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A WALK IN A PARK AT MAIDSTONE

A in-depth look at the Coore & Crenshaw retrovation of the Willie Park Jr designed Maidstone Club

Hindsight in the retrovation era is making clear how delicate a proposition it is for an architect to attempt to blend a course restoration with the appropriate updates to ensure a high level of quality and sustainability by modern standards. Thankfully, the modernization trend, in which a “name” designer would swoop in with their plans for improvements that were likely at odds with the original intent, seems to have died out. Today’s retrovation practitioners bring a combination of respect for the Golden Age greats, and the talent to realize their vision for changes in the dirt. 

In a very few instances, a course can and should be truly restored. If the work of the original architect was unequivocally great, and all of the features are still intact, then it makes sense to simply turn back the clock. But what about courses that don’t meet that high standard for greatness? The masters themselves were often dissatisfied with their work. Macdonald sent Raynor back to Chicago Golf Club to blow up his own course. Ross incessantly tinkered with Pinehurst #2. Those architects who practiced for long periods evolved in their craft, often improving with practice. Would they want a substandard design element reintroduced merely for the sake of historical accuracy? Of course not.

This was the core of the question faced by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw as they walked through the retrovation of the Willie Park Jr. designed course at Maidstone Club. In terms of heritage, a beautiful site and a devoted membership, Maidstone possessed strong fundamentals, but its course was not in the same league as some of its neighbors on Eastern Long Island, in spite of being created by a man who is considered to be among the greatest architects of his era.

 

 

The Other First Family of Golf

The Morrises may have been golf royalty in St. Andrews, but they were not the only noteworthy family in the game during its formative years in Scotland. The Parks of Musselburgh would play an equally impactful role, contesting the high-profile challenge matches of the day, and also in the export of golf architecture as a profession to America.

Willie Park Jr., whose father Willie Sr. and Uncle Mungo were champion golfers, wore almost every hat imaginable in the game at the turn of the century. He was a professional, claiming the Open Championship in 1887 and 1889, as well as a clubmaker, greenkeeper, and author of two books on golf, The Game of Golf and The Art of Putting. He made exploratory trips to The States in the mid-1890s, but golf had not quite taken hold to the point that warranted a relocation yet. 

In 1901, with the opening of Sunningdale Old and Huntercombe in the London heathlands, he firmly planted his flag among the early practitioners of golf course design, and is considered by some to be the first true genius of the craft. Given his expertise in the use of the flatstick, which was a more varied game within the game at the time, it is no surprise that big, bold greens were the hallmarks of Park’s courses. Park would ultimately be credited with more than 70 courses throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K., including gems like Olympia Fields and Maidstone.

The Retrovation

Although Maidstone has always been a darling among Long Islanders and the well-travelled golf cognoscenti, its standings in the national rankings had begun to slip by the time that Bill Coore arrived in 2012. The choice to push the course forward by looking back was an obvious one, but it was not without its challenges. It was originally laid out by William Tucker, then redesigned by club member C. Wheaton Vaugh, and redone again by Willie Park Jr. It continued to evolve over the decades that followed at the hands of tinkering members, as well as Mother Nature. Coore & Crenshaw associate Jeff Bradley shared his first impression before the work began: “We had a feeling that there were a lot of people who had dabbled with the course. It did not have a cohesive feel.” 

 

The course in 1939 – Photo Credit: Simon Haines (@Hainesy76)

 

Further complicating the issue were the clubhouse fires that had burned up a fair bit of the historical materials that could have guided the retrovation. Adopting a collaborative approach that took input from General Manager Ken Koch, Superintendent John Genovesi, Head Pro Eden Foster, Green Chair Robert Macdonald, and shapers Jeff Bradley and Quinn Thompson, the team settled on a two-phase strategy. First, trees and vegetation would be removed to give the course a more expansive feel and open it to the wind that should naturally whip across the seaside site. Next, the grass lines and bunkers would be addressed. There was no need to make material changes to Park’s brilliant greens, but they were in need of expansion. Fairways and long rough were also pushed outward allowing more room for the ball to bounce and run. Coore laid out a new bunker scheme that included a mix of rehab, relocation and a few key additions. He then turned his shapers loose to unify the look of the course across its various zones of play. 

Bradley and Thompson were chomping at the bit. They knew just how big an impact their facelift could make. “It was clear that you could make the coursemore vivid by getting the bunker faces up and marrying it to the coastal landscape,” recalled Bradley. The old, established turf allowed Genovesi to make quick progress by simply mowing. Dave Zinkand, who continues to make tweaks at the club on behalf of Coore & Crenshaw, described the effect: “The new mow lines make the greens pop and allow the ball to do things that it couldn’t do before.”

 

Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier

 

There is a special magic about Maidstone that captures the hearts of players fortunate enough to experience it. That feeling is shared by those who worked on its retrovation. “Maidstone was laying there. All we had to do was uncover it,” Bradley mused, with a clear tone of affection for the place and the people. “It is one of the projects I’m most proud of. I remember driving by the 18th after the work was done and seeing the course disappear into the ocean beyond. I thought to myself, ‘this is it’.” Prior to the team’s outstanding work, anyone who dubbed Maidstone their favorite on Long Island might be met with a raised eyebrow. Now, with the changes matured and Genovesi’s terrific firm and natural presentation, devotees who place the course on par with higher ranked neighbors like National Golf Links and Shinnecock are no longer unabashed homers, but rather quite reasonable connoisseurs.

