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  • ​Course architecture snippets from around the world #1

​Course architecture snippets from around the world #1

25 February, 2017

Course architecture snippets from around the world #1

From time to time, we receive press releases from architects informing us about the course developments they’re involved in, whether it’s the unveiling of a new course or the upgrade of an older layout. A few design firms also release periodical newsletters, which is a great way for them to keep those in the golf industry up to date with their work.

We do much the same ourselves, sending out a “BiteSize” email bulletin at the end of every month to thousands of subscribers, summarising the main items published on our Top 100 News Channel and a selection of reviews posted during the previous four weeks. We thought it might now be a good idea to feature a regular "what's happening" news item to share some of the details behind golf course projects from around the world.

Last week, we emailed more than a hundred golf course architects to establish if they'd be willing to share news regarding their current involvement in any interesting assignments. Specifically, we invited them to tell us about any new projects due to open in 2017 or any restoration/renovation schemes that are planned to finish this year.

We’ve received the initial tranche of responses, with more already promised from Els Design, Peter Harradine, Peter Matkovich, Greg Norman Design, Frank Pont and Kevin Ramsey at Golfplan. We’ve arranged these items geographically, starting with Great Britain & Ireland and ending in Africa. Hopefully, our next update will include snippets from Continental Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean & North Atlantic Islands.

We hope you’ll find the following items informative.

Great Britain & Ireland

Pat Ruddy

Pat Ruddy had this to say: “Upgrade work has been carried out on the Glashedy course at Ballyliffin, where a bid to host the Irish Open is in the offing. New additions include championship tees (adding 40 yards and slightly angled lines) on the 2nd and 9th holes and new fairway bunkers on the left of the 1st and 3rd.

At Donegal, the 17th has been modified and revisions made to the par three 16th, which was a very difficult hole for club players with a minimum measurement of 203 metres. The championship tee remains intact but new member tees have been constructed forward and to the right (to give a lovely new angle) at 160, 165 and 170 metres, with a new greenside bunker on the left balancing the removal of force with a little intrigue and skill.

At County Sligo (Championship), the upcoming West of Ireland Championship heralds the start of the Irish amateur season and the course will feature the following: a new tee and green extension at hole 1, a new green extension at hole 2, a new green with attendant bunkers at hole 3, a new championship tee, fairway bunker and extended green with bunkers at hole 5, new fairway bunkers at hole 6, a new fairway bunker and green extension at hole 7, a new championship tee, fairway and greenside bunkering at hole 8, a new championship tee and green extension with bunker at hole 10, a new championship tee and fairway bunker at hole 11, new fairway and greenside bunkering at hole 12 and a new green extension with two bunkers at hole 18.

Rosses Point is now much more ready to face the modern championship golfer while having no adverse effect on the regular club golfer.

At the European Club, I have my notebooks under constant review and there are always things that could be done and things that should be done. Each winter, and on all my review projects, I take and advocate a "steady as it goes" approach for many reasons, including not disrupting the life of a links to an extent that the oldest members will have their final years upset too much. We have a 20-hole course so I can work at two at any time and still have eighteen in play.

We’ve just finishing remodeling greens at holes 9 and 10. The green on the 9th was very nice with swerving, curving mounds eating into the green left and right at mid-point but they’ve been reshaped and softened, with the introduction of several extra small and almost imperceptible swings to add great intrigue to the running approach. The green on the 10th is somewhat the same so I have softened a mound on the right side of the green and enlarged the back right pin position which is the strongest on the green. The pin can now go two club lengths further right and demand a more nuanced approach.

I’m thrilled with these changes as they look great and should play great for the Irish Amateur Close Championship here next year. When we had the Close here in 2006 it produced a great winner in Rory McIlroy, with Shane Lowry caddying for his opponent in the final!”

Martin Ebert

Martin Ebert told us: “I suppose the big one this year will be the opening of the two new holes (the 7th and 8th) on the Dunluce course at Royal Portrush and I imagine that will stir a certain amount of interest! The changes to the Kintyre at Trump Turnberry will be unveiled in July. They are significant, especially at the far end, and the new 9th may come to be regarded one of the most spectacular at Turnberry.

