural contours in place of staggered fairway bunkers, the tee shot is defined by a finger of desert that juts in on the left and a larger shoulder of desert 20 yards farther on the right.  The large green is receptive to long shots and features a significant left to right tilt which accentuates the difficulty of missing to the left.

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DZ: The second hole provides a rare opportunity for a truly aggressive drive at Desert Forest.  Though early fairway width provides a generous beginning to the landing area, native vegetation and natural contours defend the latter portion of the landing area, demanding players decide just how far they wish to play up the fairway.  Recontouring of hole perimeters allowed us to enhance the options and playability.

The front of this green was expanded and supported to regain provocative pin locations lost over the years to increasing green speeds. Interestingly, some Members were adamant that the steep nature be maintained so that guests might continue to experience the possibility of putting right back off the front of the green!  Reestablishing a ‘false front’ by extending green height down over the front slope, while also introducing more support within the green itself accomplished increased pins, playability and a treacherous front slope.

Many greens at Desert Forest are guarded with bunkers on either side.  The left bunker at this green was not original.  I opted to replace it with a closely mown slope guarding the entire left side.  This distinguishes the green from five and thirteen, which once appeared quite similar.  Happily, this spoils the fun of the Club’s former photo contest from when holes were nearly indistinguishable around their respective green complexes.

HOLE 3 – Par 3 – 160 yards

JW: DF’s first one-shotter plays to an elevated putting surface with bunkers on all sides.  The tee is slightly elevated, which makes hoisting a tee ball toward this green an exercise in choosing thrills over intimidation, especially with the pin in the front sliver among the bunkers.  Get too aggressive and miss the green here, and you could experience adventures in recovery.

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DM: Affectionately known as Desert Forest’s shortest par 4, the third presents a small, well-guarded green and deep drop off long left.  A high, quick stopping shot to the middle of the green is the best play regardless of pin location.  Lawrence beautifully framed the green between the prominent nob at the end of Black Mountain on the right and a large boulder on the left now obscured by a large tree.

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DZ: This is a classic, treacherous short par three.  As opposed to being surrounded by bunkers on all sides, trouble in the way of fall-away green slopes and surrounds awaits left and back right.  The key to improving this hole was supporting these fall-away slopes in a manner so a balance was struck between degree of difficulty and playability.

As with all of the holes, bunkering was modified to focus attention more on the greens and provide detailed interest.  An unattractive rear bunker was lowered entirely out of view from the tee, but widened for improved playability, helping to emphasize the diminutive target from the tee.

HOLE 4 – Par 4 – 441 yards

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JW: A simple, but elegant hole, with an ever so slightly angled drive to a straight fairway.  A lone bunker guards the contoured green left and a tricky little runoff, the right.  The word pure is thrown around perhaps too liberally.  It applies at Desert Forest.

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DM: A mid-length par 4 that beautifully pairs a sloping fairway with a dramatic false front on the right.  The left half of the fairway is relatively flat and is the best angle from which to approach pins on the right, especially those tucked near the false front.  Any drive to the right half will take the slope leaving the ball close to the right edge of the fairway with a tough shot over the false front to any pin on the right.

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DZ: Among the many new tee locations added, a forward tee was sympathetically carved into the native terrain along the right side of four to provide an improved angle of play for shorter players.  The fairway was expanded both left and right to improve playability and allow high left and low right options of play off the tee for attacking various pin positions.  Ground along the left edge of this fairway was raised to allow for expansion and contoured to fit seamlessly in with the surrounds.  While the bold slope off of the front right of this green was repaired and retained, the center ridge in this green running parallel to play was lowered and the right side supported to recapture challenging far right pin placements.  The backline of this green was raised for support and turf expanded beyond for playability.

HOLE 5 – Par 4 – 440 yards

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JW: The hard dogleg left on this stout four par invites the player to bite off as much as they dare.  Once that line is chosen, the swing better be confident.  A lone Dave Zinkand bunker guarding the green right.  Sometimes, one bunker is all you need to create strategic challenge.

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DM: A cape-hole dog-leg to the left, the 5th is another hole where the slopes and angles of the fairway work in concert with the green to define the strategy of the hole.  The tee shot is designed such that you must take on an isthmus of desert which rewards a right to left shot.   The green features a significant drop off on the left quarter and is best approached with a left to right shot from the left center of the fairway providing an angle away from the false side.  Lawrence clearly valued shot-making ability.

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DZ: Red Lawrence was an avid fan of shot-making.  During my early days studying the golf course, it became apparent he favored a draw off of the tee, while more often than not, bunkering the green more severely on the right to reward a fading approach.  Lawrence surely saw a running draw off of the tee as a tactic for golfers to tackle what was a rather long layout at the time the Club opened.  Conversely, a slight fade into the greens offers access and control on these small sloping targets.

This is clear on hole five, where a finger of native creeps into the landing area from the inside left, emphasizing the dogleg.  This finger was included in the native desert rehabilitation effort.  A sliver of turf along the outside of the dogleg was removed to complement the improvements to views down this hole.  More than any other hole, the tree removal along both sides of five enhances the desert feel, vistas and enjoyment of the bountiful saguaros uncovered, for which the Sonoran Desert is famous.

As with many approaches, the entry to five green was supported to enable running shots.  The right edge of this approach near the bunker was filled to better define a line upon which to enter the green.  The right greenside bunker was extended along the approach to highlight this edge.  A rise in the back middle of this green was highlighted to increase interest and the value of shot-making when attempting to reach back pins.

HOLE 6 – Par 4 – 361 yards

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JW: The hole is dead straight, but that does not mean you should hit it down the middle.  A center fronting bunker built into a mound dictates play from the tee.  Whichever side of the green the pin is on is the half of the fairway the player’s drive needs to find. Approaches from the wrong side that hit the front mound run the risk of shooting all the way into the back bunker.  Not the place to be.

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DM: The 6th hole is defined by a gaping Lion’s Mouth bunker fronting the middle of the green the back of which forms a large mound that divides the green in half.  The large mound off the back of the front bunker is paired with a smaller mound in the back half of the green. Except when the pin is on the front half of the right side, it’s best to play to the left side of this fairway to avoid a valley on the right which often kick balls into the desert.

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DZ: The sixth was affected by gains in distance due to modern technology as much as any hole on the course.  For short and mid-length golfers, the right side of this landing area rolled off repeatedly into desert surrounds.  Whereas, the far end of this landing area offered the most forgiving ground on the hole, so that the longest players had a decided advantage with much less risk.  Mid-length contours down the right side were supported and vegetation along the landing area thinned to improve playability.  Several yards were added down the left of the landing area where existing mesquites were removed to provide width for the short to medium length player and create a more attractive hole corridor.  Further down, the left was pinched abruptly to heighten the challenge to longer tee shots.

Standing on the tee in my early visits, it was apparent something was amiss at the green.  As lofted as many greens are at Desert Forest, the visibility to this green was poor.  It turned out this was one of several greens altered in the 1970’s.  I raised the green one and a half feet to return what is believed to be original grade and improve visibility down the hole.  An existing bunker stretched across the middle and right side of the approach to this green.  This was replaced with a small central bunker in the approach and the right side supported to provide an alternate entryway for pins along the right side of the hole.  The left greenside bunker was expanded to tie in with the native desert.  Strategic pin positions along the edges of the green were recaptured and the roll up to the rear bunker removed to bring this hazard better into play.

The original green was particularly unsuited to modern green speeds and its contours were no longer part of Member’s collective memory, so I installed a milder slope with internal contours for challenge and interest.  A front hump was placed in the green to support the front bunker and extend this hazard into the putting surface as a consideration for those seeking to attack surrounding pins on this fairly short hole.  A central hump was also added to reward shot placement. 

HOLE 7 – Par 5 – 530 yards

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JW: The first five par is a strategic gem.  A safe left route can be taken to play the hole as a three-shotter.  Or, rifle a field goal between the cactii and over the desert, and you’re looking at a green light special from in front of the wash that cuts diagonally across the landing area for layups.  There are no throwaway shots on this hole.  The green sits atop a small hill and is well defended by bunkers left and right.  Brilliant.

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DM: Yes, brilliant!  If there is a better split-fairway par 5 I have yet to see it.  The right fairway is blind from the tee, but framed beautifully by Lawrence between the twin peaks of the mountains in the distance.  The second shot must contend with a wash that crosses the fairway 120 yards from the green.  With a new tee and the desert extended away from the tee by 20 yards in 2013, a carry of 265 yards is required from the back tee (240 from the Black tee) with the reward of being able to go for the green in two.  A drive to the left fairway leaves either a lay-up before the wash and a longer approach over the right bunker or a long shot that must carry the wash for a third shot straight into the green between the flanking bunkers.

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DZ: This is readily thought of as Desert Forest’s signature hole.  Red Lawrence made fun use of the massive wash running the length of this par five by locating a crossing where many Members might wish to place their second shot.  To better address the needs of shorter Members, a new white and copper tee were added down the left.  This shortened the white tee from 466 yards to 404 yards and allowed for a 370 yard copper tee.  For longer players, dramatic changes in equipment over the years have affected the way all of the Club’s par fives play, including seven.  In an effort to return the challenge of this hole for these players, a new back tee was added, lengthening the hole from 534 yards to 551 yards. A shift left with this new back tee also emphasized the wash along the right side of the optional far right landing area.  Vegetation was selectively thinned between the tees and each landing area.  A large mesquite at the start of the right fairway, along with other trees closer to the wash were removed to allow visibility towards the green.  Turf at the beginning of the right fairway was removed to increase the challenge of carrying to this more direct line.  Turf was also removed alongside the bank to require greater accuracy and highlight the natural wash. These former turf areas were revegetated with native plants.

