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The Next 99 – Scott Pavalko & Jim Urbina at Bob O’Link

This post was a long time in the making.  Like Bob O’Link’s architectural history – first with Ross, then with Alison, and now with Urbina – it involves intertwined threads.

Growing up on the North Shore and caddying at Old Elm Club, I was aware of Bob O’Link, but had never seen or played it.  Fast forward to 2015 and a Golf Club Atlas dinner at which Jim Urbina gave a talk, while in town for the renovation project, introducing me to his perspective on architecture.  In 2016, I played Milwaukee CC and Orchard Lake, which piqued my interest in the work of C.H. Alison.

That same year, I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Pavalko who is a fellow Evanston resident, generous supporter of our efforts at Canal Shores, and all-around good guy.  He had me out to play and we were joined by Green Chairman Joe Burden,  It was a solid geek session, and I loved the course.

After Andy Johnson’s podcast with Jim Urbina, in which Jim’s passion came through so clearly, I decided that the time had come to tie all the threads together.  Scott and Jim graciously agreed to discuss the project and their work.  Enjoy the interview, and Scott’s gorgeous photos.


THE INTERVIEW

How did you get introduced to the game of golf?

SP:  I can’t ever remember a time where I wasn’t around the game of golf.  My father was a Superintendent in Ohio.  Some of my earliest photos of me are of playing around in sand piles or running around in bunkers at the course where he worked.  I fondly remember going back to the course with my dad to check on things in the evening.  He would let me drive the Cushman.

I learned to play from my grandfather.  “Papa” had retired from the US Steel in Youngstown Ohio by the time I was born.  He spent his time playing in muni leagues around Youngstown.  My recollection is that he played at least 6 rounds a week.  His friends called him “Silky” because of his smooth swing, as he regularly shot near par well into his 70’s.  My Dad was also a good player – he was inducted into his High School Hall of Fame for golf and shot a 29 (par 35) just months before beginning his battle with cancer.  Unfortunately, it’s a battle he lost in 2006.

Being a very “blue collar” town, public golf courses outnumbered private courses probably 7 to 1 so; this is how I came to know golf.  There is a great little “Par 3” course in Youngstown that my father managed at one time in his career.  I learned to play there, longest hole 127 yds, shortest hole 61 yds, I think it used to cost $4.75 for residents.  My Dad and I would compete in their annual  2 man team best ball tourney, we won the last time we played.

JU:  I never played golf growing up and Pete Dye who I started my design career with didn’t really care that I played golf; he said it would ruin my creativity as a shaper.  Didn’t start playing golf seriously until I moved to Del-Mar California while building Rancho Santa Fe Farms.

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

JU:  I rarely kept score when I was just starting out.  I found the Match Play game more to my liking and it kept me interested in the round a lot longer.  We use to play almost every weekend at Torrey Pines; we couldn’t work on Saturdays in Rancho Santa Fe – too many people at home around the golf course construction site on the weekends.

SP:  It wasn’t until I was 20 that I started working on a course with my father at Reserve Run Golf Course in Boardman Ohio.  I was living at home and going to college studying electronics engineering.  I quickly fell in love with the profession.  It probably had something to do with being able to see my Dad as something different than just my old man.  I realized why he had such a passion for his career and saw that he genuinely loved what he did.  This rubbed off on me.  I loved everything about working on a golf course.  Especially being outside and the freedom it presented.  A 150 acre office was hard to beat.

How did you get into the business?

SP:  After finishing my associates degree in electronics, I moved to Columbus Ohio to study Turfgrass Science at Ohio State University.  It was, at that point, the I really knew for certain that I wanted to be a Superintendent.  I loved my classes, I loved learning the science of plants, I loved everything about my time studying turf.  Then, I got hired at Muirfield Village Golf Club.  This changed my whole perspective on what turf maintenance should or could be.  My father’s course was a small public course that was the dream of two retired school teachers.  We had 1 fairway mower, 2 greens mowers and 3 maintenance carts.  Muirfield Village had 30 walking mowers, 10 triplexes for fairways and at least 30 maintenance vehicles.  I had no clue what I was getting in to.  My first Memorial Tournament was a blur and at the end of my first season, Paul B. Latshaw who had just hosted the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, became the Director of Grounds.  From Paul, and Jake Gargasz (who came with Paul from Oak Hill and is now the Superintendent at Crooked Stick) I learned a tremendous amount about preparing for tournaments, construction principles, and general agronomics.  The Muirfield Village aesthetic does not fit everywhere, nor should it, but I am forever grateful for having the opportunity to work there and learn from one of the best Superintendents in the country.