I’ve also made changes to the 3rd hole on the Championship Course at Carnoustie, where we have created fairway to the right of reconfigured central bunkers to tempt golfers into being more aggressive from the tee. Previously, the only option was really a 6-iron shot to the corner and then a pitch to the green in stroke play though a few players tried to drive the green recently in The Amateur match play stages.

Already in play are changes to the 17th on the Championship course at Royal County Down. We created a practice ground to the right of the hole but have built a line of screening rough-covered dunes along the right of the hole. We have just started working at The Island, providing a masterplan for the club, and that could be very exciting. A little further south along the same coast, we will also be building some dunes and adding bunkers on the Championship course at Portmarnock.”

North America

Rees Jones

The Rees Jones design firm has several new courses opening this year:

Bayou Oaks in Louisiana is located in the historic City Park of New Orleans. Co-designed by Greg Muirhead, the course replaces the old West and East 18-hole layouts that were badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A few former playing corridors have been used, albeit with a little reverse routing in places, and the new facility bears comparison with similar municipal/park projects the company has been involved with at Torrey Pines and Bethpage State Park.

Steve Weisser has co-designed the completely renovated Jack Clark South Course at Chuck Corica Golf Complex in Alameda, California. Originally designed by William Bell in 1957, the layout has been totally rebuilt, with new drainage and irrigation systems installed. Much of the old routing has been retained, though fairways have now been re-grassed with hybrid Santa Ana Bermuda.

The last seven fairways of the Danzante Bay course at Villa del Palmar on the Baja California peninsula in Mexico are being shaped with a view to planting taking place in the Spring. Co-designed by Steve Weisser, the full course will maximize the fantastic views of Danzante Bay and the Sea of Cortez to the east and the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range to the west.

The company also has a few remodel and restoration projects coming to fruition:

The 18-hole course at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, New Jersey, is partially a Donald Ross design (holes 1-5, 8, 10, 19 and 18) with the clubhouse built in 1899 sitting high on a bluff overlooking Echo Lake Park in Union County, New Jersey. Trees have been removed, a number of greens rebuilt, bunkers around some greens reshaped or reconstructed and several new tees installed.

The Gold course at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club dates back to 1963, when Robert Trent Jones Snr set out the fairways at this resort. His son Rees renovated the layout in 1998, rebuilding all the tees, bunkers and greens, and he returned last year to reconstruct the bunkers, resurface the greens and re-grass the entire course, using Bermuda on tees, fairways and rough, with bent grass employed on the greens. The work is scheduled for completion at the end of May.

Around the same time, the course at Old Oaks Country Club, Purchase, New York, will be re-opening after phase 1 of a Rees Jones restoration is completed. Originally opened for play in the mid-1920s, this layout has something of a unique design pedigree as it was laid out by C. H. Alison from plans that were previously drawn up by A. W. Tillinghast. All bunkers have been rebuilt, trees have been removed and some greens have been modified to incorporate runoff areas.

Ian Andrew

Ian finished the restoration of the Raynor/Banks course at Knollwood Country Club in New York just a few months back and another long-term restoration project of his at Park Country Club in the same state is nearing completion on 1st June.

Close to a thousand trees have been removed from this property since 2005. In addition, new tees have been added, fairways widened, putting surfaces extended and bunkers recreated in the style of the originals that were installed by Hugh Alison.

Ian’s also planning to return to the 27-hole layout at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Downsview, Ontario later this year to continue bunker work that was carried out on the Thompson nine last year.

Doug Carrick

Construction in Ontario of the Nest Golf Course at the Friday Harbour Resort in Big Bay Point on Lake Simcoe continues for Carrick Design this year. Almost two million cubic meters of fill from excavating the 40-acre marina was used to build the course and seeding of tees and fairways is scheduled for this Spring, with a completion due in July. The course is then scheduled to open next year.

Arnold Palmer

The course at Royal Golf Club at Lake Elmo in St Paul, Minnesota is the latest layout from the Arnold Palmer Design Company. Formerly operating as a 27-hole facility called Tartan Park, the 477-acre property was bought by Hollis Cavner, a Florida-based golf promoter, last year and he immediately began transforming it.