The front of this green was expanded.  Pin-able space was recaptured along the right bunkers and an additional pin was captured back right.  Turf outside of the right bunkers was removed to enhance aesthetics, eliminate unnecessary irrigation and improve focus on the target.  The left bunker was expanded along the approach to enhance the right to left angle of the green.  The demanding back left pin was recaptured by softening this fall-away slope to accommodate anticipated green speeds.  Turf back left was expanded to improve playability and provide forgiveness to those attempting to reach these back pins.

HOLE 8 – Par 3 – 203 yards

JW: The par 3 8th plays slightly downhill to a green that appears crowned.  The little bunker front center has a big impact as it draws the eye and prompts shots that bail out left and right.  The green is big, but plays much smaller due to the spine running through the middle.  Miss on the wrong side and a three-putt is almost guaranteed.

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DM: Desert Forest’s longest par 3 plays significantly downhill to a large receptive green. Usually a club or two less than normal is all that is needed as long as you carry the middle front bunker.

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DZ: The Membership heartily identifies with the challenging nature of the course.  Along with the Club’s very golf-centric focus and a walkable, lay-of-the-land routing, this identity contributes greatly to the Club’s strong market niche.  In considering how modern play had diminished the original challenge of Desert Forest, the ease with which “flat-bellies” finished the front nine was as important a consideration as any.

Given the tee and green settings of each par three, the eighth hole presented the best option to provide a long one-shot hole.  This was particularly advantageous considering the contribution it could make to strengthening the test at the end of the front nine.  Unlike the existing long par three 17th, the eighth also naturally required players walk right by the ideal back tee location upon exiting seven green.

A rear tee was built, lengthening the hole from 206 yards to 231 yards.  Middle tee placements were shifted back as well, largely by utilizing existing tee space.  The existing forward tee was regraded to accommodate a new copper tee.  Approach area was added along the left and vegetation removed to improve visibility.  A rare front bunker was narrowed and shifted slightly right and the putting surface built up to accommodate the natural left to right green setting and longer shot.  The green surface was also expanded towards the tee between the existing front bunker and two left bunkers to allow better access and increased pin positions.  The right approach was tied gently into the enlarged green surface and supported along the right edge to allow a broad area of access for higher handicappers.  Support was added all along the rear of the green to better accept longer tee shots.

The left and central bunkering were resculpted for a more natural appearance, as well as to emphasize the strong left to right feel that has always defined this hole.  Turf was removed on the outside edges of both left bunkers and replaced with native vegetation to improve aesthetics and eliminate superfluous turf.  A right bunker was replaced with turf when a cart path tucked in a wash beyond was relocated left of the hole amid construction.

This right bunker was reinstalled in 2014 when green contours were softened due to concerns over the hole’s increased degree of difficulty.  It has become accepted that lengthening eight was a worthwhile venture.  Not only did this improve the finish to the front nine, it also provided balance with other holes on the back nine.

HOLE 9 – Par 5 – 533 yards

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JW: The ninth is bunkerless tee to green, playing straightaway up over a rise, and then down to the well defended green.  The shortish length makes it gettable, but the margin for error is small, and the green cant and contours make you earn your birdies.

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DM: The longest par 3 is followed by the shortest par 5.  With the nob on the end of Black Mountain as a target, Lawrence angled the fairway into a series of ridges running perpendicular to the fairway.  Find the speed slot right center and you might get a look at the green for your second shot.  Play up the left or far right and your second will be blind to a tightly guarded green with just a 10 yard wide opening.  A cactus behind the green provides the line.  A large green filled with subtle undulations.

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DZ: This reachable par five previously had a ridge running perpendicular across the first landing area. Balls landing on the downslope of the ridge were supplied additional distance without taking on any risk, while balls landing shy were stunted.  In an effort to increase the interest, challenge and playability, this ridge was recontoured. The left side was left intact, so long shots played accurately down this side could still take advantage of the added length and retain visibility to the green.  The right side was shaped to cause longer drives to veer toward the right edge of the landing area, where the view to this green is obscured by a second ridge further up.

A great deal of unnecessary turf was removed right of the first landing area to focus attention down the hole and improve sustainability, while a great many trees were removed to improve turf and open up surrounding views.  Numerous unnecessary catch basins were removed from fairways, particularly on this hole.  Back at the tees, a rear tee was added to lengthen this par five from 501 yards to 533, continuing the effort to bolster the front nine finish.  As part of the effort to improve tee placements overall, the forward tee just beyond the wash was shifted right to a central location, creating a much better angle of play for shorter ball-strikers.

As on the sixth, this green had been revised in previous years.  It did not provide a target suitable for a reachable par five, nor was it a particularly flattering finish to the front nine.  A new putting surface was sculpted, which incorporates a new back right pin location that was previously inaccessible due to severity of the slope.  The bail-out back right was recontoured to help contain balls, improve drainage and enhance playability.  The right bunker was brought around the front right of the green to protect the putting surface.  A far left aiming bunker, as seen from the tee, was incorporated into the left green side bunker, which was enlarged to accommodate this important role of informing play down the hole.  This newly shaped bunker was brought snugly against the green.

HOLE 10 – Par 4 – 382 yards

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JW: The par-4 10th features a tough tee shot uphill and around a corner to the right, followed by an approach into a green with a particularly cavernous bunker left.  The putting surface features wonderful internal rolls and contours.  Familiarity is a prerequisite for making putts.

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DM: A drive left of center on this dog-leg to the right will provide a straight shot into the green guarded left and right.  The green features a plateau on the back right whose slopes define the rest of the green.  Cavernous bunkers gobble up any less than purely executed iron.

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DZ: The nines at Desert Forest were reversed shortly after the Club opened.  Members felt what is now eighteen played less directly towards the setting sun.  So, the tenth tee is positioned right out the front door of the pro shop.  A great big non-native mesquite was removed down the inside of this dogleg right.  Contours on this inside of the dogleg, including an awkward swale, were improved for strategy, playability and drainage, while support was added to the outside to improve interest, playability and safety with the range nearby.

A false front on this green was recaptured to provide better visibility and support at the front of the putting surface.  The entire green was widened and pin-able space along the left bunker recaptured to reward those playing down the recontoured strategic inside of the dogleg.  A roll was emphasized in the back-middle of the putting surface.  This supports and defends a prominent, fun back pin location, while adding interest to surrounding sections of the green.

Alterations to the bunker forms continued on the tenth, with the left bunker greatly expanded to tie-in directly with native ground on the left for aesthetics and playing interest.  The outside edge of the right bunker was lowered to focus attention back on the green. Turf behind the green was expanded and the cart path shifted beyond surrounding trees to improve playability with valuable rear pin positions.

HOLE 11 – Par 5 – 573 yards

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JW: The par-5 11th is the longest hole on the course and snakes over rolling fairway around to the left.  The green is fronted by a deep swale and center bunker.  To make birdie, a player must be precise with both the layup and approach – angles matter at the eleventh.

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DM: The 11th features a fairway that flows beautifully through the desert in a right to left direction finishing at a green perched above a grassed over desert wash that cuts in front of the green at an angle.  Lawrence placed each of the four par 5 greens beyond desert washes providing strategy for the second shot.

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DZ: Many non-native mesquites were removed along the lengthy turf edges of this par five to improve playability and turf health.  Grass was also removed along either side and replaced with native vegetation to enhance strategy and aesthetics.  

Whereas the par five seventh features the Club’s broadest wash in its native form, a smaller turfed wash guards the green and approach on this three-shot hole.  The swale was previously closer to the green with a channelized feel.  We shifted it away to expand and raise the approach and right edge.  This lends a more natural appearance with improved playability.  A large mesquite in front of the left side of the green was removed.  A bunker between the tree and green was reduced in size and shifted toward the center.  Along with removing a back left bunker, these efforts allow for more conservative play to the now forgiving left side.  The remaining rear bunker was recontoured for interest.  Turf behind the bunker was eliminated in favor of native vegetation and the leading edge tucked closer to the green with a lower lip to engage the putting surface.

HOLE 12 – Par 3 – 185 yards

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JW: A longish one-shotter that plays slightly uphill to a well-defended green, the twelfth is one of DF’s holes that is just plain tough.  However, the glorious combination of Red Lawrence’s green setting, Dave Zinkand’s minimalist aesthetic and Superintendent Todd Storm’s ideal presentation is more than enough to offset any pain inflicted on a player’s scorecard.

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DM: The mid-length par 3 12th is visually deceptive with the green defended by a series of deep bunkers that along with the uphill nature of the hole hide much of the quite generous green surface.  The front half of the green is fairly tight but opens up in the back.  The middle of the green is usually a good play regardless of pin location.

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DZ: While not a long par three, the twelfth has always provided a difficult target with demanding cup locations.  Pin-able space was dramatically increased, including at the front along the bunkers and both strategic sections back left and right.  Lowering green surface along the front bunkers also enabled better receptiveness for tee shots.  Turf was expanded back right of the green and bail out areas behind either side of the green recontoured to provide more forgiveness to fall-away pin locations on either side of the green.  A great deal of unnecessary turf was eliminated at the start of this approach, while a new forward tee was provided along the left to provide more reasonable access to the narrow green entrance for forward tee players.

HOLE 13 – Par 4 – 449 yards

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JW: Hug the inside of the corner on this slight dogleg left, and you have an open look on approach.  Take the safe route off the tee and you’re staring at a stacked pair of Zinkand specials in the face.

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DM: Pucker up and let it rip, but avoid the steep drop off into the desert on the left.  Nothing too tricky here, just uphill all the way to a green located up a steep slope.  It will simply take two of your best to reach the raised green in regulation.  If that’s not enough, the green is difficult with a shelf on the back left.