The Course

Some courses, like Sand Hills and Prairie Dunes, are built on land that possesses a consistent feel. Others, such as Essex County Club, work their way through different zones of play, delivering an extra dimension of adventurous interest. Maidstone fits into the latter category as it moves from the clubhouse lawn, to the neighborhood, around the shores of Hook Pond, out to the Atlantic linksland, and then back again.

 

Map by Kevin Jackson (@outandingolf)

 

Beyond the diversity of its topography, Maidstone changes with the weather and the seasons. In the tour that follows, Jon Cavalier (@LinksGems) shows us the wide array of beautiful looks shown by the course throughout the years since the retrovation. Enjoy!

Click on any gallery image to enlarge

A round at Maidstone begins by stepping off the putting green directly on to the 1st tee. This par-4 plays down the front lawn of the clubhouse to a wide fairway connected to the opener on the East Course. The first of Park’s bold, pushed up greens is flanked by expanded bunkers.

 

 

If the drive into the club did not alert players to just how embedded in its neighborhood Maidstone is, the walk across the road to the 2nd tee is certainly a wake-up call. This straightaway par-5 has been made more interesting and strategic by the repositioning of bunkers such that they cut into the fairway. Precision is required on the drive, lay-up and approach into the green, which is set at an angle and flanked by more large bunkers.

 

 

The par-4 3rd connects the neighborhood to the shores of Hook Pond. A large, restored bunker on the right can be challenged for a better angle on the second. The green’s false front grabs attention and rejects weak approaches, and internal ripples on the putting surface await to challenge the flatstick.

 

 

The first of Maidstone’s one-shotters takes players, via a heroic carry over water, into a new zone. Any shelter from the coastal wind is gone on the 4th, where an elevated green surrounded by bunkers and short grass run-offs signals more of what’s to come across the pond.

 

 

Expanded sandy wastes and more prominent bunkering delivers a hearty taste of Maidstone’s duneland setting to this hole that runs along the shore of Hook Pond. The horizon look of the 5th’s low-profile green makes judging approach distance difficult, even with a short club in hand.

 

 

Clearing of vegetation left of the 6th created a dramatic vista across the course. A centerline bunker now demands confident decision-making and execution. The green, with its pronounced shoulders and huge bunker left makes an impression on approach that is only outdone by the severity of the cant and contours of the putting surface. An all-world flat ground four par.

 

 

The third straight two-shotter is one of the better known on the course. The 7th is Maidstone’s Cape concept, swinging left to right around the pond with the restored dune left. Depending on the wind, every option from a safe mid-iron to having a go at the green with the driver is available. The putting surface, which is narrow and deep, is packed with interest.

 

 

The par-3 8th is the first of the outstanding stretch of holes in the Atlantic linksland zone, and what an introduction it is. In a nod to modern expectations, the dune fronting the green was shifted slightly to give a hint of visibility. The hole still plays as intended though—with only a partial look, players must muster a solid tee ball to find the safety of the green, which floats above a sea of sand and scrub.

 

 

The 9th is considered by many to be among the greatest holes in America. No arguments to the contrary here. Players ascend to the elevated tee and after taking in the view and a deep breath of the ocean air, turn to face a shot to a fairway that looks impossibly narrow as it snakes through the dunes. There is no let up on the second either as the green has a wicked false front, a deep bunker left, and a newly created steep runoff right. No praise is too high for this golf hole.

 

 

The par-4 10th turns back and runs alongside the same dune that is left of 9. Although the yardage is shorter on the card, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a lesser challenge. Park pushed up a green so high that a butterfly with sore feet would have a tough time making a safe landing. Each duneland hole has its own unique character.

 

 

The course next turns to head inland at the 11th. Bunkers are positioned at the inside and outside corners of this dogleg left, placing a premium on driving accuracy. More sand flanks the expanded green, which sits at a much lower profile than its two predecessors.

 

 

In modern architecture, forebunkers fell out of favor for a time. The team’s rework of this Park rendition at the one-shot 12th illustrates well their purpose when properly utilized. It provides an intimidating look while concurrently confounding the players’ depth perception. A classic, natural par-3.

 

 

Players are next treated to a final trip out to the ocean via the par-5 13th. Tree clearing and fairway expansion on this soft dogleg left have given the hole a much more expansive feel. Bunkers left guard the short route to the elevated, angled green which is beautifully nestled in the dunes.

 

 

The final of Maidstone’s outstanding and varied one-shotters is as naturally sited a hole as can be found anywhere in America. The green at the 14th sits among dunes that were restored to their native state, with bunkers and runoffs that melt seamlessly into their surrounds. Depending on the wind, the same distance can play multiple clubs differently.

 

 

The arrow straight 15th travels from the linksland zone back to Hook Pond. The tee shot plays through a sand shoot to a fairway that is wider than it appears. The crafty player tacks like a sailor, first left off the tee and then back right flirting with the long bunker, to get the ideal approach angle.

 

 

Back-to-back par-5s were not a routing quirk that concerned Willie Park Jr. He was after the best sequence of strong holes, and the 16th provides a terrific contrast to the hole before. The tee shot plays back over the pond, where a bunker complex dividing the fairway from the adjacent 3rd lurks to catch balls on an overly conservative line. The at-grade green features some of the most subtly brilliant contours on the course.