JU:  I had just graduated from college with a teaching degree; since I graduated mid-term I had to wait for job openings for the following school season.  I was going to go back and fight forest fires and work for the state forest service (that was my summer job while going to school), but my soon to be father in-law thought I should work on a golf course while waiting for a teaching job.  He thought that was a much better job, and safer too.

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What got you excited about the opportunity to take on this renovation?

JU:  The chance to restore a classic Alison course was the first and foremost.  After touring Bob O’Link, I realized the potential it would offer the members, and after I met Scott Pavalko I knew his passion to do the right thing was in the right place.  As I have said before, all the moons were in alignment – the golf course had a great chance to be successful.

SP:  The project was a function of need.  I was fortunate enough to be hired at Bob O’Link in February of 2014.  We were in the midst of a historically cold and snowy winter which featured some unbelievable temperature swings that caused turf damage to many golf courses in our region.  Bob O’Link was no exception.  The greens had not been re-grassed in 90 years and as a result, featured a very high percentage of Poa annua.  Poa annua is very susceptible to winter damage.  In spots we had 80% turf loss.

The planning of the project began with a study of the golf course infrastructure.  Bob O’Link is a challenging site due to the fact that a large portion of the golf course lies in a flood plain.  Drainage was one of the most important aspects of the project.  This included greens, tees, fairways, bunkers, rough.  A famous turf professor from Penn State, Dr. Musser used to say, “the three most important things on a golf course are drainage, drainage and more drainage.”  With our soil types, this is definitely true.

What were your goals going into the project?

Bob O’Link had existed for 99 years before our project.  The overarching goal was to improve infrastructure for the next 99 years while taking the opportunity to sympathetically restore Alison’s intended features and strategy.

The goals were as follows:

  • Improve course infrastructure in such a way that the members can experience the course in the best condition for the most days of the season.
  • Add drainage where appropriate
  • Rebuild bunkers so that they can be maintained properly according to the members’ expectations
  • Improve control of the irrigation system so that fairways and greens can be firm while keeping the rough alive during the summer
  • Address Poa annua issues on greens and fairways
  • Obtain a source of irrigation water that is consistent and predictable by drilling a well (previously we were irrigating with water from the Skokie River)

JU:  To recapture the essence of these wonderful green complexes with the extraordinary large bunkers that supported the landform.

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Describe your process for a renovation of this nature.

SP:  The process really began by studying the current course conditions.  There were quite a few issues that needed to be addressed so that we could provide the level of conditioning that the members desired.  This helped us generate the goals above.

Luckily the Board of Directors had enough foresight to realize that while infrastructure was the driving force of the project, there was an opportunity to bring in a Course Architect to help bring everything together and improve the playability and strategy.

Did historical documentation play any role in your approach to the renovation?

SP:  Yes!  It played a huge role.  We have a 1939 aerial photograph that served as a roadmap for the project.  Jim can likely give more details on how he used that photo to help with bunker placements, grass lines, etc.  I began to use aerial photography right away, even before Jim was hired but not necessarily from the architectural feature standpoint.  I used it to help people understand how the trees had not always been there.

JU:  Yes, aerials played a big part, but really it was the skeleton remains of land forms that help guide our way into the restoration process.  The two greens that were altered by previous renovations were molded in the shape of the other 16 greens at Bob O’Link.

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What were C.H. Alison’s strengths as an architect?