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DZ: Twenty yards were added to thirteen through a new rear tee to return the teeth of this long uphill climb to the Club’s highest green setting.  Thanks to several new forward tee placements, unnecessary turf at the beginning of this fairway was replaced with native vegetation for aesthetics and improved sustainability.  The right side of this landing area was recontoured to improve drainage and retain balls in the fairway on this right sloping portion of the dogleg left.  Turf at the end of the landing area was removed along with select trees to improve aesthetics, enhance the desert feel and stiffen the challenge for the longest of players.

This is the last of the three greens that had previously been altered, along with six and nine.  The green was expanded, particularly at the back left and front right.  A sharp, disjointed approach was softened and tied seamlessly together with the green.  Green surface was extended down the front slope to better accept running approaches and provide a greatly improved appearance.  Pins closer to the front of the green and near the right bunker were recaptured.

The right greenside bunker was expanded to two to guard the right side of this approach and provide a prominent focal point displaying visual feedback at the tee as to the angle of this hole.  This effort also improved maintenance considerations over the previous bunker configuration.  The greenside edge of this bunker remained high to provide a unique identity as compared with previously similar bunkers on holes such as two and five.  The leading edge was lowered for enhanced visibility on the tee.  The left two bunkers were joined as one to provide visual impact.  Their outer edges were tied into the native surrounds for aesthetics and to better focus the eye on the target.  The turf edge back right of this green was reestablished to improve playability and the surrounding swale recontoured to improve drainage.

HOLE 14 – Par 4 – 309 yards

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JW: This short four is reachable in the right conditions with a high left slope that will feed balls onto the narrow perched green.  Efforts that lack the necessary gusto or courage?  Well, let’s just say that the options low and right range from “Ouch” to “Lord help me”.

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DM: Essentially a new hole in 2013, Dave Zinkand moved the green forward 30-40 yards adjacent to a small nob left of the green and significantly reshaped the fairway with a high and low side.  The end result – a very clever, driveable par 4 to follow the longest, toughest par 4.  The ideal line is at the nob at the end of Black Mountain to the high side of the fairway that feeds the ball to the green.

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DZ: As previously mentioned, for the majority of Members there was no need for increasing the overall difficulty of the layout.  The previous fourteenth green was the least playable on the course, requiring an aerial shot.  With the putting surface falling away, lower trajectory players had little chance of holding the green, while longer players could readily stop a wedge on this short par four.  Introducing a generous approach and shortening this hole to become a reachable par four provided a nice balance with the effort to bolster the test of the front nine finishing holes.

High ground at the beginning of this fairway was carved down four feet to improve visibility from the tee and gain fill material for other components of the renovation, including the new approach on this hole.  To differentiate fourteen from similar length holes, such as six and fifteen, and to encourage a reason to play boldly, the hole was shortened forty yards. 

A new larger green was created with what is generally a front left to back right orientation and slope.  Despite the elevated green, a gentle, open front left approach provides playability along with variety as compared to the course’s typically narrow entries.  This plays off the natural tilt of the surrounding land, while enabling a much shorter green to tee walk in line with others around Desert Forest.  This simpler connection to the following holes also improves safety issues related with the former green location.  A steep roll-off behind the green allows for playability, while protecting the integrity of the hole.  The former greensite was regraded and vegetated with native plants, including saguaros salvaged during the renovation.

HOLE 15 – Par 4 – 435 yards

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JW: The rumpled fairway tumbles down to the green from a hillside on the left.  The green is canted in the opposite direction.  A brilliant design that requires real shotmaking to have a look at birdie.  Players must beware the beautiful and nasty Zinkand bunkering guarding the green right.

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DM: Framed by Black Mountain, the 15th is a picturesque, downhill, postcard of a hole with a generous fairway.  Featuring a false front, it is best to get at least a third of the way into this green.  Bunkers right protect a terrific pin position on the back right hand portion of the green.

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DZ: As seen on a 1962 aerial, the original middle and back tees wrapped progressively to the left.  This provided fifteen a much more provocative angle, in part, by engaging a ridge short of the fairway and highlighting Black Mountain in the background.  This angle was returned and a new rear tee created thirty yards behind the existing back tee.  Vegetation, particularly down the left edge of the hole, was thinned to allow the renewed tee angle and improve the general look and feel of the hole.  Turf edges along the landing area were expanded slightly to improve playability and invite more aggressive play from the tee.  This hole required particular attention in regrading the outskirts to tie together the turf areas with natural ridges in the surrounds.

The front of the green was widened along either side.  Pin-able space along the greenside bunkers was increased and the back left section of the green was supported to soften the slope falling away and return the ability to use these provocative pin locations.  Ground behind this green was a particular playability concern.  The area was recontoured and turf extended to increase the likelihood of balls staying on turf, as opposed to rolling into a desert wash beyond.  A right approach bunker was added to increase interest along the approach, as well as the view down the hole.  The right greenside bunker was reduced in size to allow more creative access to back right pins and increase playability by reducing the severity of attempting to reach these pins.

HOLE 16 – Par 5 – 523 yards

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JW: With so many great golf holes in the world, it is hard for any one hole to be unique…unless a hole’s strategy is ingeniously dictated by a centerline tree in the rumpled fairway.  Initial reaction, “What the?” Upon further reflection, “So good”.

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DM: Perhaps my favorite hole at DF, a true journey through the desert forest framed by the backdrop of Black Mountain.  Tree and brush removal up the left side last summer opened up a view of the green from the tee and, more importantly, restored the ability to play up the left side of this hole on the second shot.  A drive to the narrow plateau on the upper right side of the fairway opens up an opportunity to go for this green in two.  The large mesquite at 160 yards from the green must be navigated on the 2nd shot.  A grassed over wash crosses the fairway at 95 yards and it’s best to get beyond this with your second shot to avoid a downhill lie to an uphill green.

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DZ: Sixteen is a thoughtful driving hole thanks to the varied elevations and turf edges in the first landing area.  A low left section of turf offers forgiveness for shorter drives, while yielding a less desirable angle from which to play one’s second shot.  A long tee ball to higher ground is met with significantly narrower turf on a right to left angle.  Trees at the end of the lower left section of fairway were removed to facilitate use of this side of the fairway for those less capable of surmounting the high side.  Fairway was expanded right along the second landing area and several trees removed to further the efforts towards improved playability.

This green was shifted back twelve yards onto naturally high ground, shortening the walk to the following par three and adding valuable length to this, the final par five.  Although the new green is larger and contains a prominent mound to work balls in off of in the back left, the concept of the original green complex was retained.  The right bunker was expanded and its lip lowered to provide contrast with those on the left, as well as those on the right of fifteen.  The outside edge of this bunker now ties into desert terrain.  The left greenside bunker was tucked against the expanded green to reflect modern club selections on this hole and protect nearby pin locations.

HOLE 17 – Par 3 – 169 yards

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JW: This beautiful mid-length one shotter plays to a green surrounded on three sides by four bunkers.  A wonderful natural desert setting for the penultimate hole.  Recovery for tee shots that miss the putting surface is no small task.

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DM: The 17th features a benign looking target that belies its internal treachery.  A narrow opening of rumpled ground makes front pins difficult to attack.  And the green itself is full of tricky double and triple breaking putts.

DF Hole 17-3.jpg

DZ: Seventeen had previously been the long one-shot hole thanks to an added back tee.  However, the tee was removed because it imposed a long walk back on what is an unusually walkable desert course, and the intensely sloped green was less ideal for a longer hole than natural landforms on eight.  The front left bunker had been pulled away from the green in recent years.  Green space was provided up against this bunker to expand pin-able space and increase playability.  Unnecessary turf was removed behind the two rear bunkers to focus the eye upon this challenging green surface and provide a rugged, intimidating appearance counter to the green’s actual receptiveness.

HOLE 18 – Par 4 – 415 yards

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JW: The tough finisher is pinched right in the landing area, which not surprisingly is the best angle for approach.  A last bit of strategic brilliance from Red Lawrence.  The well defended green includes a stellar combination of cant and contour.  A par on the 18th is satisfying, as it must be earned from the tee to the bottom of the cup.

DF Hole 18-2.jpg

DM: A strong finisher requires a long, accurate tee shot.  If you can clear the crest of the hill on the right, a speed slot will add distance.  The approach is deceptive in that it often plays shorter than the actual yards and the green tends to run away from the fairway.  Be happy with a par and enjoy the cold beverage that awaits.

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DZ: Much like the sixth hole before the renovation, eighteen provided a challenging drive for short to medium players, while offering long hitters a rather forgiving target.  The right side of eighteen is particularly deceptive, as balls that appear safe when first struck on the tee can easily careen right into a native swale, betraying the fairway’s gentle right to left angle.  A new rear tee was added to play on this provocative angle, while other tees were shortened and, in some cases, given a more forgiving angle.

The wide wash bottom at the end of the landing area, which provided such a forgiving space for long hitters was reconsidered.  Turf edges were pinched in along both sides and a desert ridge introduced along the right side of the wash to force longer players from all tees to consider the placement of their drives.

The approach was recontoured to reduce balls running through the green into desert beyond, which forms an attractive backdrop from the clubhouse.  The front of the green was also expanded significantly into the approach.  A small bunker was added at the front left corner of the green and the left bunker reduced in size. The high outer edge of the right bunker was lowered significantly to remove this visually awkward sand edge and improve definition of the green’s right edge.

A day at Desert Forest is a day that a player will remember.  Strategy, challenge and fun are all wrapped in an intimate and beautiful package.  I’m counting the moments until my next visit.