 

 

The course says farewell to the shores of the pond with the tee ball on the 17th. A fairway expansion short left now allows the bombers to have a go at the well-defended green, set snugly in the neighborhood at the corner of Dunemere Lane and Highway Behind the Pond. The false front on the putting surface gets plenty of work as the miniscule target works on players’ hearts and minds as they approach.

 

 

It’s tough to imagine a classier closer than Maidstone’s. The par-4 18th plays up over a rise to a horizon green in a gorgeous setting with the clubhouse left and a small hillside right. Good shots and solid putting strokes are required to finish the round on a note high enough to match the view.

 

 

When pressed to explain in more detail how Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and their associates make decisions in their retrovations, Jeff Bradley said simply, “We tried to make it look like it should.” And therein lies the brilliance of their team. Like the Golden Age masters whose work they are revitalizing, the superstar designers of today blend talent and experience with a reverence for the past. This mixture gives them an intuitive sense of how to proceed. They just know. At a magnificently retrovated course like Maidstone, the results speak for themselves.

 

 

 

Copyright 2020 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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A Modern Throwback – Andy Staples at Meadowbrook

The past decade has seen a number of wonderful renovations of classic golf courses – Philadelphia Cricket Club, Moraine CC, Cal Club, Orchard Lake CC and others are exciting for golf geeks at several levels.  One in particular has risen to the top of my radar as I have watched it unfold from a distance.

While doing a previous interview with Andy Staples, I learned that he would be renovating Meadowbrook County Club.  It was founded in 1916 and received attention from Willie Park Jr and Donald Ross.  Over the years, much of that Golden Age character had been lost, and Andy was charged with bringing back that spirit in a modern form.  The possibilities had me intrigued.

Andy Staples and Assistant Superintendent Andy O’Haver did a great job of sharing updates as the renovation unfolded, and with every photo and video, my excitement grew (I highly recommend following them both Andy Staples @buildsmartrgolf and Andy O’Haver @andyohaver).

Give his role as a project lead, I’m hoping to be able to add some of Andy O’Haver’s thoughts here at some point.  In the meantime, Andy did an interesting interview with Dave Wilber from TurfNet.

turfnetradio-andyohaver

Many thanks to the Andys for sharing their outstanding work with us.  Thanks to Brian Walters for permitting the use of his beautiful photos of Meadowbrook.  Enjoy!


ANDY STAPLES ON THE MEADOWBROOK RENOVATION

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

To be able to get back to the Midwest and work with such great people probably tops the list.  Working in the Metro area where there is such a strong portfolio of historic courses is a big one.  And no doubt, getting the chance to help direct a 100-year old club with such a cool design lineage in addition to its fabulous tournament history.  Ben Hogan holed out for 2 on #18 on back to back days during the ’58 Motor City Open for crying out loud!  This place is really cool, and I’m honored to have had the chance to work here.

Describe your process for a renovation project of this nature.

I guess I would narrow my process down to two words: communication and trust.  Much of what we did at Meadowbrook came down to giving the membership the feeling of being a part of the process and that they could trust me to guide them through the entire renovation.  All clients want to know that you’ve been here before and that the project is going to turn out great.  Earning everyone’s trust is a very concerted effort over the life of the project, and it’s my job to give them the confidence that we’ll give them something to be proud of.  I think this connection with the general membership and the staff is the reason we were able to achieve 74% approval to close their golf course in the first place.  This is huge for a club in Detroit.  Many people said we couldn’t do it, but in the end, we did; and we did it on time and under budget.

Did you have any design or construction documentation from Willie Park Jr.?  If so, to what degree did it influence the work?

Unfortunately no; the club did not have any documentation.  They did have very detailed notes in their Club minutes dating back to when the club hired Park, and they have a number of newspaper articles stating when they commissioned Park to design their course.  But no, they didn’t have any of Park’s original plans or notes.  They began construction in 1916, but for financial reasons, the Club was only able to complete the first 6 holes of Park’s 18 hole routing.  So really, MCC is only a 6 hole Park course.  Collis & Daray assisted the Club in 1921 and expanded it to 18 holes.  I can only imagine this connection happened in some way through Chicago and by way of Park’s eventual work at Olympia Fields.  Then in the 30’s Ross came through, and changed the 18th green (which we think was an original Park green), so we started with only had 5 original Park greens.  Ross also renovated the 12th green.  Interestingly, Tillinghast made a visit on behalf of the PGA in 1936, of which only minor modifications, if any, were made.  The rest of the course was a mix of Collis & Daray, Art Hills, and Jerry Mathews.

The Club felt that maintaining a connection to Park’s original design was important.  So, we visited and studied as many of his other courses as possible to get a sense of what Park was creating when he came back to America in 1916, and we attempted to integrate his known built work into our plan.  This was an interesting process.  Many of us on the design team made these visits, and we collectively shared each other’s thoughts on how Park’s design philosophy related to Meadowbrook.  We visited Battle Creek, perhaps the best reflection of Park’s work in the area.  We visited a handful of others in the area as well as on the east coast.  But the really exciting part of our research was seeing Park’s work at Sunningdale and Huntercombe in England.

When we arrived at Huntercombe, we knew this was a place that needed to be a major aspect of our work at Meadowbrook.  Since Park personally owned Huntercombe (which, in fact, played an interesting role in Park deciding to come to America and practice golf architecture full time), we felt it reflected much of what Park liked in golf architecture, or at least what we think he liked.  We understood that it was a bit of his proving grounds, but there was just too much good stuff to not bring back to our work in the States.  Drainage ditches, grass bunkers (“willie park pots” as they call them at Huntercombe), varied putting green design, etc., seemed to reflect exactly what we were looking to do.  And, it was a bit different than the courses we were seeing in the US.  One of the things I’ve noticed about Park, is that his courses revolve around his green design and dictate his routings, even if it means there is a bit of awkwardness in the flow.  And this seemed to be evident in Meadowbrook.