JU:  Massive green complexes, massive Bunkers to support the green elevations and the wonderful work of the drainage to make sure no bunker was dug too deep to surface drain even though the golf course was on almost dead flat topography.  Thoughtful viewscapes – a Bob O’Link original

SP:  For me, the scale of Alison’s green complexes is impressive.  By building huge, bold green complexes, he created the illusion of contour on a relatively flat property.

What elements of Alison’s design did you most want to highlight?

JU:  The ability to generate interesting and strategic design elements into these subtle putting green surfaces.  The impression that even though the holes felt like they played in a very narrow straight line corridor, the bunkers made the holes feel like they had movement depending on the line of play.  Holes 3-6 on the front side, and 10,11,13 on the back side are examples.

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Did you run into challenges with the membership before, during, or after the project, and how did you overcome those challenges?

SP:  Given that this was the largest project at Bob O’Link since they hired Alison to redesign the original Ross course in 1924, there were certainly challenges.  I’ll just say that the Board of Directors of the club did a fantastic job of holding focus groups and getting feedback from the members.  Jim came several times to walk the course and answer questions.  Ultimately, we tried to complete a project that would allow the club to be successful for the next 100 years. We created a detailed book that was distributed to the members To explain the details of the project, but as you can imagine, this was a significant change that required a lot of faith in the Board of Directors, and they delivered.

How will the renovation impact ongoing maintenance needs and costs?

SP:  For the members of Bob O’Link, they really want the best possible conditions on a daily basis.  So improving quality, not necessarily saving money, was the primary goal of our project.  That said, having new bentgrass turf, far fewer shade and tree root competition issues, USGA greens, well-constructed bunkers, and a drainage system that can handle large rainfalls, has certainly allowed us to cut back on chemical and fertilizer applications as well as redirect labor toward continuing course improvement vs maintaining the status quo.  Additionally we are in the process of converting some areas of mowed rough to un-mowed fine fescue which will eventually lead to lower water usage and labor mowing.  Our new irrigation system allows us to apply water where we need it and not where we don’t.  We really emphasize firmness over green, lush conditions, but we have the ability to keep the turf sufficiently healthy to withstand golfer traffic.

What makes you the proudest about the new Bob O’Link?

SP:  I am proud to have been a part of such an impactful project.  Working with Jim Urbina, Leibold Irrigation (our course builder), Joe Valenti (club president), Joe Burden (Chairman, Green Committee), Dan Watters (Head Golf Professional), and all others involved in the project has been the most rewarding event in my career.  I am proud and honored that the club leadership trusted me to help lead them through this project.

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What do you respect most about your collaborator?

JU:  Scott is a professional if every sense of the word.  He respected my wishes and understood what Alison stood for in the world of golf course design.  Without a Course Superintendent who appreciates the Golden Age of design, the history that he been entrusted with, and most importantly the ability to adapt the science with strategy, we would have not been so successful.

SP:  Jim is a great listener.  He has taught me more about architecture than I ever knew existed.  But most of all, he is never afraid to give credit to others.  As a world-renowned golf course architect, it would be easy to develop some ego, Jim has none.  He would more quickly give credit to the laborers installing sod than take it himself.

What do you love about practicing your craft?

SP:  There are so many things I love about my job.  The different challenges that each day presents: working with Mother Nature (sometimes against her); balancing the art of presenting a golf course with the science of plants; teaching and coaching young people who desire to become superintendents; seeing the sunrise every morning and seeing the sun set some evenings; being able to come to work with my dog; the sense of accomplishment when you and your team successfully solve a problem; meeting so many different types of people that are passionate about golf for different reasons – it’s really an amazing career and a labor of love.

JU:  I get to work outside, I have studied books and seen almost every golf course of architectural significance, and I get to meet wonderful people who share the same love of the game.  Crafting works of art on 150-acre canvases that people get to experience walking and playing in 3-dimensional form.  For all of that I get to call what I do my JOB – hardly a job, more like hobby!