DesertForest-Sign


ABOUT DAN MOORE
A Desert Forest member since 2011, Dan Moore is a member of the USGA Architecture Archive Committee.  He lives in Chicago and is an avid golfer who qualified for the 2016 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship.  Through his company Moore Golf, Dan works with architects and clubs to provide a variety of photography, golf history research and consulting services including:
  • Detailed Architectural Evolution Reports for restorations or renovations.
  • Golf Course Photography.
  • Historical research and consulting related to creation or execution of Master Plans.
  • Course histories and photography for club websites, newsletters, new member marketing, etc.
  • Course tours for club websites including course history, hole descriptions and photos.
  • Historical Maps comparing original course architecture to the course today.
His clients have included Old Elm Club, Riverside Golf Club, Flossmoor CC, Shoreacres, Chicago Golf Club, Briarwood Golf Club, Stevens Point CC, Golf Courses of Lawsonia and Oliphant Haltom Golf Management.
I highly recommend Dan’s recent article on Chicago Golf Club for the USGA.

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Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Bandon Preserve Course Tour by Jon Cavalier

BANDON PRESERVE – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

Bandon Dunes Resort, Bandon, OR – Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw

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Bandon Preserve sits on a nook of cliffside dunes between Bandon Trails to the East and Bandon Dunes to the north.  The setting for this little gem is spectacular — every hole has views of the cliffs and the ocean.  The course itself has everything a golfer could want from 150 yards and in (the longest hole from the back tee measures 147 yards) including shared greens, huge undulations, blind shots, ground game opportunities, and wind.

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There isn’t much I can tell you about this collection of one-shot holes — the photos themselves do a better job than I could.  But I will tell you that anyone who misses out on playing the Preserve on a trip to Bandon Dunes is doing themselves a major disservice.  As with the Punchbowl, the Preserve is one of those elements that makes a trip to Bandon so special.  The uniqueness of a short course in such a beautiful setting; the opportunity to add to long travel day with a quick loop; the fun of plunking down a few wagers with your foursome (or fivesome, or eightsome – closest to the pin, anyone?); or perhaps best of all, a solo walk around these thirteen holes at dusk, with only your wedge, your putter and your thoughts of rounds played and rounds to come.

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Hole 1 – 134 yards (back); 90 yards (front)

A player knows right from the start that Coore & Crenshaw treated this thirteen holer with the same love and care that they do each of their full size projects.

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Hole 2 – 150 yards (back); 93 yards (front)

The second at Preserve is as good as any par-3 at the resort.

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The view from behind the second.

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Hole 3 – 87 yards (back); 65 yards (front)

This diminutive par-3 is the second-shortest hole at Preserve.

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Hole 4 – 118 yards (back); 83 yards (front)

This gorgeous hole starts a three hole stretch which takes the player down across the property to the edge of the dunes.

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The fourth shares its green with the seventh hole, with the putting surface as a large “L” shape.  This view is of the long side of the “L” used by the fourth hole.

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The full green.

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Hole 5 – 142 yards (back); 95 yards (front)

A gorgeous hole.  Putting from the tee is an option here.

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Hole 6 – 131 yards (back); 77 yards (front)

The sixth is benched into the side of the dunes bordering the property . . .

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. . . and provides some of the best views at Preserve.

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Hole 7 – 147 yards (back); 119 yards (front)

The longest hole at Preserve, the seventh can play entirely blind, depending on which section of teeing area the player chooses.

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A side view of the seventh green.

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Hole 8 – 63 yards (back); 40 yards (front)

The shortest hole at Preserve plays to a tiny punchbowl green.

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This hole must see more aces than any other at the Resort.

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Hole 9 – 134 yards (back); 88 yards (front)

Perhaps the prettiest hole at Preserve, the ninth plays directly toward the ocean and the endless field of gorse below.

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The ninth also boasts one of the most contoured greens at Preserve.

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Hole 10 – 120 yards (back); 93 yards (front)

The tenth plays to a green fronted by a large mound which obscures a sizable section of the putting surface.

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The view from the mouth of the tenth.

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Hole 11 – 142 yards (back); 95 yards (front)

The eleventh plays along the edge of the property and begins the return to the clubhouse.

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The views to the left of the eleventh are breathtaking — the lone tree near the sixteenth green at Bandon Dunes is center here.

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Hole 12 – 132 yards (back); 108 yards (front)

Two framing bunkers short right and short left guard the mouth of the punchbowl-like twelfth green.

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As seen in this photo from behind the twelfth green, shots played up the right side will carom on to the large green.

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Hole 13 – 109 yards (back); 75 yards (front)

If you’ve never hit a 100 yard approach to a green with your putter, this is your chance.  All downhill and fronted by a rolling downslope leading to the mouth of the green, a well-struck putt from the tee will leave a birdie opportunity.

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Just make sure you avoid the bunkers.

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I cannot speak highly enough of the Preserve.  If I lived near it, I would play it every day.  And if you make the trip to Bandon, I strongly urge you to make time to play this little thirteen hole gem – you’ll regret it if you don’t.

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Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 13 (4 Course Concept Revisited)

Our Lead Architect David Zinkand has completed his Preliminary Design of the new Canal Shores (below), bringing to life the 4 Course Concept that we have been discussing.  It has certainly come a long way since the idea’s inception.

This design is considered preliminary, rather than final, for several reasons:

  1. We are committed to continuing to gather public and industry expert feedback.  The best ideas will win.
  2. We still need to compile comprehensive details for our Master Plan in order that MWRD, The City of Evanston, the Village of Wilmette, and our Board can consider it for approval.
  3. We leave open the possibility of tweaking details of the design during implementation if there is potential for a better outcome “on the ground”.

Given the innovative nature of the 4 Course Concept, let’s take a moment to address potential points of confusion.

What are we doing to the course?

First, to be clear, we are NOT proposing replacing the existing 18-hole course with a 12-hole course plus practice areas.  What we are proposing is a transformation of the facility into 4 courses totaling 41 holes where players of all ages and skill levels can learn and enjoy the game through playing the game.

Who can use the courses?

The entire facility will be open to the public, at reasonable rates.  However, as is the case now, each of the courses will likely be closed on certain days at certain times for events, leagues, outings, teams, clinics, and/or camps.  By changing from 1 course to 4, we believe that Canal Shores will be better structured to handle these groups while still providing an enjoyable venue for daily players.

What are the 4 courses?

Before getting to the descriptions, Dave’s completed preliminary design.

CanalShores-ZinkandGolfDesign_123115

Note that this design does not include non-golf components, such as paths, pocket parks, and habitat areas.  We will soon have an interactive version of the design with all components displayed together.  For now though, back to the 4 courses – on the map from north to south, they are:

The Jans Course (labeled as “12 Hole Course” above) will occupy the area north of Central.  It is intended to be a 12-hole executive course of par-3s and par-4s, with design inspiration taken from classic Chicagoland golf architecture.  The course is designed for players of moderate to advanced skill, and will be laid out in a clockwise loop.  It also includes inner loops that allow for flexible play.  If space allows, we also intend to have a putting green and hitting bays for warm-up.

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The Kids Links (labeled as “Youth Links & Practice Facility”) will be located between Central and Lincoln.  It will include a 5-hole short course as well as a driving range, putting and chipping greens designed specifically for kids.  This spot has been chosen for the Kids Links because it is self-contained and safely adjacent to the clubhouse.

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The Rolling Green putting course (labeled as “Rolling Green”) will be located south of Lincoln, next to Leahy Park.  This 18-hole course will cover 25,000 square feet and include exciting contours and mounds to navigate.  This is not intended to be used as a putting green for practice – it is intended to be played by players of all skill levels and ages.

The Back Lot (labeled as “6 Hole Multi-directional Play & Practice Area”), to be located south of the Rolling Green, will be a 6-hole par-3 course for the public.  It will also serve at times as a highly dynamic and challenging practice course for advanced players.

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This concept, coupled with Dave’s shaping talent, will result in our community having the most unique and interesting golf facility on the planet.  Players can come each day and, based on their time and preference, choose their own golf adventure.  And even better, that adventure will be different and fun every time – in the very best spirit of the game.

What about playing 18 holes?

From my perspective, the 18-hole format is artificial and in no way fundamental to the enjoyment of the game of golf.  For more on the history of the 18-hole format, visit Why18Holes.com.

However, we understand that there are players who get satisfaction out of completing 18 holes.  Our 4 Course Concept actually allows players several ways that they CAN play 18 holes, if that is their hearts’ desire:

  • They can play the 18-hole Rolling Green Putting Course.
  • They can play the Jans Course full loop, and then replay the inner 6 hole loop (12+6=18).  Dave purposely designed the Jans Course that way.
  • At some times, they will be able to play the Jans Course, and then the Back Lot Short Course (12+6=18).
  • At other times, they can play the Back Lot Short Course three times (6+6+6=18).
  • At other times, they can play the Kids Links with their kids, then the inner 4 hole loop on the Jans Course, and then close it out on the first half of the Rolling Green (5+4+9=18).

You get where I’m headed here.  At the new Canal Shores, the answer to anyone who says “I want to play 18 holes” is, “Okay, here are your options today for playing 18 holes. Go play.”

The beauty of what we are planning is that if someone says, “I want to play (fill in the blank between 3 and 36 holes)”, unlike other facilities, we will have the ability to give them the same response. “Here are your options.  Go play.”

At the end of the day, our mission is to make golf accessible and enjoyable for the greatest number of players possible (especially kids) and we believe that the 4 Course Concept is the best approach to achieving that mission.  We couldn’t be more excited to be able to tell you, “Go play.”


 

BONUS MATERIAL

For those who are interested in the nuts-and-bolts of the design process, Dave gave me permission to share some of his earlier sketches, along with technical details specific to water management that he has been working through with Todd Quitno.

In this version of the Kids Links, we were considering putting the Rolling Green putting course in the same section so that kids would have easy access to it.  Dave also had a practice green across the canal.

DaveZinkand-KidsLinksRollingGreenSketch

After further discussion with our friends from The First Tee and The Golf Practice, and another site visit, Dave moved the Rolling Green out of that section of the property.