It’s a joint design by Annika Sorenstam and Arnold Palmer and the new 18-hole course will have a front nine known as “The Queen” and a back nine called “The King”. According to architect Thad Layton: “in some cases the playing corridors were changed… nine holes are completely new… it will hardly resemble the old layout”. The course is scheduled for a summer opening.

Forrest Richardson

Forrest Richardson told us about a new par three resort layout called “The Short Course” at Mountain Shadows in Arizona which is opening on March 7th, 2017. Described as “one of the few 18-hole par three high-end courses in the world,” it was first constructed in 1961 as a par 56 layout with two short par four holes but it’s now been fully rebuilt with eighteen new short holes by Forrest, who worked for many years with Jack Snyder, the original course architect.

Holes range from 75 to 200 yards, creating a unique and challenging golf experience. Total yardage for the course is 2,310 yards from the back tees, 2,065 yards from the middle pegs and and 1,735 yards from the front markers. The course footprint covers only 34 acres, including 13.5 turfed acres, 19 acres of naturalized vegetation and 2.5 acres of greens.

Notable holes include the 4th (played uphill to a Biarritz green), the very short 7th (where the tee shot must carry across water to a peninsula green), the double greened 13th and 14th (with a central bunker in the green like the 6th at Riviera) and the 16th, which plays to an elevated green. There’s also "The Forrest Wager," a unique par-2 betting hole where 40-yard chips and putts are played across a rolling green to settle bets or press the match.

David McLay Kidd

DMK Golf Design has rebuilt the course at Rolling Hills Country Club on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County, California. Following the acquisition of the neighbouring Chandler’s Sand & Gravel quarry, the club’s old course was closed in the middle of 2015 to allow the multi-million-dollar two-year remodelling project to get under way on a site that’s now been expanded from 99 to 160 acres.

Apart from a top-class golf course, the country club will reopen later this year with floodlit tennis courts, a new swimming complex, health and wellness facility and a 60,000-square-foot clubhouse that will enjoy views across the entire Los Angeles Basin.

Preview play will also commence at some point during 2017 of the second course at the Sand Valley Golf Resort in Wisconsin, with a full opening to follow next year. There’s no official name for the new DMK design as yet but the architect thinks it could be “Big Sands,” “Sand Ridge” or “Mammoth Dunes”.

Steve Forrest

Steve Forrest of Hills & Forrest tells us he hopes to complete the second nine of a Lennar Development in Delaware sometime during 2017. On the renovation front, his company will be wrapping up a couple of projects. The first of these is a practice facility improvement at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio, where the club has been hosting the LPGA’s Marathon Classic since 1989.

The second renovation is an extensive classic bunker refurbishment on Chicago’s northside at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, Illinois. The club is having all its bunkers rebuilt as “trench-style” hazards using the “Better Billy Bunker” method, with flat floors and fescue faces and these deep sand traps will closely resemble the bunker style employed by Seth Raynor during the era when the course was first set out a century ago.

Central & South America

Dan Blankenship

Dan informs us: “Brazil is currently going through an economic and political crisis that has basically stopped all development in the country. I have a project in progress near Macae in the state of Rio de Janeiro called Costa do Sol but it’s been stalled for over a year waiting for new investors.

I just finished a complete upgrade at Graciosa Country Club in Curitiba, a club that dates back to 1927. The remodelling of the club’s 11-hole course in the centre of the city included a complete redesign of all the greens and fairway bunkers. We also eliminated one hole and rerouted three others as well as installing a continuous cart path.”


Brian Curley

Just months after Nicklaus Design’s 18-hole Ocean course debuted at FLC Quy Nhon Beach & Golf Resort in Vietnam, Schmidt-Curley’s Mountain course is now set to open next month. Built by Flagstick, one of the region’s top golf construction companies, the layout lies high up on natural dunes with fabulous views out across Nhon Ly Beach and the South China Sea.