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Photo by Brian Walters

What were your goals going into the project?

The entire discussion of master planning and renovation began when the Club was affected by the DuPont situation that killed many of their trees.  At this point, the Club realized they needed some outside help.  Then, the winter of 2014 happened, and most every poa green in the Metro area was affected in some way by severe ice damage.  This then began an entirely new discussion of putting green construction, bentgrass versus poa annua turf and overall site drainage.  So, when it came time to come to the membership with a plan, we identified these three goals:

  1. Sustainability in turf types and maintenance
  2. Improve drainage and playability
  3. Maximize the overall property

In a renovation like this, how much weight do playability and functionality carry respectively?

I’d say both are imperative.  Playability is what everyone sees or experiences, and much of functionality is invisible, or underground.  The longevity of a course lies in making sure each are equally attributed.  It really is a balance since most of how golf architecture is perceived, comes from what one sees and experiences.  Players assume the functionality is there, but rarely do they understand what that means.

What were the biggest changes you made?

The largest change I would say is the maximization of the property.  A slight rerouting of holes 5, 6, and 7 and a slight adjustment to hole 11 and 12 tees really improved the flow of the course, as well as allowing a player to experience the course differently than if they were to just simply walk the property.  The look and feel of the course is very different in that most of the greens are square-ish in nature, and all the bunkers were rebuilt to more of a grass faced, flat sand bottom style. And, with the introduction of more short grass, there are many more ways to play each hole, with a great variety of short game alternatives and recovery shots.  The rest of the holes utilized the existing corridors, with minor modifications in the teeing grounds or green locations.

Another significant addition to the course is an increase in the fairway width, and the introduction of short grass chipping swales on nearly every green.  We tried to balance the ability to challenge different angles of approach to the greens by giving the players more chances to find the fairway, albeit, not always from the best angle of play.  We also balanced the short grass areas with traditional rough, not only around the greens but in strategic areas in the fairways. I think the increase in variety of shots is a major improvement from how the course played prior to the renovation.

The final change came in the form of different teeing lengths based on actual swing speeds; you’ll see yardages as low as 4,000 yards.  We also have sets of tees at 4,800 and 5,100 yards.  I think this positions the club well as it continues to market to families and beginners into the future.

Did you take any creative risks along the way?

I hope so.  Bringing the “Huntercombe” style to Detroit was a fairly sizable leap of faith by the Club and its committee.  There are a few greens now that really challenge a player’s thought process of not only how to play a particular shot, but also through visually giving them something they may not have seen before.  My hope is the course will continue to reveal itself over multiple rounds, and if my experience proves out, some of the greens will catch people by surprise.  The 3rd green will be one that most people will notice (inspired by the 4th green at Huntercombe).  The internal green contours are also something that we feel we pushed the limits on.

I have to give much credit to Scott Clem, our design shaper, in this area.  He really helped push the creative envelope on how these greens were going to play, and receive shots.  We also spent a lot of time walking around the edges to think about a player’s recovery if the green is missed.  To me, this is the area that really separates the best courses – how a player feels as they manage their way around the course, and how interesting the set of greens are.

Meadowbrook11-GreenAerial-BW.jpg

Photo by Brian Walters

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

Actually, the biggest challenge with the membership was to keep them off the course when they started to see green grass again!  This membership absolutely LOVES their golf, but gave me no challenges once we began construction.  If there was any “challenge” regarding the membership, it would be to get them to agree that it was best to close the course for a year to get the project done at once.  But this isn’t unique to Meadowbrook.  I feel the way we overcame this was by clearly communicating our vision of what this place would be.  And, by having a solid committee, a great General Manager in Joe Marini, and a great greens staff like Mike Edgerton and Brian Hilfinger, it made it all the more manageable.  It was a great team.

Logistically, a challenge during construction was to keep the contours of the Park and Ross greens intact, even though we were converting them to a USGA green section.  This was a cool process, and was handled very well by TDI, Inc., the golf course contractor.  First, we surveyed all the greens prior to construction.  As we progressed through the installation, we didn’t touch any of the greens surfaces we were trying to preserve, and surveyed them again by a ‘total station’ greens scan which produced millions of data points and a 1-inch contour map.  Then, once the top grade was established, the entire excavation was surveyed, measuring each elevation down to the subgrade, then up to the drainage, gravel, and greens mix.  Each green was quality checked to an 1/8-inch tolerance, and each was finished by hand with a rake and shovel.  Very little equipment was used in the final floating of the surfaces. This process started slow, but picked up speed to the point we feel was a fast as possible without adding any time to the schedule.

Another logistical challenge happened around the design of the tees.  It’s easy to say we want a variety of lengths for different types of golfers, but it’s really hard not to have 6, 8 or even 10 individual tees on every hole!  Having this many tees on each hole can have a serious negative affect on how the hole looks from the back sets of tees.  So, we looked for ways to integrate combo sets, and even make the teeing ground a little smaller in some places, knowing we were trying to spread out the play across multiple sets of tees.

How will the renovation impact ongoing maintenance needs and costs?

