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“I’m thrilled with what was uncovered. It was like finding a long- lost treasure.”

It's always good to hear about a faithful Donald Ross restoration, even if it's a pretty private club.

Howard Ward tells us about Kris Spence's sensitive, well-researched (Tufts Archives ironically enough) restoration of the Blue Ridge Mountains' Roaring Gap Club where Leonard Tufts was the club's founder.

“A large majority of club members were overwhelmed by the outcome. People are raving about how much the greens exceeded their expectations,” said Dunlop White III, a longtime member of the club’s greens committee and past president of the Donald Ross Society. “Kris’s understanding of how the greens evolved over time was critical to the project’s success. He really devoted his skills to bringing back Ross’ distinctive design work here at Roaring Gap.”

White said so much of the greens had been lost over time that current golfers assumed the knobby regions outside the perimeters were chipping areas. Instead, they were integral parts of the original putting surfaces.

“These were 86-year-old greens that had never been touched. No one remembered exactly how they were,” said White. “I’m thrilled with what was uncovered. It was like finding a long- lost treasure.”

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Reader Comments (8)

I had always been impressed that the membership restrained from tinkering with the course, even though they could afford to, for all those years. Roaring Gap is a cool place, 3 hour rounds are commonplace even on the weekends. You would never get bored playing the course.

BTW....Belated Happy New Year to everyone here.
Vesper Country Club in Tyngsboro, MA, another great Ross layout, was recently renovated to similar reaction from the members. Always a fun course - partly set on an island in the Merrimack River - it's been stepped up to an entirely different level. Great to see people faithfully restoring some of the true Ross layouts.
01.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJRS
Add Carolina Golf Club to the list -- Donald Ross, 1929.

The transformation from what the course had become after decades of neglect and deterioration, to what it is now, is truly stunning -- even mindblowing.
01.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I have always been impressed by the fact that the Roaring Gap membership refrained from tinkering with the course all those years, even though they easily could afford to do so. I am sure they didn't undertake this project on the whim of a Greens Committee chairman who wanted to play amateur architect.
Add Allegheny Country Club (near Pittsburgh) to the list, where a master plan developed by Gil Hanse is "welll underway":
01.5.2013 | Unregistered Commentergreg
The greens at Roaring Gap had a well defined layer of topdressing and organic build up about 9 inches thick. The build up covered approximately 70% of the original green surface leaving the outer edges at the original grade from construction. The thing that sets this project apart from most we do was the removal of this material which uncovered the original Ross green. At this point, we were able to locate the outer edge of the green and not only restore the size and shape of Ross' green but the elevation as well. This was paramount to reclaiming the short game options on and around the greens and restoring proper surface drainage.

It was actually surface drainage problems and a lack of integration along the outer edges of the greens that led Dunlop White to invite me up for the original consultation in 2006. Prior to restoration, the area being mown as putting surface was as high, or higher than Ross' features along the edges, therefore, when the old original green edge sloped inward the water was trapped along the outer edge of the build up. There was no way to mow a short grass area around the greens because of the abrupt edge formed by the build up, Dunlop was looking for a solution to correct the lack of playability and drainage issues around the greens. This is very likely the same scenerio Pinehurst faced back in the 70's, however, they chose to carve or shape the edge of the elevated green down to integrate the putting surface with the surrounds resulting in the turtleback nature we see today. At Roaring Gap this was not possible as many of the greens had surface flow from higher ground flowing across them.

Roaring Gap Club now possesses a very authentic set of Ross greens restored to their original size, shape, slope and elevation. The result of removing the build up and expanding the greens to the outer features really surprised us all. The old greens resembled nothing more than circular pancakes with virtually no character, the restored greens and surrounds have an abundance of wonderfully flowing spines, ridges, swales, humps, small plateau's moving in both directions on and off the greens.

This project and the process to restore the greens was a very educational and rewarding exprience for all of us including my design associate Nathan Cashwell and Dunlop White III. We all gained a much better understanding and appreciation for Ross' architectural skills and true intent.

Kris W. Spence
01.6.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKris Spence
Great color Kris, thanks!

Have you ever looked at the greens at Hendersonville CC?
01.6.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Hendersonville CC may have the best set of original Ross greens in NC. They bypass a great little par 3 behind the clubhouse to play one of the most dreadful drop shot holes I have ever seen?

01.7.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKris Spence

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