DaveZinkand-KidsLinkSketch2

We went around and around trying to figure out how to make the Back Lot work as both a dynamic practice facility and a short course.  I suspect that it will be difficult to comprehend just how great Dave’s design is until it gets built.

We hope that putting the Rolling Green adjacent to the park will both increase its exposure to kids and families and allow us to keep the putting course open at night during the summer.

DaveZinkand-CanalShoresbackLotSketch

We are not allowed to drain water into the canal or use subsurface drainage.  The site is mostly sandy, but it has some trouble spots.  We will be using a combination of grading, dry burns, dry basins, and planted wet basins to manage water.

Dave provided his thoughts on locations to Todd.

DaveZinkand-CanalShoresDrainageSketch

After a site visit with our Superintendent Tom Tully, Todd put together a much more comprehensive drainage layout.

CanalShores-Drainage1

CanalShores-Drainage2

It has been fascinating for me to witness these talented, experienced professionals collaborate and bring this vision to life.  I am convinced that we are in very capable hands – the end product will be highly functional, sustainable, and a joy to play for decades to come.

 


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Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 12 (Good Geeky Fun)

Yesterday was one of the best golf days I have ever had.  With a little nudge from some of the members of GolfClubAtlas, Pat Goss and I put together a day for good, geeky golf fun.  It began with an outing for the Honourable Company of Reverse Jans Golfers, and ended with a Gathering of golf enthusiasts to share food, drinks, and the spirit of this great game.

The day epitomized the role that Canal Shores can play in the community and the game itself – it is a place where we can connect with each other and with our childlike joy.


THE OUTING

HCRJGLogo

The Honourable Company of Reverse Jans Golfers is one of golf’s most prestigious societies.  We aren’t ancient, and we’re definitely not royal, but we are dedicated – dedicated to the spirit of fun and camaraderie in the game.

The Company held its annual outing, at which we played a the course backwards – the Reverse Jans.

CanalShores-ReverseJansRouting

A great time was had by all, and Team Zinkand took home the prizes for our team competition.  Thanks to the generosity of RJGers, Canal Shores received a nice donation to its Canal Shores 100 Master Planning Fund.

Many thanks to Seamus Golf, Imperial Hats, and Bluestone restaurant for their support of the event.


THE GATHERING

After the Outing, we were joined in the American Legion Hall upstairs at the Canal Shores clubhouse by other golf enthusiasts from the community and GolfClubAtlas.  We were treated to presentations by our architects David Zinkand and Drew Rogers, and golf historian Dan Moore.

Drew started off by sharing his perspective on why he got involved with the Canal Shores renovation project.  Our thanks to Drew, not only for his support and guidance, but also for his assistance in helping us to win the USGA/ASGCA Site Evaluation planning grant.

Dan Moore followed by sharing his findings from research into the origins of Canal Shores (formerly Peter Jans GC and originally Evanston Community GC).  Dan confirmed that the course was originally opened as a 9-holer in 1919, and later expanded.  He also revealed that the course was laid out by Tom Bendelow, who is credited along with Donald Ross, CB Macdonald, and other pioneers, with the spread of the game in America in the early 1900s.

GGG-DaveZinkandLeft

And finally, Dave Zinkand made a neat presentation taking us through his background, his travels to Britain and back, and how he is drawing on inspirations to create the Jans Course at the new Canal Shores.

To view his presentation slides, click here.

The group at the Gathering made additional donations to the Master Planning Fund, for which we are also very grateful.


ONWARD

We have more news to share, but I will save that for upcoming posts.  Suffice it to say, yesterday was a special day, and it is tremendously inspiring to be a part of this group chasing down the dream to reinvent Canal Shores, and the game of golf in our community.

If you would like to contribute to our Canal Shores 100 Master Planning Fund, you can do so by clicking the button below.  Every dollar helps, and keeps us moving forward.

Onward we go…

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Canal Shores is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit and all donations are tax deductible.


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Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 11 (Blue Sky Findings)

Over the summer, the initiative to transform Canal Shores along the lines I outlined in my previous posts (4 Course Concept & Inspiration for the New Canal Shores) gained significant momentum.  That gain is primarily attributable to my good fortune in connecting with Pat Goss.  Pat is the Director of Golf for Northwestern University and Luke Donald’s coach (follow Pat on Twitter at @patgossnugolf).  He is also highly committed to youth golf and teaching the game.  And perhaps best of all, when it comes to golf geekery, Pat is a soul brother.

Several months ago, the Canal Shores Board formed a “Blue Sky” Committee to explore options for the future of the facility.  Pat and I have a similar vision, and so we volunteered to explore how we might go about turning that vision into a reality.  In early September, I presented our findings to the Canal Shores Grounds Committee and members of the Board, with architect Drew Rogers in attendance.  The response was enthusiastic, and we continue to walk down the road toward the New Canal Shores.

I share a recap of the presentation here for two reasons: First, I want to publicly thank Pat, Dave Zinkand, Drew Rogers, and everyone else from The Game of Golf who lent their expertise and support to getting us to this point. Second, I wanted anyone who was not able to attend the meeting to have the opportunity to stay up to date on how this project is developing.


MEETINGS & CONVERSATIONS

Over the past several months, Pat and I have been talking to various parties within The Game of Golf.  We were sharing ideas for the New Canal Shores, and seeking answers to two questions:

  1. Are we crazy for trying to do this?
  2. If we go forward, can we expect support from The Game to get the renovation done and pay for it?

Among those who talked to us were:

  • National and Regional Organizations – United States Golf Association, Chicago District Golf Association, American Society of Golf Course Architects
  • Youth Golf Organizations – First Tee of Greater Chicago, First Tee of Metropolitan New York, The Golf Practice
  • Golf Course Architects – Drew Rogers, David Zinkand, Tim Liddy, Dave Axland, Andy Staples, Mike Benkusky, Todd Quitno
  • Golf Course Builders and Managers – Wadsworth, Lohman, KemperSports
  • Superintendents of Local Clubs – Bryn Mawr, Conway Farms, Old Elm, Onwentsia Club
  • Professionals – Luke Donald, area teaching pros
  • Coaches – David Inglis & Emily Fletcher (NU), Jed Curtis (ETHS)

Their answers to our questions have been:

  1. Yes, you are crazy, in exactly the right kind of way.
  2. ABSOLUTELY!

The response was overwhelmingly positive and offers of support have already started to roll in – expertise, discounted materials and services, funding, etc.  It has been humbling to interact with these good people who love the game of golf so much, and want to see more kids playing it.


GUIDING PRINCIPLES EXPANDED

The Canal Shores Board previously adopted the following Guiding Principles to govern decisions about the direction of the facility.  We are committed to:

  • Providing an outstanding golf facility that focuses on youth and family golf.  To thrive, the golf facility should deliver an experience that is fast, flexible, and fun for all levels of player.
  • Maximizing value to the community by creating a multi-use green space that is designed for effective mixed use, with golf at its core.  Further, all stakeholders enjoy and benefit from exposure to natural beauty, which Canal Shores will embody.
  • Preparing for the long-term by committing to sustainability.  From a land-stewardship perspective, that means restoration of habitat, proactive tree management, and responsible maintenance practices.  From a business perspective, that means designing the golf component in such a way that the fine line between great design that generates revenue and maintenance cost minimization is effectively walked.

I chose to expand on the above principles to specifically address the renovation and its intent.  The intention is for the facility to be significantly more successful, especially with families and kids.  With the right execution, more players should be able to play without diminishing the value of the facility to non-players and neighbors.

The golf component of the facility will be designed, built, and maintained in a such a manner that:

  • Neighbors may adopt and beautify areas along the the property border without major concern of negative impacts from play.
  • There is harmony with the multi-use paths and wildlife habitat enhancement areas.
  • The beauty of the property is drastically enhanced for players, walkers, and neighbors.
  • The increased volume of players will not have a material negative impact to neighbors.
  • Negative impacts to personal safety and neighboring property damage will be minimized.

Do these high standards create a real design and execution challenge?  Absolutely.  But to me, there is no reason to settle for “less than” in the New Canal Shores.


CANAL SHORES IS DIFFERENT

There are those who believe that the best path forward is for Canal Shores to try and be more like other standard 18 hole courses in the area – more like Chick Evans, or Wilmette GC, or Westmoreland CC.  Pat and I obviously do not share this view.

To us, Canal Shores is unlike any other golf course we have ever played, specifically because of the land on which it sits.  It is woven like a thread into the fabric of the community.  It blends natural beauty with man-made architecture and the infrastructure of the community.  It is also segmented by the streets in a way that has created a culture of free-form use by players.  Its openness welcomes mixed-use in a way we don’t often see in golf facilities in America.

These aspects of the character of Canal Shores are what makes it compelling.  It does not need to be more like other courses or clubs.  To truly thrive, we advocate embracing and building upon what makes Canal Shores unique.  It is this uniqueness that has so many people from The Game of Golf lining up to help us.  In this case, they see that different is better.

What does this mean in practice?  It means two things:

  1. We would be upgrading from a single 18-hole golf course, to 4 courses totaling ~40 holes.
  2. We would be adopting a “ski area” approach to the structure of the facility.  Different areas, experiences, and demands for different skill levels.

In this manner, we can be of maximum value to the greatest number of players.


PART OF A MOVEMENT

Although the multi-course concept being considered is unique in Chicagoland, we are certainly not alone in our efforts to reconnect the game of golf to its original spirit.  Around the country, alternative golf projects like those at Sweetens Cove, the Schoolhouse Nine, and others are gaining notoriety. (Click here for a map of Shorties & Alternative courses around the country – each pin includes links to more information.)