THE PROJECT IN PICTURES

While addressing the infrastructural needs of the course, Jim, Scott and their crew transformed the way Bob O’Link looks and plays.  What was once a somewhat nondescript course in a crowded golf neighborhood, is now a standout – Golden Age strategy and feel, with artistic flourishes, all impeccably presented.

Scott generously provided the photos below, which present a photographic record of Bob O’Link’s rebirth.  For even more on the renovation, read Scott’s article in GCM Magazine here.

(click on mosaic images to enlarge)

THE BUILD

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Jim explains a bunker concept to the Shaper

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Bunkers under construction

BobOLink5-UrbinaGreenConcept

Jim explaining a green concept to the team

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Greenside bunker shaping

BobOLink-UrbinaGrassLines

Talking grass lines

THE TUNE-UP

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Topdressing the new 1st green

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Mowing run-ins on the 7th

BobOLink9-BunkerShortUrbina

Jim surveying the finished product on the 9th

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Hand watering short of the 10th green

BEFORE & AFTER

BobOLink-Aerial1939

1939 aerial, open with bold features

BobOLink-Aerial2011

2011 aerial, choked with trees

BobOLink-Aerial2018

2018 aerial, with Alison’s intent restored

Hole #3 – Par 4 

Hole #4 – Par 3

Hole #8 – Par 3

BOB O’LINK TODAY (click on mosaic images to enlarge)

 


Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:

 

 

Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Old Macdonald Course Tour by Jon Cavalier

OLD MACDONALD – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

Bandon Dunes Resort, Bandon, OR – Tom Doak & Jim Urbina

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Old Macdonald is the most recently opened course at Bandon Dunes, but it is already considered by many to be the best.  The course is intended as an homage to the architectural principles of Charles Blair Macdonald.  As such, it is not a replica course, but rather uses the architectural templates of the Macdonald / Raynor / Banks school and adapts them as needed to fit the land, much in the same way that Macdonald himself (and later Raynor and Banks) did.

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As stated in the yardage guide, “The goal has been not to copy Macdonald’s great holes any more than Macdonald would have settled for carbon copies of the Alps and Redan – but to borrow upon his inspiration and method for our own fine piece of links ground.  Those familiar with Macdonald’s work will compare and contrast his holes and our own with their forefathers at St. Andrews, Leven, and Littlestone; others will have the chance to experience for the first time these classic concepts which are the very foundation of the game.”

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Drawing upon their extensive experience in restoring the classic work of Macdonald and Raynor, Doak and Urbina set about building a course that would allow players to experience this classic golden age style of design while independently providing a fun and engaging golf experience.  The result is an absolute triumph.

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As a devout Macdonald/Raynor fan, I loved Old Macdonald.  It was a thrill playing the modern adaptations of the Macdonald templates in such an incredible setting.  But I also played a round with three people who had never heard of C.B. Macdonald, and two proclaimed Old Macdonald their favorite course at Bandon.

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At over 250,000 square feet, the greens at Old Macdonald are by far the largest in the United States.  Coupled with the firm conditions and tight fairways, Old Macdonald allows for use of the ground game like few courses this side of the Atlantic.  The golf course is a blast to play, and is proof positive that the classic principles of design are more than adequate to provide an engaging experience when adapted to modern standards.

OLD MACDONALD

Old Macd occupies the northernmost part of the property at Bandon.  Its clubhouse is about 5 minutes by shuttle from the main resort.

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Hole 1 – 304 yards – Par 4 – “Double Plateau”

No hiding the ball at Old Macdonald – the player sees just what he’s in for right from the start: namely, super-wide fairways and expansive greens.  The course begins inland of a massive line of gorse-covered dunes, which obscure the majority of the course to the west.

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The course begins with a favorite template of many C.B. Macdonald fans — the double plateau.  Fortunately, the pin on this huge green is visible from the tee, allowing the player to pick the preferred angle of approach.  The middle fairway bunkers are in play for mid- to long-hitters.

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The elevation changes in the faithfully recreated double plateau green are dramatic.  A principal’s nose bunker guards the front left of the green.  Another bunker catches balls that run through the valley in the green.

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A fun opener, and a great hole to set the tone for the round.