You had to ask this question, didn’t you!  Maintenance costs are going to be in line with the other clubs in the area, which is slightly more than where they were when we began the project.  The main reason for this is the increase of bentgrass areas by around 10 acres.  Actual putting green area stayed the same size, but were converted to the bentgrass Pure Distinction.  The bunkers are likely to be a bit of a learning exercise, not only in terms of the maintenance practices, but also the expectations of the membership.  I’m planning to push the Club to keep them a little rough around the edges, which should, in theory, offset the increase of handwork.  We’ve also converted 25 acres of maintained turf to natural fescue area.

Overall, the Club was committed to taking the course to a new level in terms of look and playability, and have committed to do whatever was necessary to get the course in the shape we all envisioned from the beginning.  Oh, and did I mention their membership is full?  This is a great place for Meadowbrook to be at this point in time in the golf market.

What makes you the proudest about the new Meadowbrook?

I’m proudest of the fact that this membership entrusted me with directing their long range Master Plan, and that they voted overwhelmingly in support of closing the course for an entire year.  This is really cool, given that these types of projects don’t come around very often (anymore!).  I’m also proud to see how stoked the membership is toward the new course.  These guys are just chomping at the bit to play the place!  We’ve given tours all summer and into the fall, and everyone has been so complimentary.  This reaction is incredible by all accounts.

What do you respect about Andy O’Haver?

I love O’Haver’s appreciation for the architecture.  Not just the actual design features, but his appreciation for the way the architecture is supposed to play.  He likes to say: “It’s just grass, buuu-ddy (in his best Pauli Shore voice)!”  I think many more clubs would be better off if it was acceptable to lose a little grass now and then in an effort to make the course play right, and he gets this.  The idea of a superintendent being able to provide perfect conditions, with very little room for error, or god forbid with any experimentation, is just unbelievable; unfathomable, really.  Add to this a new course, with new turf, in a new environment, and it’s really unbelievable these guys can provide the conditions they do, day in and day out.  From my perspective, he has 2-3 seasons to get it where we want it.  I just hope the membership agrees with that!


MEADOWBROOK COUNTRY CLUB

Andy Staples provided me with some photos from throughout the renovation process, which are soul stirring.  For a much more in-depth hole-by-hole analysis of the project, follow Ben Cowan’s terrific thread on GolfClubAtlas.

(click on images below to enlarge)

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HOLE #1 – Par 4

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Photo by Brian Walters

The opener is a par-4 with a slightly angled tee shot that plays uphill to its new green fronted by bunkers.

HOLE #2 – Par 5

Meadowbrook2-Tee-BW.jpg

Photo by Brian Walters

The second is a three-shotter that plays over rolling land up to an elevated green with a classic false front.

HOLE #3 – Par 4

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Photo by Brian Walters

The third is inspired by a Willie Park Jr. template, doglegging right into one of the coolest greens you’ll ever see.

HOLE #4 – Par 5

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Photo by Brian Walters

The fourth is a three-shotter that gently turns left, finishing with a cape-style approach.

HOLE #5 – Par 4

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The fifth plays up over a hill and back down into an artful punchbowl green.

HOLE #6 – Par 3

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The sixth is a new one-shotter with a green set against the side of a hill.

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HOLE #7 – Par 4

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Photo by Brian Walters

The seventh plays over a pond and hill and then turns right to head down into a green that allows approach from the air or along the ground.

HOLE #8 – Par 3

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Photo by Brian Walters

The eighth plays over water to a classic green surrounded by bunkers.

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HOLE #9 – Par 4

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Photo by Brian Walters

The ninth is a par-4 that plays over a ditch, doglegs right, and then heads back to the clubhouse.

HOLE #10 – Par 4

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The tenth plays out past Ross-style mounds and then down to a deep green guarded by a tree left and bunker right.

HOLE #11 – Par 3

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Photo by Brian Walters

The eleventh plays downhill to a green set amidst a minefield of chocolate drops and surrounded by glorious contours.

HOLE #12 – Par 4

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Photo by Brian Walters

The twelfth is as a stout dogleg left that plays to an angled green that flows out the back to a rumpled chipping area.

HOLE #13 – Par 3

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The thirteenth is a one-shotter that plays down to a green fronted by imposing grass-faced bunkers.

HOLE #14 – Par 4

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The fourteenth is a short par-4 that asks the player to navigate centerline hazards.

HOLE #15 – Par 4

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The fifteenth play side by side with the 16th over gently undulating terrain, to a green set down in a hollow.

HOLE #16 – Par 4

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This sixteenth is a understated, straightaway par-4 that turns back and heads away from the clubhouse toward the 14th.

HOLE #17 – Par 5 

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Photo by Brian Walters

The penultimate hole is a three-shotter that plays to yet another wonderful squarish green surrounded by bunkers.

HOLE #18 – Par 4

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The closer is a par-4 that makes one final demand of the player to navigate bunkers on the way to a green set in the shadow of the clubhouse.

Congratulations to Andy Staples, Shaper Scott Clem, Superintendent Jared Milner, Assistants Andy O’Haver and Brian Hilfinger, and the rest of the crew that made this outstanding transformation happen.  And further, congratulations to the membership at Meadowbrook whose boldness and trust will be rewarded with a truly special golf course on which they can enjoy the spirit of the game for years to come.


Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Maidstone Club Tour by Jon Cavalier

MAIDSTONE CLUB – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

East Hampton, NY – Willie Park Jr.