Two of my favorite projects are the Andy Staples designed Rockwind Community Links and John Ashworth’s campaign to renovate Goat Hill Park.  These projects serve as examples and inspiration for Canal Shores.

Learn more about Rockwind in this short video (video may take several moments to load):

Learn more about Goat Hill in this short video (video may take several moments to load):


REFINING THE MULTI-COURSE CONCEPT

Architect David Zinkand was kind enough to spend two days visiting Canal Shores and learning about our desires for the facility (click here to learn more about Dave).  He then created for us a Preliminary Rendering of the New Canal Shores free of charge.  This rendering is not meant to represent the final plan in every detail, but it does give a compelling glimpse into the future.
CanalShores-ZinkandRendering_091015

Attendees at the meeting were also sent an Executive Summary of the proposed project that included a statement of our intention to apply for a planning grant from the ASGCA/USGA First Links program.  That application has been submitted, and initial response from the directors of the program has been enthusiastic.  (Click here to view the Executive Summary)


WHY GO IN THIS DIRECTION?

This is a personal question that each person who might be involved in the project must answer for themselves.  People from the Game of Golf have answered that they believe that it can be done, that it will work, and that it is exactly what the game needs.

For me, there are several reasons why I am willing to put my time, energy, and money into transforming Canal Shores:

  • As a dad, I want my boys to have a chance to fall in love with the game the way that I did.
  • As a member of the community, I would love to be a part of leaving a legacy of a special place for golf, outdoor recreation, and natural beauty.
  • As a player, Canal Shores can be a set of 4 world-class golf courses, and I want to play them for years to come.

More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 9 (Inspiration for the New Canal Shores)

In recent Journey Along the Shores posts, I have been focused on what we are doing to improve the course now.  With Autumn quickly approaching, stay tuned for news on the next batch of improvement projects.

Let’s take a break from the present, and revisit the subject of the future of Canal Shores.  There are exciting discussions taking place on how to increase the beauty of the property, the playability of the course, and the sustainability of the facility.  The Board and community have yet to make concrete decisions about a Master Plan.  However, since I posted about a 4 Course Concept, there has been quite a bit of enthusiastic feedback, including from people who know much more about golf than I do.  To the best of my ability, I have integrated the ideas that these experts have generously shared.

I have also repeatedly been asked a question – What will this look like and how will it work?

Before answering, first, a disclosure.  There are no original ideas in my Concept.  Rather, what I have tried to do is envision a new Canal Shores that leverages best practices from the past and present to provide a golf experience that is more flexible and fun for all of our players, especially kids.

THE ROLLING GREEN

There is one aspect of golf that every man, woman, and child can enjoy, regardless of skill level – putting.  Who doesn’t love the sight and sound of a ball tumbling into the hole?  That is why I have proposed the creation of a putting course for Canal Shores.  It is a place that can be enjoyed by all, and where kids can begin to learn the game properly – from the hole outward.

Inspiration for The Rolling Green comes from the world’s most famous putting course – The Himalayas at St. Andrews.  Pictured below, it is the home to the St. Andrews Ladies Putting Club, and is also open to the public for a very modest fee.

Closer to home, course developers and operators have started adding putting and short courses to their offerings.  Mike Keiser has proven to be a visionary with the opening of the Punchbowl at Bandon Dunes Resort putting course, designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina on 100,000 square feet of wildly contoured duneland.  The course is no charge for resort guests and area residents.  Having played it myself, I can attest to how incredibly fun (and addicting) it is.

Even the USGA has gotten into the act.  On a visit to Canal Shores, USGA senior executive Rand Jerris shared that Gil Hanse designed a putting course at the USGA headquarters.  “Everyone used to eat lunch at their desks, but not anymore,” Rand explained.  “It has fostered a sense of community among our staff.”

THE KIDS LINKS

In Scotland, where the game was born, access to the links was not a right.  It was a privilege that young players had to earn through developing skills and etiquette.  Where were kids to learn the game?  Often, they had their own “courses” set aside – open spaces with greens, minimal hazards, and undulating ground.

Inspiration for our Kids Links was provided to me by Northwestern Coach Pat Goss on a recent trip to Scotland with Luke Donald.  Pat played North Berwick, and saw the Children’s Course, one of the oldest in existence.  This is a space for kids only.  No adults allowed unless accompanied by a child.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of seeing a short course designed to engage kids and beginners, at CommonGround outside of Denver.  Designed by Tom Doak, the course is packed with interesting ground features and cool greens.  The evening I was there, it was also packed with parents and children.

And a final piece of inspiration was provided to us by Lisa Quinn, Executive Director of the The First Tee of Chicago, when she stopped by Canal Shores.  She tipped us off to the Youth Links at Cantigny in Wheaton.  I plan to load my boys up to go play this gem – they play, I caddie.

THE BACK LOT

Watching players progress in the game to the highest level of competitive performance is very rewarding.  Who doesn’t like seeing an advanced player produce mind-blowing shots?

Giving the area’s competitive players – Northwestern’s men’s and women’s golf teams, ETHS’s teams, AJGA amateurs – a world class practice course on which to develop their games exposes the community to part of what makes golf great.  It can never be mastered, and so the reward is in the progress.  Watching better players has always inspired me to keep developing my game, and I subsequently get to experience the joy of hitting shots that seemingly transcend my ability.

And to up the ante, what if the Back Lot was open to parents and kids as a “family course” so that we could walk and play in the footsteps of more advanced players?  I know my boys would love that experience.

Inspiration for the Back Lot comes from existing practice facilities, and short courses.  I am particularly intrigued by the outstanding work done by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw at Bandon Preserve.  Although a par 3 course, it has the fundamentals of a great practice course – variety of approach shot distances and angles, challenging hazards, and big, interesting greens.

Ask any visitor to Bandon, and they will tell you that the Preserve provided challenge, and maximum fun.  Architect Dave Zinkand includes his work on that project at the top of his list of favorites.  (Read the GeekedOnGolf interview with Dave here)

Other college golf programs have provided their players with first-rate, imaginative facilities on which to practice their craft.  University of Illinois’s Lautritzen/Wohlers Outdoor Golf Practice Facility, The Playground at University of Washington, and Stanford’s Siebel Varsity Golf Training Complex are all examples of how a practice area can be both beautiful and beneficial to players.

As a resident, it would be very exciting to me to have top players out showcasing their skills for me and my kids to see.  And you never know – with a space like this, we might even be able to convince former Northwestern players such as Luke Donald and Matt Fitzpatrick to stop by and visit when they are in town…

THE JANS COURSE

What about players who have the skills, and want to play golf on a “standard” course?  Canal Shores does not have the space that allows for a typical 18 hole golf course.  However, that does not mean that players have to settle for “less than”.  Rather, what can be offered in a renovated short course – The Jans Course – is the kind of fast, fun and flexible golf that fits with today’s busy lifestyles.

Facilities around the country, including nearby Arlington Lakes GC (stay tuned for the GeekedOnGolf interview with architect Mike Benkusky on this project) are reimagining what a “round” of golf could mean.  The creativity of these initiatives is inspiring to me.    

The Jans Course could be routed in numerous combinations of par 3s and 4s into 9 to 14 holes.  If/when the time comes, we’ll leave that to the GCA professionals.  Regardless of the routing, we can draw on the rich history of early-20th century architecture for style inspiration.  Donald Ross, William Langford, Seth Raynor and others have left us with numerous examples of how to create interest with bold features that also fit the natural surroundings.  We need only look around in our Chicagoland “backyard” to courses like Old Elm, Shoreacres, and Skokie CC to see how beautiful and fun these golf holes can be.

Tee-to Green Hazards would likely include minimal bunkers to keep maintenance costs down, but those we have could have the classic look of Golden Era courses.

Without bunkering, The Jans Course could rely on Ground Features – humps, bumps, hollows, and hummocks – to challenge players in a creative and beautiful manner.  In a visit to Canal Shores, architect Drew Rogers stressed the value of these features in giving players variety without sacrificing playability (read the GeekedOnGolf with Drew here)

Our Greens will likely need to be on the smaller end of the scale, but that does not mean that they won’t be interesting.  We are not looking for severity, but rather the subtle contouring that confounds players and makes them want to come back for more.  On his tour of Canal Shores, Rand Jerris encouraged us to preserve and/or recreate some of the neater greens on the course, thereby maintaining a link to the origins of the course.

Is all this possible at little ol’ Canal Shores?  Not without commitment, resources and significant effort.  But otherwise, why not?  We do not need to reinvent the wheel.  Rather, we need only look around for sources of inspiration that abound when the spirit of the game is upheld.  With that spirit, we can transform a unique space into one of the truly great golf facilities on the planet.

Are you inspired?  Stay tuned for news to come…


More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Sculpting the Earth – An Interview with Architect Dave Zinkand

“Remote” is a good word to describe the location of Apache Stronghold.  Why did I make the trek through the mountains of the Tonto National Forest, past small mining towns, to an Indian Casino golf course in the middle of nowhere?  As always, I was in search of golf adventure and great architecture.  In this case, I was also lucky enough to have a chance to tee it up with architect Dave Zinkand.

The course was truly special, and Dave was great company – a talented architect, good player, and an even better man.  For me, the evening was what this great game is all about.