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Hole 2 – 162 yards – Par 3 – “Eden”

The largest Eden green I’ve ever seen, and a beautiful par-3 in its own right, the third is guarded on the left by a rough bunker and in the middle-right by the deep, revetted Strath bunker that plays much larger than its actual footprint.

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This bunker collects balls from far and wide.  The contouring and elevation change in this massive green are tremendous.

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Eden indeed.

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Hole 3 – 345 yards – Par 4 – “Sahara”

One of your author’s favorite holes at Bandon, the third offers a unique and compelling take on the Sahara template.  It calls for a completely blind tee shot over the sand dune to a wide fairway shared with the fourteenth hole.  Anything from a ball to the left of the cedar to the right side of the exposed sand is playable.

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The old Port Orford Cedar stands sentry at the top of the bluff, and lords over most of the round at Old Mac.  The tree is visible from nearly the entire course.

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Once the player crests the dune, the huge expanse of Old Macdonald is revealed.  Parts of every hole on the golf course are visible from this spot.

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Good drives on the proper line will catch the slope of this heavily contoured fairway and may tumble down to within putting distance.

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It can be difficult to tell where the fairway ends and the huge green begins.

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A look back up the incomparable third fairway.

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Hole 4 – 472 yards – Par 5 – “Hog’s Back”

So nice to see a well-executed version of the Hog’s Back template.  Here, a drive that remains on top of the centerline ridge will kick forward for more distance, while tee shots to the side will tumble down into the valleys, leaving a blind shot from an often crooked lie.

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While the fairway is wide as a whole, the hog’s back itself is fairly narrow.  But hitting it provides a valuable benefit on this long par 4 hole.

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A nasty center bunker waits in the middle of the fairway some 50 yards short of the green . . .

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. . . while a catch basin waits to collect approaches left short of the putting surface.

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A superb half-par hole.

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Hole 5 – 134 yards – Par 3 – “Short”

The shortest hole at Old Macdonald, and one of the largest greens you’ll ever see.  Look at all those potential pin placements!

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This mammoth green has a bit of curl to it as well.

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This is probably the easiest pin on this green, and one of the only flattish spots on which to putt. A lovely rendition of the short template.

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Hole 6 – 520 yards – Par 5 – “Long”

The longest hole on the course follows the shortest.  Playing directly into the prevailing summer wind, the sixth forces the golfer to decide whether to take on Hell Bunker with their second shot.

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Hell Bunker dominates the second shot and obscures the view of the green from most parts of the fairway.

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The bunker is aptly named – your author speaks from experience.

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The sixth traverses some of the least interesting land on the property, and it is a credit to Doak and Urbina that the result is one of the most interesting holes on the course.  A large knob guarding the green front right makes the approach from the right side blind and redirects shots left short in all directions.

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This large bunker center rear catches any approach that runs through the front-to-rear sloping green.  It is not an ideal place to be — again, your author speaks from experience.  Twice.

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Like the fifth, the sixth green is a masterwork.

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Hole 7 – 345 yards – Par 4 – “Ocean”

The seventh is one of the few holes at Old Macdonald not based on a Macdonald template, and it is also one of the best holes on the property.  The drive out into a wide, rippling fairway is all about positioning, and avoiding the deep fairway bunker to the left of the large hill on which the green sits.

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The size and steepness of this dune is difficult to grasp from a photo, but the relative size of the flagstick gives an idea of its massive scale.  Any approach left short will tumble all the way back down until it hits a bunker or reaches the bottom of the hill.

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Tough pin today.  Though the green is large, it also contains a fair amount of slope.  Chipping to this pin from the back of the green is terrifying.  A tough par.

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Until the seventh, the course plays mostly inland away from the ocean.  This aptly named hole gives the golfer his first real taste of the sea.  For a golfer on a first time trip to Bandon and who happens to play Old Macdonald first (as did your author), the feeling of ascending to the seventh green rivals any in golf.