Further north, Schmidt-Curley have designed another course for the same FLC Group along the same coastline at Ha Long Bay, and the fairways of this layout are due to open for play in mid-2017. The course overlooks the UNESCO World Heritage site, where huge vertical rock formations rise from the shimmering waters of Ha Long Bay, and Brian Curley thinks the new layout will quickly become one of the most photogenic courses in the world.

Brian’s design company is due to start work shortly on another new project just south of Hanoi, called Stone Valley Golf Resort in Ha Nam, with stunning rocky outcrops again creating a distinct natural ambience. Brian Curley reckons the resulting design should closely resemble similar work done previously at the design firm’s acclaimed Mission Hills Haikou site.

Construction of a new 18-hole layout within the vast 11,000-acre Mandalay Myotha development in Myanmar is due for completion in the middle of this year, with the Schmidt-Curley course just one sporting component of an ambitious project that will include schools, factories and housing for up to quarter of a million people. Half the holes are grassed and growing in now whilst the remaining nine are still being shaped and sand capped.


Mike Clayton

Mike Clayton disclosed the following: “The biggest Ogilvy Clayton Cocking Mead project this year is the complete rebuild and redesign of Peninsula Kingswood in Melbourne. Kingswood was a sand belt club but the course was severely impacted by encroaching boundaries and consequent alterations.

The club sold the land for a substantial sum then the two clubs merged and moved to Peninsula, creating a 36-hole club twenty minutes to the south. We’ve opened 16 holes on the South course – the final two greens cannot be done until the road to the clubhouse is completed – and 8 holes in the North are built and growing in.

Incidentally, another really interesting project we’re involved in is the rebuilding the 9-hole course at Shady Oaks Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. It was where Ben Hogan practiced, up by the famous tree. The club will be closing the main course – probably in 2019 – and we are scheduled to rebuild the whole of the main 18-layout layout which was originally constructed by Robert Trent Jones Snr in 1958.”

Bob Harrison

Bob Harrison advised us: “We don’t have a brand new 18-hole course due to open this year, but we do have two very substantial projects which are progressively reaching 18-hole status. These are Townsville Golf Club and Brighton Lakes Golf Club, both of which were in trouble financially, and both of which have found interesting ways to get out of that negative position.

Townsville Golf Club originally had a 27-holes layout and we’re now completely changing that to produce 18 holes and associated residential development – which is paying for the golf course. In 2016, eight new holes were opened and this year we hope to start construction on the remaining ten holes around May/June.

This is somewhat dependent on the weather as there needs to be some level of certainty about water supply before going ahead with all ten holes. It might well be that we do five or six. They are, however, doing it properly, and the course will be both interesting and well-presented. Karrie Webb is a long-standing club member and is active in both promoting the project and interacting with our company in relation to the new course.

Brighton Lakes was formerly New Brighton Golf Club in the inner western suburbs of Sydney. The original 18-hole course had nine holes in flood-prone (but very attractive) land and nine holes above the flood plain on a rolling hillside. The club did a deal some years ago with Mirvac, one of Australia’s prominent residential developers, allowing the company to develop houses on higher ground and compensate the club sufficiently so it can build new holes in more of the floodplain. A totally new clubhouse is also being constructed which is oriented towards a community centre as well as a golfing club.”

Bob didn’t make any mention of his new private course at Ardfin on the Isle of Jura in the Scottish Inner Hebrides but we hope to following up last September’s visit with another one later this year to see how the finished article looks…


David Jones

David tells us work on the second nine at Migaa Golf Club, located fourteen miles north of downtown Nairobi, may start this year, allowing completion of the full 18-hole course: “The first nine was finished in 2015 but lack of finance has held back the rest… there’s an outside possibility it might get finished in 2017.”

He’s working on revisions at the well-regarded Sigona Golf Club in Nairobi – an old 1930s design by Tom Simpson – where he’s been commissioned to re-bunker the entire course, add new tees, and redesign the 18th hole due to clubhouse extensions. He’s also designed an ambitious golf academy and practice facility within a large 400x200 metre swamp area but that’s a work-in-progress which is very unlikely to be completed this year.


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