As we walked and talked, I was consistently reminded of what differentiates architects from players, even GCA geek players like me.  Architects see the course differently, and it was a blast to hear Dave’s insights about the course and his work.  A few highlights:

  • Apache Stronghold has wonderful contours, washes and gullies that wander through the fairways.  Dave pointed out that by routing the holes such that those features are often at an angle to the tee, Tom Doak has created interest.  The player can decide how much of the carry they want to take on, and they get the thrill of pulling off the carry on their selected line.  An architect does not always need to use bunkers or hazards to create that challenge and fun.  A ripple or ridge in the ground creates the same effect.
  • Dave pointed out the interesting slopes and mounds of the green surrounds.  He was particularly interested in the close proximity to the greens of some of the high-side slopes.  A bold design choice that makes for interesting approach and short-game shots.
  • We also discussed internal green contours at length, and Apache Stronghold has great ones shaped by Kye Goalby and the Renaissance Golf Design team.  Dave noted that a bold contour that might seem over-the-top on first playing, can often provide more options to pull off a brilliant shot once the player learns to use that feature to his advantage.
  • And finally, Dave put into words what I felt makes Apache Stronghold unique.  It is routed in such a way that the holes feel very intimate and engaging.  And yet, every so often, when ascending to a tee or green complex, the course reveals a vista that reminds one of the awe-inspiring expanse of the land on which the course is built.  It is a choreographed walk that creates pure magic.

My luck with Dave didn’t end with our time at Apache Stronghold.  He was gracious enough to share even more in the following interview.  I hope you enjoy his perspective as much as I do.


THE INTERVIEW

How were you first introduced to golf?

My introduction to golf was rather stereotypical.  As a boy, my father would take my sister and I out to Fremont Country Club, our hometown club in Ohio.  When Molly and I were old enough, we began to play from the 150 yard markers.

When did you know that the game had a hold on you?

It seems the addiction of trying to improve upon the last shot or round is almost instantaneous.  As for the bigger picture, I now recognize golf for what it is, an adventure.  It blends an outdoor sport on varied playing fields with a great deal of social interaction.  Perhaps I was unaware of how fulfilling it is until high school when I could really begin to appreciate those benefits.  By college, trips with the golf team were a welcome diversion from our studies.  To this day, I still enjoy getting out with Dad.

How did you get into the business?

Every summer in college I gained experience at a new job.  First, I worked maintenance at Heatherdowns CC in Toledo.  The second summer, I was a laborer on a Hurdzan Fry course being constructed in Cleveland.  The third, as an intern with Arthur Hills’ design firm.  After graduating from Cornell with a degree in landscape architecture in 1997, I went over to Britain on the Dreer Award.  When I came back I went to work for Gil Hanse and then spent 14 years as a Design Associate with Coore & Crenshaw.

How did the year you spent in the UK change your perspective?

Fellow Dreer recipient, Chris Monti, referred to his year abroad as “the move”, meaning the career move.  I couldn’t agree more.  It may not have been a highly marketable commodity to most potential employers, but has provided limitless inspiration that still fuels my passion for the hands-on designing and shaping of golf courses.

Who are your favorite Golden Era architects and why?

There are such obvious choices as Alister MacKenzie, who blended great strategies with unparalleled aesthetics.  But considering historic golf architects as a whole, there are folks like Harry Colt whose somewhat reserved style always yielded admirable results.  The eccentric Tom Simpson created provocative strategies with quirky contours and odd features such as flat-top mounds.  There is Tillie and Perry Maxwell… So many designers have contributed to the catalog of great work and ideas.  That is a fantastic attribute of our game, the immense variety!

You have worked extensively with Bill Coore and Gil Hanse.  How have they influenced you?

My work with Gil was relatively brief, four projects in all.  But I have always been impressed with his routings and aesthetics.  In the fourteen years I spent with Bill & Ben, as well as with their long-time Associate, Dave Axland, I really had an opportunity to delve into every aspect of golf design and construction.  I could throw creative ideas out and see what stuck.  I had so many conversations and received so much feedback from Bill, when I run into a question of how to handle a certain issue, by now I have a pretty good idea of how he might attack the problem.  All of that interaction certainly contributes to my perspective on golf design.  Working with Bill and Ben really gave me a solid understanding of how to meld beauty and function into a playable setting.

What is your favorite element of a golf hole to work on?

Greens.  There is a heightened importance in the contours of a green, both in terms of strategy and aesthetics.  That is where I spent much of my time shaping for Coore & Crenshaw.  All of that said, bunkers provide powerful aesthetics.  It is great fun to toy with their endless variety to present such a splash of interest on the landscape.  Bill Coore and I have had a lot of fun heckling Jeff Bradley, the ‘Bunker Guru’, over the stardom he receives for his sandy exploits!

What are some of the challenges associated with renovating a historic course like Old Elm or Desert Forest?

There are so many aspects to this topic.  Change is difficult and any given club has hundreds of members.  This essentially means the designer has hundreds of customers.  As the saying goes, you can’t please everybody all of the time.  That is why it is so important to be reverent to the history and attributes of a course, while pressing forward with the task of fulfilling the client’s current and future needs.  Doing so in step with the leadership and staff is essential.

What should every Green Committee member study/learn before undertaking a renovation project?

Prior to selecting a designer, they should research each candidate’s participation in the construction process (that was not self-promotion).  Preliminary design is essential for game-planning, but extra time spent on a drafting board or AutoCAD document does not replace on-site participation.  You don’t have to shape your own features as I can (that was self-promotion).  I find an unparalleled depth of interest in the work produced by designers who consciously allow their work to evolve in the field.  Bill Coore is a master at this.  Some of the concepts and details are not immediately evident or may even seem arbitrary, but reveal themselves over time.  This lends greatly to keeping a course fun to play over and again.

Which courses are on the top of your hit list to play next?

Jason, you finally got me out to Apache Stronghold.  I thank you, because that was a real treat.  Cypress Point is at the top of the list of courses I’ve never been to and really need to see.  I’ll bet my wife could have her arm twisted for a trip to Royal Melbourne and the Sandbelt in Australia.  There are also a number of classic courses on the east coast I would still love to see, such as Fishers Island.

Of the holes you have helped to build, which are your favorites?

It was fun to build a classic Cape Hole on the Sixth at Shanqin Bay in Hainan, China.

Shanqin Bay #6 - Photo courtesy of Brian Morgan

Shanqin Bay #6 – Photo courtesy of Brian Morgan

The par five Third Hole at Bandon Trails has a great deal of interest in its green that carries all of the way back up the hole in terms of how to attack.

Bandon Trails #5 - Photo courtesy of Wood Sabold

Bandon Trails #3 – Photo courtesy of Wood Sabold

The short par four Third at Colorado Golf Club doesn’t overwhelm, despite playing over a natural barranca.

Colorado Golf Club #3 - Photo courtesy of John Klinkerman

Colorado Golf Club #3 – Photo courtesy of John Klinkerman

I really enjoyed the bunkering improvements Jeff Bradley and I made to the Fourth Hole at Weekapaug Golf Club.  An additional bunker down the left keeps big hitters honest and the bunkering front-right of the green provides a much more engaging target.

Weekapaug Golf Club #4 - Photo courtesy of Gary Kellner at Dimpled Rock

Weekapaug Golf Club #4 – Photo courtesy of Gary Kellner at Dimpled Rock

Reinvigorating the island green on the Fourteenth at Old Elm Club with Drew Rogers was an old-fashioned opportunity to introduce Harry Colt’s original intention of torn edges.

Old Elm Club #15 - Photo courtesy of Scott Vincent

Old Elm Club #15 – Photo courtesy of Scott Vincent

My alteration of the Fourteenth at Desert Forest into a short par four was a fun contribution to an already impressive routing.  It also had the benefit of shortening the following green to tee walk.

Desert Forest #14

Desert Forest #14

Freely admitting my bias, I have thirteen favorite holes on Bandon Preserve. I thoroughly enjoyed that project and wonder if I’ll work on such a powerful parcel of ground ever again.

Bandon Preserve - Photo courtesy of Wood Sabold

Bandon Preserve – Photo courtesy of Wood Sabold

You recently joined the Mickelson design team.  What attracted you to that opportunity?

I really enjoy collaborating and they already had a strong team that shares great insights, with Phil, Mike Angus and Rick Smith.  It should be a lot of fun to introduce not only my own design views, but also contribute my experience and on-site guidance to help advance our design intentions in the field.

What do you love about practicing your craft?

It may sound corny, but I just love sculpting the earth.  I started out in Cornell’s School of Architecture, but quickly realized how important an organic edge was to finding my fulfillment in design.  Having my office outdoors and providing others, who often spend much of their time indoors, with sporty and provocative holes to play is rewarding.  I can’t even count how many times I have been told by people they never had more fun playing golf than on Bandon Preserve.  That is spectacularly gratifying.

Any interesting or challenging projects on the horizon for you?

I will spend the next two summers guiding and shaping Phil’s project in Calgary.  As for potential projects outside of that, I will be happy to give you an update.

When you are not working or playing golf, what are you doing?

My wife and I just had our first child, a girl.  She is the very definition of adorable.  I am happy to put my other interests, such as redesigning our new yard and brewing some wickedly dry cider, on the back burner so I can concentrate on helping her and Momma!  Perhaps someday, I’ll be busy taking her to play with Grandpa John on the golf course.


Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:

 

 

Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Soul Man – An Interview with Architect Drew Rogers

The call was supposed to just be a quick “hello” and “thank you” for some photos.  An hour later, I realized that I had found a kindred spirit in realm of golf geekdom.

Beyond sharing similar perspectives on the game, Drew and I are also fortunate to have spent significant time at the Old Elm Club – me as a caddie, and Drew as the architect who has recently worked to restore the course to the original design intent of Harry Colt.  In doing that restoration, along with David Zinkand and their crew, Drew has followed in the footsteps of Donald Ross, who built Old Elm.  The course was ideal to me as a kid, but somehow Drew has made it even better.

Whether it is his work on new courses like Oitavos Dunes in Portugal, or his loving restorations of the work of Colt, Ross, or Willie Park, Jr., Drew Rogers is a talented architect and a steward of the history and soul of the game.  Many thanks to him for taking the time to share his perspectives in this interview.


THE INTERVIEW

How did you get into the business?