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How a golfer feels about Maidstone typically reveals a great deal about that person’s preferences with regard to golf course design.  Those who find the course lacking in some way, whether too short or too easy, will tell you that the game has passed Maidstone by.  These golfers often prefer U.S. Open-style golf and, when evaluating a course, will focus on things like “resistance to scoring” and “shot values.”

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On the other hand are golfers looking for something other than sheer difficulty in a golf course.  These players are looking for a course that provides something different, something out of the ordinary, something they’ve never seen before.  These players are searching for a place that provides an element of the game so often forgotten in modern golf: fun.

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Maidstone is that place.

MAIDSTONE CLUB

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Maidstone is located in East Hampton, on the Southern shore of the Eastern end of Long Island.  It is the easternmost of the great Hamptons golf clubs, and enjoys perhaps the best piece of property on any golf club on Long Island.  Set right on the beach, Maidstone provides its members and guests with gorgeous ocean views from its magnificent clubhouse.  This setting makes the course virtually unique on the East Coast, as it winds through large sand dunes and provides as near a true-links experience as one can get on this side of the Atlantic.

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The course plays to a par 72 of 6,574 yards from the back tees.  While seemingly short by today’s standards, when the wind is up at Maidstone (and it always is, due to its location), the course will provide all the difficulty most golfers can handle.  Notably, Maidstone distributes its strokes to par asymmetrically – the front nine plays to a par 35, while the back plays to a par 37.  The back nine also incorporates the following unusual sequence from holes 12-16: par 3, par 5, par 3, par 5, par 5.

Maidstone-Scorecard

Maidstone’s routing is also virtually unique in American golf.  The course begins on high ground near the clubhouse and proceeds immediately down and away from the ocean.  The first three holes play on sandy, rolling ground.  The fun really begins, however, after hitting the tee shot on the fourth hole over the inlet bordering the Gardiner Peninsula, on which holes four through fifteen play.  These holes wind back and forth through magnificent sand dunes and give Maidstone its essence.  After teeing off on sixteen, the player returns to the mainland to play the final three holes.

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Before we begin our hole-by-hole tour, Maidstone’s beautiful clubhouse warrants a brief mention.  If you’ve read my other tours, you know that I often discuss clubhouses as being an extension of the overall golfing experience and that, when a clubhouse is done right, it can amplify the ambiance and setting of the golf course.  Some of the best courses in America are complemented perfectly by their clubhouses — National Golf Links, Shinnecock, Fishers Island, Merion, Sleepy Hollow and Winged Foot are examples that spring to mind.  Maidstone is another.

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And the views . . .

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… are fantastic.

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THE WEST COURSE AT MAIDSTONE

Though often overlooked, golf at the Maidstone Club is laid out over 27 holes.  The West Course, which we discuss here, is the Club’s primary 18-hole golf course.  The remaining nine holes are the remnants of the Club’s second 18-hole course, which was damaged by hurricane in 1938 and, sadly, never restored.

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Hole 1 – 424 yards – Par 4
Maidstone’s first hole is one of its longer par-4s, but the width of the hole, the ever-present firmness of the turf, and the fact that the hole runs downhill make this an excellent opportunity to start a round off well.  The first is bordered to the right by the Club’s entrance road, and to the left by the 18th hole.

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The first green is raised and fronted by difficult bunkering.  Here, the recent restoration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw is first visible – the improvements they’ve made in Maidstone’s bunkering and green surrounds cannot be overstated.

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While the fronting bunkers are certainly to be avoided, the golfer must take care at the first, and on many subsequent holes, to avoid the miss long.  Here, any shot hit too aggressively will bound down a steep bank and risk tumbling out of bounds.  A fine opener.

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Hole 2 – 537 yards – Par 5
Standing on the tee at the second, the longest hole on the course and the only hole exceeding 500 yards, the golfer’s eye is drawn to the road and accompanying out-of-bounds running the entire left side of the hole. The right is no picnic, however, as the hole is hemmed in on that side by a property boundary.  Though there is plenty of width in this hole, there is certainly an intimidation factor in this tee shot.

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Staggered bunkering runs down the left of the hole in the area of approach.  There is room to lay up to the right, but again, the property boundary is mere paces from the right edge of the fairway.

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The 2nd green is elevated slightly and set at an angle to the fairway.  An opening is provided to allow balls to be run on to the putting surface, but sand surrounds the remainder of the green.  This green slopes significantly from back right to front left and is large enough that simply hitting this green does not guarantee a par.

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Hole 3 – 408 yards – Par 4
The third hole shares a fairway with the sixteenth, though the two are separated by a chain of bunkers down the left side.  This hole can play very short or very long, depending on the wind.

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While bailing out left off the tee is an available route to this green, the approach is longer and more difficult from this angle.

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From the middle of the third fairway, the player has the option to run the ball on to this green.

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The third green is small, significantly tilted and heavily bunkered.  Putting the ball off the green and into a bunker is a real possibility here.

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Hole 4 – 176 yards – Par 3
The fourth hole transports the golfer over the inlet and into the dunescape.

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The fourth tee is on an island in the middle of the inlet and provides for an exciting tee shot, especially into the wind.  Note the openness of the landscape behind.

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The fourth green is elevated and domed, and will shed indifferent tee shots into the surrounding bunkers.  Long is an especially difficult recovery.

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Beginning with the fourth green, the course meanders through some of the most unique terrain in American golf.

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Hole 5 – 325 yards – Par 4
A short par four made shorter when played with the wind behind, the fifth is a prime example that length is not the only defense in golf.  The bunkers running down each side of the hole pinch tighter the closer one gets to the green, presenting a strategic dilemma: lay up short of the narrow opening, or attempt to drive it all the way through the trouble?

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A narrow opening to this green will allow access via the ground game, but distance control is critical.  Anything long will find the water.

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The green itself is small and plays smaller, thanks to its rounded edges that funnel balls into surrounding collection areas, bunkers or water.

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When the hole is cut at the back of the fifth green, it can be a challenge for a golfer to summon the courage needed to attack.

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Hole 6 – 403 yards – Par 4
The sixth plays out over a wide marshland to a diagonal fairway running left to right. The farther right the line, the longer the carry.

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The landing area is dominated by a fairway bunker.  Finding the fairway here is critical . . .

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. . . as the green is one of the most difficult on the course. This green slopes substantially from left to right, and its internal contours can either guide a well-struck approach to the hole or play havoc with a meager effort.  One of the best greens Willie Park ever created.

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Hole 7 – 341 yards – Par 4
A true right-hand cape hole, the seventh features two of the most thrilling shots on the course and begins one of the most exciting four hole stretches on Long Island.  The tee shot features a sweeping fairway bounded on the right by a pond and on the left by large dunes.  Again, the more aggressive the line, the longer the carry but the greater the reward.

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On his approach, the golfer confronts the water yet again, as the green juts out into the pond.  Now the hazard eats in from short right and surrounds the rear of the green.  The closer one plays to the far left side of the fairway, the safer the angle into the green becomes.

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The seventh green is fairly large but not the easiest target, given the surrounds and the winds.  Though the hole is short, par is a good score here, and double or worse is always in play.

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Hole 8 – 151 yards – Par 3
A picturesque short par-3, the eighth exemplifies the essence of Maidstone.  The green, nestled among the dunes, is partially obscured by an encroaching mound and is more than half blind from the tee.  When the hole is cut on the right half of the green, only the tip of the flag may be visible.

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If one were teaching a class on how to make bunkering look natural and blend with the surrounding terrain, the eighth green at Maidstone would be the first lesson.

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The green itself, in keeping with the natural contours of the land, slopes from high right to low left.  As seen from the right of the green, there is little margin for error.  A gorgeous hole, and arguably the best of three outstanding one-shot holes at Maidstone.

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Hole 9 – 415 yards – Par 4
Standing on the ninth tee at Maidstone, there are few in the world who would rather be elsewhere.  One of the all-time great classic holes, the ninth begins from a tee cut high into the dunes separating the golf course from the Atlantic Ocean.  The serpentine fairway sweeps right, then left, snaking through the largest dunes on the course.

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Neither the size or the beauty of the sand dunes bordering the ninth hole can be overstated.

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The approach shot to the ninth is the most difficult at Maidstone.  A long, precise shot to an elevated green is required.  The mammoth Yale Bowl bunker sits waiting to the right to catch all but the most well-struck shots.  The Yale Bowl is the deepest and most treacherous bunker on the course – finding it brings all manner of crooked numbers into play.

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The incredible topography of the ninth at Maidstone, as seen from behind the green.

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Hole 10 – 401 yards – Par 4
Though the ninth and tenth holes are listed at similar yardages on the card, the two holes will seldom play similarly.  The tenth tacks back in a western direction, exactly opposite the ninth, reversing the wind that was confronted on the previous hole.  Though the fairway is generous, care must be taken to place the tee shot in the proper position, as a diabolical green awaits.

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Sitting on the crest of a dune, the tenth green is the most substantially elevated on the course, and one of the most challenging.

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Coore & Crenshaw’s beautifully reworked natural bunkers guard both sides of the green and will gather balls that peel off the upslope.  The green cants significantly from back to front, and is guarded long by a steep drop of nearly 20 feet.

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Any miss here makes for a difficult recovery.  A brilliant green complex in every respect.

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Hole 11 – 464 yards – Par 4
If Maidstone were to have a weak spot, it would have been 11th and 12th holes.  Coming off the spectacular set of holes bookending the turn, the golfer must now play over an area lacking the interest of these all-world holes.  Nevertheless, Park was able to craft holes of sufficient interest over this flat portion of the course to carry the golfer over into the strong finishing stretch.  The 11th is a hard dogleg left to a fairway guarded by bunkers that play larger than they appear.  The firm, fast conditioning lends even straightforward tee shots strategic interest.

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The green is ringed with bunkers of varying sizes and shapes, which gives the hole texture and visual interest.  The green itself is canted stiffly from back to front, and a false-front sheds indifferent approaches back into the fairway.

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Hole 12 – 181 yards – Par 3
Though the least striking of Maidstone’s quartet of one-shot holes, the 12th is no throwaway hole.  A large cross-bunker fronting the green complicates the perception of the hole’s distance, and the domed green obscures rear pin placements.  The green itself is quite large, requiring precision iron play.  There is no safe miss on this hole – hit the green or struggle to make par.

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Hole 13 – 500 yards – Par 5
A gorgeous hole, the 13th returns the golfer to the dunes and begins the outstanding closing stretch of holes at Maidstone.  The first in a stretch of five consecutive non-par 4 holes, the 15th plays out to a wide open fairway before doglegging left around a set of bunkers and into the dunes.

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This green is reachable in two shots for longer hitters (and even for shorter hitters when playing downwind), but the many bunkers and surrounding vegetation extract a high price from those who try and fail to get home.

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The 13th green is one of the best on the course, and suits this hole perfectly.  Angled from right to left, the green abruptly rises from the fairway before leveling out for a stretch and then rising again to a second tier before plunging into a rear bunker.  The initial rise over the false front serves to bleed speed off long approaches but will also return short wedge shots with too much spin to the fairway below.  The bunker on the left was masterfully reworked by Coore & Crenshaw and now meshes perfectly with this standout three-shotter.

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Hole 14 – 152 yards – Par 3
The 14th hole at Maidstone is one of the most beautiful par-3s in the world.  Entirely ensconced in the dunes, the isolated 14th will take the breath from even the most well-traveled and crack the facade of the most cynical.  This is a special place in the golfing world.

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Once again, the bunkering work that Coore & Crenshaw have performed on the 14th hole has added to its already immeasurable charm.  The bunkering now blends seamlessly with the surrounding landscape and appears to have been a part of this hole since it was created.  The hole is now as gorgeous as it has ever been.  With the notable exception of Fishers Island’s otherworldly set of par 3 holes, I am unaware of par 3 in the state of New York with a comparable ocean view.

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Hole 15 – 493 yards – Par 5
The tee shot at the 15th plays from an elevated marker set in the dunes through a narrow chute of sand and shrub to a fairway bunkered on both sides.  This is one of the more enjoyable drives on the course.

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Once again, Park’s brilliant routing comes into play, as the par-5 15th runs parallel to and in the opposite direction of the par-5 13th hole, thus ensuring that whatever wind conditions the player faced before will be opposite him now.  As a result, like the 13th, most players will have a chance to reach this short par-5 in two when the wind is behind them, but will only have that benefit if they played into the wind on 13.

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Though largely flat, the 15th hole provides plenty of strategic interest.  Not only must the fairway and greenside bunkering be avoided, but care must be taken not to run a ball through this tricky green.  A long miss here makes for a very tough recovery.

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Hole 16 – 485 yards – Par 5
An often repeated criticism of golfers from the U.S. Open school is that Maidstone suffers from having four short par 5 holes.  These players overlook not only the ever present and shifting wind at Maidstone, but also the fact that a hole can find its defenses in areas other than raw length.  The 16th is an excellent example.  The 16th tee sits on the same small island as the 4th tee and plays out to a fairway running left to right.  As with so many tee shots at Maidstone, the golfer has a strategic decision to make: do I play right and attempt to make the long carry so as to bring the green within reach in two shots, or do I play left for an easy carry and play the hole in three shots?  That so many of these decisions are confronted during a round is precisely what gives Maidstone its greatness.

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The battle with the “easy” 16th does not end once the tee shot is safely in the fairway, however.  The player is presented with an enticing target.  A flat green, open in front, with what appear to be small bunkers and minimal danger seemingly awaits.  Perhaps the player now decides to try a shot beyond their capabilities?

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Now the danger is revealed.  The bunkering guarding the green is more challenging that it seems from a distance.  The green is subtly humped and slopes off to all sides.  The shrubbery that appeared to give the green a wide berth now encroaches closer than it first appeared.  While the 16th remains an excellent opportunity for birdie, its rewards are not without risks that will snare the careless player.

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Hole 17 – 328 yards – Par 4
The 17th is a drivable par 4 that once more puts the golfer to a decision and a test.  The tiny green can be reached from the tee but requires a maximum carry over the pond, avoidance of the deep bunkers to the left of the green and out-of-bounds to the right and rear of the green.

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The preferred angle, for those laying up off the tee, is to the right of the fairway.

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The 17th green presents challenges of its own, as it is both the smallest on the course and elevated so that it falls away on all sides.

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If Park’s intent was to test the player’s wedge game, he has succeeded here.  There is no good miss on this hole.

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The 17th is surrounded by trouble.  The home hole waits across the road.

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Hole 18 – 390 yards – Par 4
Maidstone’s finishing hole plays back up hill to the clubhouse.  Interestingly, it is the only truly uphill hole on the property.  A long hole, the 18th offers a generous fairway to encourage the player to put a little extra into his tee shot, but finding the fairway bunkers makes par an unlikely proposition.

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The final approach is to a gorgeous horizon green.  The lack of any landmarks beyond the hole makes gaining an accurate perspective and distance difficult.

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Following the natural contours of the land, the green slopes from back to front before rolling over the apex of the dune and falling to the bunkers below.

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The “alligator eyes” bunkering backing the home green lend some limited perspective of its depth.

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Putting out on the final green at Maidstone, with the sights and sounds of the ocean below, the golfer is fully aware that he has just played one of the true classic gems in American golf.

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If a golf course can be summed up in a single word, the word that applies to Maidstone is this: charming.  It is a charming golf course in every respect, from its setting high in the dunes above the Atlantic Ocean, to its unique routing across its many different types of terrain, to its unusual series of holes including a par-3, -5, -3, -5, -5 sequence, to its lack of length in comparison to modern “championship” courses.  Maidstone is virtually unique in American golf and, along with classic courses like Myopia Hunt Club, Fishers Island, Eastward Ho and Garden City and modern venues like Bandon Dunes, provides a venue that reminds us all that golf is a game that we play for fun.  Could Maidstone host a professional event today?  No.  Can I think of a more appealing place to spend an afternoon playing a match among friends?  Absolutely not.

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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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Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf