Established in 1904, Menlo Country Club brought its first 9-hole golf course into play in 1912. This layout was designed by Scottish-born professional Tom Nicoll, who built a number of courses in California before and after working in Asia for several years.
Nicoll moved to Manila in 1917 to build and operate a course for the US government then he left the Philippines for Tokyo, becoming head pro at Komazawa Golf Club, where he was one of the first teaching professionals in Japan.
The initial course at Menlo was expanded to a full 18-hole layout soon after its inauguration and it served the membership for more than fifty years, until Robert Trent Jones Snr carried out a renovation in the late 1960s.
On July 4th in 2014, the course re-opened after a long period of closure, during which time Kyle Phillips constructed fourteen new holes and substantially re-designed the other four, increasing the par for the course to 71.
During the rebuilding, over 300 trees were removed, approximately 88,000 cubic yards of earth was moved and around 60,000 cubic yards of sand brought onsite to cap the fairways. The front nine is now routed around the outside of the properly, circling the back nine.
Kyle Phillips kindly provided us with the following exclusive comments:
The records we found in our research tended to somewhat contradict one another. Even though there is good evidence for the golf club at an earlier period, the Menlo Country Club was officially founded in 1904.
After the current site was acquired by the club in 1911, it appears that they relocated with a 9-hole opening of a Tom Nicoll design in 1912 and the 18-hole course following a couple of years later.
Additional land was acquired and the course was expanded and remodelled by Robert Trent Jones Snr, with further remodelling over the years by Robert Trent Jones Jnr and Don Knott.
The work I did there was a complete redesign and reconstruction of the course. The course was closed for approximately 17 months, completely scraped, as was done at California Golf Club and Del Paso, and rebuilt as a new course.
Historically, the course has always been the typical old California mixture of bent/poa greens and a very mixed fairway and rough combo of common Bermuda and blue/rye/fescue grasses — it was that way when I first played there in 1981. The new course has bent grass greens, ryegrass fairways and fescue rough.
This has traditionally been an excellent Club with exceptional members, but up until now has been more of a neighbourhood course. I was able to create new, yet classic-style green and bunker designs for the members. A fun walking course, I expanded it from a 6,300-yard par 70 course to a comfortable 6,800-yard par 71 layout.
Because most of his designs are outside the U.S (in 20 different countries), Kyle Phillips is not always on the American golf radar. When my host at Menlo heard Phillips would be working there, he joined even before one shoveful of dirt had been moved. He wasn’t disappointed……….and neither was I. Obliterating Robert Trent Jones’s work from the 50s, the creator of Kingsbarns has built almost as fine a course in Silicon Valley. Phillips employed a modified Muirfield routing with the front nine running around the perimeter of the property (though clockwise in this case) while the back nine holes runs in a variety of directions inside the front. The result is that every hole is memorable.
There’s a line of charm in evidence on every tee shot and plenty of options on approach shots. The contours on the greens are challenging, but not obscene. The course gets better as one goes along with the finishing holes being among the strongest. The short par 4 fifteenth features a challenging approach to a fallaway green with a creek behind it; sixteen is a tiny par 3 with a devilish green and the 17th is a double dogleg par 5.