Perseverance…. and a little luck!  As careers go, there was never any doubt in my mind, EVER, what I wanted to do.  So my path was pretty deliberate beginning as a teenager.  I’m from a small town in Southern Illinois, where we are fortunate to have a true country club and a damn good little golf course.  I worked there in many roles while growing up and played tons of competitive golf as well.  I studied Landscape Architecture at the University of Kentucky to build upon my appreciation of the natural beauty of a landscape and then combined that with my passion for the game.  Then I got a huge break through a friend and fellow UK grad to work with Arthur Hills.  The rest is history.

Who is your favorite Golden Age Era architect, and why?DrewRogers

Tough call there.  I have really enjoyed and been inspired by so much work from that era… to single out one seems impossible.  I’m a big fan of Harry Colt and am studying more of his work this year in England.  I have long appreciated work by Donald Ross and consulted on a fair number of his designs, but I also love the works of MacDonald and Raynor, Herbert Fowler, Willie Park, Jr.…. even Old Tom Morris and others.

Who has influenced you the most in your work, both within and outside of golf?

I’ve always been one to seek out information, visit courses and meet people.  As a result I think I’m influenced by all of what I see and experience and also by the many fine folks I’ve encountered.  Not one, but many… colleagues, superintendents, clients and golfers and friends.  I guess I tend to have an “eyes wide open” approach to my work, with every project being definitively unique and with its own set of opportunities and goals.  My philosophies are founded on what I’ve seen and the experiences I’ve had and continue to have.

Describe your process for a design project.

Since most of the work these days is with existing facilities, my first move is to learn as much about that property as I can… its history and evolution, how it works, its deficiencies, along with where things are at present and where they plan to go in the future.  Many of my clients already have some level of vintage architecture that seems worthy to retain or build from… but I also focus on how the course has evolved over time and what accommodations must be made moving forward for it to survive another 50 years. Today, we have golfers of all skills playing… on courses that were originally designed for a relative few – only the most avid players of the age.  Therefore, I work very closely with my clients; we make decisions together, assemble a team and then I’m very hands-on once the work is underway.

What is it like to renovate courses by Golden Age architects?

First of all, to work on these courses is a privilege, and it comes with great responsibility.  The responsibility is not just to honor the original architectural intent, but also to acknowledge 100 years or so of influence and evolution.  Golf courses must evolve and those Golden Age architects were all well aware that their courses would require some adaptation over time… what with the impacts of technology, irrigation, golf carts, turfgrasses, Mother Nature, golfers and certainly ever-changing player expectations.  Architecture from that era involves a lot more use of subtlety and was at the same time quite strategic – so being keenly aware of how and why they built what they did is very important.  My aim is to reinstate a course that will honor its past while also moving it into the future in a very practical sense.

What should every Green Committee member study/learn before undertaking course improvement initiatives?

Learn to trust the assembled expertise… whether it be the superintendent, the architect, irrigation consultant, agronomist, etc. – these people are the most knowledgeable about golf courses; it is their craft.  So trust them, learn from them and allow them to lead you.  Also learn and accept that you cannot satisfy or placate all of your fellow members.  You need tough skin to deal with member politics.  Just try to focus on the greater good and the continued health of the facility.

As for gaining some basic knowledge, one can attain the necessary elementary understanding of golf course essentials from classic books such as The Links by Robert Hunter, Golf Greens and Greenkeeping by Horace Hutchinson or Golf Architecture by Dr. Alistair Mackenzie, among a few others.  The roots of good design and greenkeeping, in a most basic format, can be found in these and other historical volumes.

What are the primary challenges you consistently face in trying to deliver results that are up to your standards?

The first thing you learn in working with existing private clubs is that you’re working for 300 self-proclaimed experts on everything!  The names change from project to project, but the personalities are always there and those egos and personal agendas can be challenging.  I don’t expect to win every battle – there must be some compromise, but I’m always trying to keep them on point with respect to their original goals and keep them from cutting corners.  As long as we agree on “what it should be” we’ll tend to find solutions that accomplish our objectives.

How do you know when you have hit the sweet spot in your work?

A lot of that has to do with client satisfaction.  I could be selfish and say I wanted this or that… but at the end of the day, the course is not mine, it’s theirs.  I want members to be proud of their course and understand the value of what we did.  You can’t make everyone completely happy – that is nearly impossible. But when the project is complete and you hear players debating over which hole is their favorite, the most improved, or that they were pleasantly surprised at what they see now versus what was there before… that is a pretty good indicator that we were successful.  Some measure success through ratings and rankings – or even tournaments… Over time, this all seems increasingly less relevant to me and with those whom I work. 

What course would you love to get your hands on for a renovation project?

Surprisingly, I would most like to go back to some of my earlier efforts and make some adjustments.  When you build a new course, you don’t get EVERYTHING right the first time and there are a number of courses where I would really like to make some refinements, adjust some green surfaces, some bunkering, etc.…. Newport National in Rhode Island is one… another is Olde Stone in Kentucky.  The one I most wish I could retouch is Oitavos Dunes in Portugal.  It’s somehow ranked #68 in the world by Golf Magazine, but I think its potential is much greater (given it’s seaside, links-like characteristics) – or at least requires more work to be so deserving.  Donald Ross had the opportunity to tinker with Pinehurst #2 in this manner… and I just think it would be great to go back and build on something that is already really good and make it even better.

What do you love most about practicing your craft?

Certainly, I have been fortunate to travel the world, visit amazing places and meet so many dynamic people.  But more than anything, I gain the greatest satisfaction from the enjoyment of those who see and play my work.  I like to see them have fun and be challenged and I want them to appreciate beauty and subtlety.  And… it is always satisfying to truly improve something that was struggling or was in need of attention – then make it into something very special.  I guess, ultimately, it’s about people and their enjoyment of this fine game.  If I can have a hand in that, what could be better?OldElm9

If you could only play one course for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

Just one?!!  You know, this might be surprising to some… but I could play Bandon Preserve every day for the rest or my life and be totally contented.  It’s a 13-hole par-three course at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon… and probably the most beautiful and dynamic group of short holes I’ve ever seen (built by one of my good friends, Dave Zinkand).  Pure fun… maybe the most fun I’ve ever had playing golf.

If it has to be an 18-hole course… I guess I could narrow it to two: National Golf Links of America on Long Island and North Berwick in Scotland.  I love fast and firm links conditions, great natural beauty, tradition and… and the quirky design elements.  Those are two of the best I’ve seen and richly enjoyed playing.  The Old Course at St. Andrews lurks closely to those, as does Old Elm and Shoreacres in Chicago.  Then again, I wouldn’t be too disappointed to play every day again at my home course in Robinson, Illinois… Quail Creek. 

What are the top 3 new courses on your list to play next?

As far as NEW courses, I really want to get down to see the two courses at Streamsong in Florida.  While not really a new course anymore, I still need to go and see Sandhills in Nebraska.  I’m heading to England later this year and am looking forward to Sunningdale, Swinley Forest and a few others around Surrey and the southern coast.  Mountain Lake, Raynor’s course in Florida, and Sleepy Hollow are also among those I yearn to see.  My bucket list is pretty deep, frankly!

What is your take on the pro game, and what impact is it having on golf architecture?

I’m completely bored with professional golf.  I honestly don’t enjoy watching it.  I’m rarely impressed by the personalities and all the hoopla that surrounds them.  And really, it’s frustrating to see them play most of the golf courses they’re set up to play – they seem quite sterile.  The courses don’t tend to require much shot making – and they don’t challenge a player’s intellect as well as they should.  The PGA and USGA control much of that.  There are occasional exceptions, but tournaments these days are more like four-day putting contests.  I’ve often wondered what would be the result if they didn’t play so many long, narrow layouts and instead played much shorter, risk-reward courses where, through design, power is actually less of an advantage… instead, lots of options to consider.  Just look at the effect the 10th hole at Riviera has on those guys!

I’m also frustrated with the influence that the pro game (and television/commentary) has on the weekend or member player. I’m talking about course conditions, speed of play issues, green speeds and perfect lies in bunkers.  There is a perception perhaps exhibited by the pro golfer first (whether true or not), that everything in golf must be fair and perfect.  That makes for rather dull golf, in my opinion.  We experience the effects when those “viewers” come to the golf course.  It’s pretty eye opening to witness.

When you are not playing golf or building golf courses, what are you doing?

Actually doing or would like to be doing?!!  It seems I play less and less golf these days… and there’s less time for hobbies as well – I love to fish, but rare is that occasion too.  I guess that’s just where I am in life… my age, responsibilities, etc.  However, I am blessed with an incredibly supportive wife and three wonderful children.  So when I’m not on the road or working, I’m with them.  My son is into playing hockey and golf and is an active Boy Scout.  My girls love ice-skating and baton twirling.  The youngest might be getting an itch to play golf…we’ll see.  I’m trying not to push too hard!

Any interesting or challenging projects in process or on the horizon for you?

I’m really very fortunate to be busy these days and am involved with a number of really great projects.  Just a few of them: now finishing a major restoration of Old Elm Club in Chicago… just an amazing place – designed by Harry Colt and built by Donald Ross – one of a kind.  Also working on some Golden Age Era renovations, including A Donald Ross design in Kenosha, WI, two Willie Park, Jr. courses, in Sylvania, OH and West Bloomfield, MI.  Also busy in Florida, working at Royal Poinciana Golf Club and Quail West in Naples, among others.

I’m also ever hopeful to do more 18-hole new courses.  The climate of golf development has changed so much over the last ten years and opportunities are really scarce – not what they used to be.  I just hope to keep doing good work and will earn the chance to partner with someone who appreciates my talents enough to bring me into a new-build situation.  I would really enjoy employing that level of creativity on a project again.  The way I figure, they can’t keep giving those jobs to the same group of architects forever!

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