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Sidebar – Tom Doak’s Sheep’s Ranch

After playing the seventh, if the golfer looks upshore to the north, a beautiful view of Tom Doak’s mysterious Sheep’s Ranch is provided (along with a view of a hell of a lot of gorse).

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Hole 8 – 170 yards – Par 3 – “Biarritz”

There remain several great Biarritz holes in the country – the ninth at Piping Rock, the ninth at Yale and the fifth at Fishers Island are a few of the best.  In your author’s opinion, the eighth at Old Macdonald can stand with any of the holes in this group.  It is an exceptional example of the Biarritz template.

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The front portion of this large Biarritz green is sloped toward the swale, to encourage shots that run down and through the trough.

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The wide channel bisecting the eighth green.

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Shorter hitters can use the back of the knob front left of the green for extra forward kick.  A wonderfully fun hole to play.

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Hole 9 – 352 yards – Par 4 – “Cape”

The ninth turns back in a southerly direction and begins a sequence of holes that plays back and forth across the open area of the property.  The ninth curves gently right around some rugged bunkers and gorse bushes.

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These bunkers are nasty.  In fact, missing the fairway right at the ninth is one of the few places on Old Macdonald where a golfer can lose a ball.

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Playing out to the left leaves a longer approach but a better angle up the open mouth of this green.

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The contours within the ninth green provide a challenge as well as an aid in directing greenside shots and putts toward or away from the intended target.

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Hole 10 – 440 yards – Par 4 – “Bottle”

The tenth plays to one of the widest fairways on the golf course, but the large fairway is dotted with four penal bunkers that run from short left to long right.  Care must be taken to challenge the bunker suitable for the individual golfer’s abilities.

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The bunkers crossing the fairway are deep and high lipped – playing out backward is sometimes the only play.

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The difficult green is set atop a small dune, with the surface falling away to the right of the green.  The land allows a running approach up the left side, which will catch a slope and redirect to the center of the green.  But anything short right will bound down the hill and away from the putting surface.

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This view from the side of the green shows the substantial high right to low left tilt.  An overly conservative miss to the left side of this green leaves a treacherous putt.

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Hole 11 – 399 yards – Par 4 – “Road”

If ever there was a hole where the position of the tee shot mattered, this is it.  If the pin is right, play right.  If it’s left, play left.  Note that the fairway is wider than it appears, as the gorse bushes down the right side come to a halt short of where many players can carry their drives.

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This angle, from the right of the fairway, is the ideal position for today’s pin.  While the player must still contend with the substantial false front, he is also afforded the widest angle into the green and can play away from the deep revetted bunker.

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This position, on the other hand, is not ideal.  Note that it is not simply the deep bunker that provides the thrills here, but the brilliantly constructed green.

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A look back down the long eleventh green.

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Hole 12 – 205 yards – Par 3 – “Redan”

Playing with the prevailing summer wind, this classic redan green can be difficult to hold even with well struck approach shots.

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Running the ball on to this green is possible, and in some cases, preferred.  The redan kick slope impacts balls that land on the green or short of it.

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Everyone loves a well designed Redan, and the twelfth at Old Macdonald fits the bill.

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Hole 13 – 319 yards – Par 4 – “Leven”

This short par four plays to a green squeezed between two dunes.

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While the safer play is down the bunkerless left side of the fairway . . .

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. . . the right provides the better angle into this severely sloping and heavily contoured green.

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The large wraparound berm that runs down the left side and around the back of this green provides a backstop that allows the player to bring an approach shot back to the center of the green.

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Even approach shots that land halfway up the left dune will bound happily back on to the green.  A fun, exciting hole.

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Hole 14 – 297 yards – Par 4 – “Maiden”

A short par four with a gargantuan fairway, the fourteenth plays back up the massive dune that the player initially crossed while playing the third hole.  The player can play as aggressively left or as conservatively right as he chooses.

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The inclined fairway is rippled throughout, adding a degree of challenge to what is typically a wedge approach.

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The wide, shallow fourteenth green is benched into the side of the massive dune.

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The back to front slope and internal contours of the fourteen provide an added element of difficulty on an otherwise short hole.

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Hole 15 – 482 yards – Par 5 – “Westward Ho”

The aptly named fifteenth hole turns once more toward the sea.  From a tee high on the face of the dune, the fifteenth falls to the valley below and swings right around a deep sandy scar.

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This par 5 is reachable in two for longer hitters.

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But care must be taken to avoid the fairway bunker short and right of the green.

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Not where you want to be.

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The green is backstopped by the top of the dune which separates the seventh green complex from the fifteenth.

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Shots that roll through the green are gathered by this grassy trench, a nifty little feature which illustrates the care that went into designing the greens at Old Macdonald.

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A very beautiful and enjoyable hole.

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Hole 16 – Par 4 – 433 yards – “Alps”

The sixteenth tee is the northwesternmost point at the Bandon Dunes resort, and begins the sweeping trek homeward.

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The large encroaching dune provides the “Alps” feature here, and renders blind all but the longest tee shots that squeak past it on the right.

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The view of the ‘Alps” feature from the middle of the fairway.  The directional post on top gives the player a general idea of the line to the center of the green.

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The beautifully-sited sixteenth green, nestled between a surrounding ring of dunes, is revealed upon passing the dune.  The green is partially backstopped to contain long approaches.

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The view from behind this exceptional hole reveals the short grass behind the alps feature that can assist shorter hitters in reaching this green in two.  While this hole remains controversial to some who are not familiar with Macdonald’s Alps template, it is surely a favorite of those who are.

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Hole 17 – 515 yards – Par 5 – “Littlestone”

Playing with the prevailing summer wind, the seventeenth is reachable in two for players willing to challenge the hazard reaching into the right portion of the fairway.  While the fairway does provide ample room, this is one of the more intimidating tee shots on the course.

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If these bunkers can be avoided, a good score is likely on this hole.

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If not, unlikely.

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In your author’s opinion, Old Macdonald closes with two of the best greens on the property.  The seventeenth is fronted by a bunker and a slope that will either facilitate a ball to a back pin or kick it past a front pin.  Exposed knobs right, left and behind this green lend their substantial influence to the putting surface.

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The view from the back portion of the sizable seventeenth green illustrates the beauty of the setting.

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Hole 18 – 426 yards – Par 4 – “Punchbowl”

The final tee shot at Old Macdonald must avoid the fairway bunkers on both sides.  Any tee shot on grass will have a good look at this last green.

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And what a green it is.  Ringed with mounding, the eighteenth green slopes several feet from its elevated left side to its lower right.  Long approach shots can be hit into the mouth of this green on the left and run all the way down to today’s pin in the bottom right corner.

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The view from the right rear of the punchbowl reveals the tumbling slope of the putting surface.

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Having walked right past this green on the way to the first tee, the golfer has been anticipating playing it since the beginning of the round.  The experience more than lives up to billing.

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Old Mac is the rare course that would be both a thrill to play once and an enjoyable experience to play every day.  For lovers of classic, golden age architecture, it provides an opportunity to see those principles interpreted and adapted by the brightest minds in modern golf architecture.  For those that aren’t, the course is simply a fun, unique and beautiful place to play golf.  In either regard, Old Macdonald is a resounding success.

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I hope you enjoyed the tour!


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Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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An Evening with Jim Urbina

JimandMeAs a member of GolfClubAtlas.com, I was fortunate to be able to attend a dinner with my fellow GCA geeks this week at which Jim Urbina gave an insightful talk that he themed, The Evolution of a Golf Course.  From his original collaborations with Tom Doak on courses such as Pacific Dunes, Old Macdonald and Sebonack, to his restorations of classics such as Pasatiempo and Valley Club of Montecito, Jim continues to make his mark and connect us to the soul of the game.

There were a few nuggets that Jim shared that I found particularly interesting – I happily pass them along to you.

“Pete Dye never looked at plans.”

Jim’s first job in the business was working for Pete Dye.  His first day was spent digging a drainage ditch.  He quit after that first day.  An offer from Mr. Dye to operate a bulldozer if he came back for a second day worked, and the rest is history.  Jim was brought up in the school of GCA that considers designing a course and building it to be inseparable aspects of one, unified job.  He learned his craft by studying great courses, and then coming back to his projects to apply those learnings while walking the land and digging in the dirt.  The pride and joy of creation is evident in the way that Jim talks about projects like Pacific Dunes and Old Macdonald.

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“Evolution of the course starts from the day you plant the seed.”

Having worked on many restorations of Golden Age golf courses, Jim has seen how far some of those courses have strayed from the original designers’ intent.  Beyond the painstaking work of returning these courses to their original greatness, Jim shared an interesting insight about how courses evolve over time.  That evolution doesn’t happen only because of misguided redesigns or decisions by Greens Committees.  Evolution is happening every day on a golf course because it is a living, breathing thing.  He reminded us, “You become a part of the golf course.”  Blast sand out of a bunker, you are subtly changing the contours of the green.  Take a divot and repair it in the fairway, you are changing that fairway forever.  Walk a well worn path, from a green to the next tee, you are participating in the evolution of the course.

Even with a restoration, the course will never be quite the same as it was on the first day it opened.  Our job as stewards of our courses is to guard the spirit of the design while allowing the evolution to happen as it will.  Courses evolve, whether we like it or not.

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“There are seasons of golf. You shouldn’t try and make every season the same season.”

Jim fielded a question about expectations for course conditioning, specifically in the spring.  His answer went in a different direction than the questioner had anticipated.  He pointed out that the turf, soil, and sand of a golf course go naturally through the changes of the seasons.  The course looks different, and it plays differently during those seasons if we leave it alone.  We as golfers often ask our Superintendents to make the golf course look and play the same throughout the year, and this is something that Jim has never understood.  From his perspective, why not enjoy the changing of the seasons and the variety that those seasons add to your golf course, especially in temperate climates?  Well, when you put it that way…

His answer to this question got to the larger issue of player expectations, and how many of those expectations are out of whack.  Firmess, green speeds, rough height…these are debates that are ongoing and are worthy of their own pages.  I believe Jim would say, as a rule, the more natural a course can be maintained, the better.  When in doubt, go with what Nature would do.

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Beyond being incredibly gracious, Jim’s experience around the globe and over the decades has clearly resulted in wisdom about this game we love.  The years and the miles have not dampened his enthusiasm, however.  As he told us, “Everything I do is about passion.”  Passion for the work of creation, passion to learn, and passion to continue spreading his gospel of what the game is all about.  This quote from his website sums it up: “Golf is supposed to be fun, spread the word.”


For more from Jim Urbina:


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GEEKED ON GOLF VIDEO ARCHIVE

A comprehensive collection of links to golf course architecture and history videos

It is exciting to see increased discussion of golf course architecture on Golf Channel and other televised golf coverage, with Matt Ginella and Geoff Shackelford leading the way.  Perhaps some day, we will see the GCA show I argued for in this previous post – The Art of Course.

In the meantime, this video link archive has been created to be a resource for all those who want in-depth exploration of golf courses, architecture and history.  Many thanks to my collaborator Kyle Truax (on Twitter @TheTruArchitect) for his extensive contributions to this archive.

A few words about the format and structure of the archive: Wherever possible, a playlist on my YouTube channel has been created for each subject, and can be played right from this page.  Links to videos from sources other than YouTube have also been provided, with hyperlinks in the video titles.

With proliferation of GCA-related videos, the original single page format was getting to be a bit unruly.  I split the archive into three parts.

GOLF COURSES

All golf course specific video links have now been moved to the GeekedOnGolf Global Guide.

GOLF COURSE ARCHITECTS

This page features architect interviews, presentations, etc. that are not course specific to a single course.  See the Architect videos here…

GCA COMMENTATORS

This page features the Golf Channel architecture features, as well as videos from other commentators and architecture enthusiasts.  See the Commentators videos here…

If you have any clips to add, please feel free to tweet them me at @JasonWay1493 or leave them here in the comments.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Copyright 2019 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf