How Notre Dame's Warren Course Landed The U.S. Senior Open

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John Fineran does a nice job summing up how Notre Dame’s Warren Course by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw made the right moves in earning it’s way onto the national stage this week with the U.S. Senior Open. The course struggled in its early years with maintenance issues but eventually got those right and now is the first university course to host a senior major.

That’s one of the reasons the United States Golf Association — after seeing Warren play host to the 2010 Women’s Amateur Public Links, several NCAA men’s and women’s regionals and several USGA qualifying events — announced in 2016 that Warren would be the first university golf course to host the event.

“The USGA was on board from the start,” Cielen said. “They said, ‘Look, we don’t have to change anything significant here.’ In fact, they paid us the ultimate compliment, ‘We can tee it up just the way it is.’”

Ben Kimball, the USGA’s senior director of championships, confirmed that in May.

“We’re here first and foremost for the golf course,” he said. “This is a fabulous Coore and Crenshaw venue. It’s going to be intimidating. Let’s face it, when you play in a USGA national championship, (the golf course) should be a little intimidating. Fair, yet intimidating. This is the biggest championship in all of senior golf. We want (players) to have butterflies in their stomach.”

The story also includes a sidebar explaining this week’s re-routing.

This 7-year-old video offers some insights and visuals as well:

How Gary Woodland's Incredible Wedge Shot Was Influenced By (Restored) Golf Architecture

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You may have heard…Chandler Egan and friends remodeled Pebble Beach for the 1929 U.S. Amateur into the Pebble Beach we’ve come to know. Over time, many features have been lost to the point of dysfunction in U.S. Open conditions. The boiling point was reached in the 2010 U.S. Open when the 17th green could not be held. As we detailed in the above link, a remodeled 17th hole was an opportunity to see if Pebble Beach would play better in the 2019 edition.

I’d say it did.

Since that U.S. Open, the green was expanded and the bunker faces reduced. The neck of the “hourglass” green created by Egan had been reduced to a sliver, the green unpinnable anywhere near the surrounds. The square footage restoration estimate was over 1000 square feet and while the green was still not as large as the original, the remodel made the 17th was made functional again.

But more important than the reclamation of architectural roots or reminding us of this wonderfully bizarre vision by Egan, the expansion gave Gary Woodland the opportunity to hit a shot for the ages, requiring him to clip the ball and land in a very small area and join Pebble Beach’s other 17th hole classic moments by Nicklaus and Watson.

The shot reminds how important golf course design is to giving us golf-watching thrills, and the vitality of caring for architectural gems.

They Love Raynor! Women's U.S. Open Competitors Approve Of CC Of Charleston

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Bob Spear in a special to The State reports a runaway success for Seth Raynor’s CC of Charleston design, which came off beautifully on TV thanks to restoration work and super Paul Corder’s team pulling it all together.

Even the players, who were put through a tough test, raved after a tough weekend where Jeongeun Lee6 prevailed to win the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.

Lydia Ko, who illustrated the notorious 11th hole can be conquered by making a hole-in-one there Sunday, called the Charleston layout “a great representation of golf courses. It’s not tricked up. It’s right in front of you, but it can play really tough. ... A great venue.” 

“Really tough” proved prophetic to those who started the day within four shots of the lead. Only Lee6 broke par. 

Ford, the general chairman, felt all pieces of the puzzle came together “as close to as perfect as it could have been. We wanted the players to have a great experience, and they have. And the golf course has proved itself to be a great test of championship golf.” 

No doubt about that, Paula Creamer said. 

“The crowds, the venue here, it’s been awesome,” she said. It’s a good U.S. Open venue for sure.” 

Said Gerina Piller, who shared fifth place: “It’s phenomenal. The place is great. The golf course is great.” 

The USGA likes its championship courses to play firm and fast, and Charleston certainly did. Superintendent Paul Corder and his staff drew accolades for the conditioning. 

Tiger: "I forgot how small the green complexes are" At Pebble Beach

Besides relishing the return to a course where precision iron play is rewarded, it was interesting to see Tiger’s reaction to the state of Pebble Beach after a recent practice round.

From Will Gray’s report at the Memorial:

“I forgot how small the green complexes are. Add a little bit of firmness and speed to them and they get really tiny,” Woods said. “But seeing some of the new greens that they had re-done, taking a look at some of the new pins was nice to see. So come next week when I start concentrating and focusing on Pebble Beach, it will be nice to have those images.”

Part of Tiger’s forgetfulness has to do less with eroding brain cells and more with encroaching bunkers and the continued shrinking of Pebble’s greens since the last Open.

Two More Looks At Seth Raynor, CC Of Charleston

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The USGA’s George Waters does a nice job summarizing who Seth Raynor was, what the template holes meant to his work and seizes on the clever ways Raynor compartmentalized his green complexes.

The golf course architecture of Seth Raynor provides plenty of surprises. His work is built around concepts from classic holes that he never saw in person. He never played much golf, yet managed to design some of the most highly regarded golf courses in the U.S. His designs contain elements that are harshly penal and extremely forgiving. Perhaps most importantly, Raynor managed to provide a great golf experience for the best players and for those with more modest abilities.

And don’t miss Andy Johnson’s look at CC of Charleston as the venue you’ll most want to enjoy on the 2019 calendar (at least domestically!), and as he notes, the first Raynor design to host a men’s or women’s Open.

Getting In the Mood For CC Of Charleston: A Raynor Gem Hosts The U.S. Women's Open

In a special contribution to Golfweek, historian David Normoyle has filed a fantastic read on Country Club of Charleston, host of this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

Some of Seth Raynor’s boldest green complexes will be on display, as well a course with a fairly typical history of change, modification, misunderstanding and then, in recent years, a realization of what a gem they had.

“The benefit of a targeted approach to restoration work is that new (old) information can occur at any time,” said club archivist Forrest Norvell IV, who found the 1938 aerial and 1925 Mayberry plan. “The targeted approach allows flexibility to accommodate the lessons of new research and can also be more inclusive, building support of the membership as you go along.”

The 11th hole at the Country Club of Charleston is a replica of the 15th hole at North Berwick in Scotland. At 177 yards, the hole features a raised and reverse Redan green with a false front and two large bunkers. The tee box is situated on what used to be a Confederate battery. “I expect the 11th to be a household name by the end of the Women’s Open,” said Kyle Franz, the designer charged with leading the club’s latest restoration.

Graylyn Loomis posted this review with hole photos that show the course in winter. Don’t scroll too fast by the 16th!

Ran Morrissett’s review for GolfClubAtlas.com is older but still does a nice job highlighting the design’s best elements.

The No Laying Up gang filed this video feature on the course:

Fox’s broadcast schedule for the U.S. Women’s Open:

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Video: Looking At Lost Masterpiece Lido Then And Now

Hopefully you caught our Golf Channel PGA Championship piece last week on the later years of A.W. Tilinghast’s career, if not here it is.

And for those who missed this fine piece on the Lido by Brendan Havens with Tim Rosaforte narrating, it’s a fascinating look into Long Island golf and this lost C.B. Macdonald masterpiece. Done through the eyes of golf architect Jim Urbina and historian Connor Lewis, who has recreated the course digitally.

Vide: A.W. Tillinghast, The PGA (Of America) "Tour" Years

While the return to Bethpage brings up mixed emotions for A.W. Tillinghast fans, there is little doubt about his influence over the Black course and hundreds of courses across the United States. And Tillinghast’s mid-1930’s work, a lifeline of sorts from the PGA of America’s George Jacobus that turned into an incredible project, plus his late years in obscurity, were the subject of our focus for this Golf Channel feature.

The piece first aired Monday on Live From The PGA, so if you missed it, here’s an encore presentation (also embedded in the righthand column). A special thanks to Dominic Dastoli for a fine producing and supervising effort, and to the PGA of America’s Bob Denney and Dr. Tony Parker for helping us tell the Tillinghast story. And a special thank you to Jim Nantz and Jack Whitaker. Jim for helping us contact the broadcasting legend, and to Mr. Whitaker for becoming the voice of A.W. Tilinghast for us. Tillinghast and Whitaker, two of Philadelphia’s grandest contributions to the game!

Return To Bethpage Begins The Wind-Down On Muni's As Major Hosts

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The state of New York’s glorious Bethpage State Park hosts this week’s 2019 PGA Championship and the 2024 Ryder Cup, while Harding Park is site of next year’s PGA. Throw in one US Open at a true public venue—2021 at Torrey Pines—and that’s about it in the way of muni’s hosting majors. The foreseeable future has been lined up for both the PGA and U.S. Open, with clubs or upscale resort courses the focus.

As I write for Golfweek, it’s been a mixed-bag in terms of success rate and benefits for the facilities. But it’s also clear that the cost to host and list of potential venues has shrunken due to the bench press and gluten free diets of today’s better athletes.

But do not despair, as I make the case that these majors at muni’s spawned interest in restoring classic public courses, with a tip of the cap to the new National Links Trust and efforts around the country.

Bethpage Black And The Credit Question

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As Ron Whitten detailed back in 2002, A.W. Tillinghast had a limited role in the design of Bethpage Black. Yet he will be lauded next week during the PGA Championship while the primary designer, Joe Burbeck, only gets a few mentions.

It’s a peculiar bit of irony that guilty of that at Golf Channel too, where we have a feature set to air during Live From on Tillinghast’s later years in obscurity and his incredible cross-country consulting tour for the PGA of America. But there is also a lovely irony in the PGA Championship coming here that allows us to consider his place in the game later in his life.

Since Whitten’s story seventeen years ago was met largely with frustration, maybe even derision, we’ve come to realize a lot more about course design credit. While Tillinghast seems to have only been on site a small amount and appears to have walked away (or was fired) in frustration with the Works Progress Administration’s methodology, there is still something undeniably different about the scale and design of Bethpage Black that speaks to his influence. Which is undoubtedly why Tillinghast still warrants a co-credit in Golf Digest’s listing of top 100 courses.

Sure, the greens have none of the flair you’ll find at other Tillinghast designs in the area and the course is woefully over-bunkered given his views by the Depression years. But as Whitten detailed, he still had a hand in making the design more than just long and hard.

In August 1937, Tillinghast wrote for the first time about Bethpage Black, in PGA Magazine. He credited Joseph Burbeck with the very concept of the Black Course.

"Now it was Burbeck's idea to develop one of these layouts along lines which were to be severe to a marked degree. It was his ambition to have something which might compare with Pine Valley as a great test, and although my continual travels over the country in the PGA work have prevented me from seeing play over Bethpage's Black since its opening, I am rather inclined to believe from reports from some of the best players that it is showing plenty teeth."

The next few lines suggested he made at least one visit to the Black. He described the par-5 fourth in some detail: "In locating and designing the green, which can only be gained by a most precise approach from the right, I must confess that I was a trifle scared myself, when I looked back and regarded the hazardous route that must be taken by a stinging second shot to get into position to attack this green."

While Tillinghast may have walked out of the studio during the sessions, he was there, crafted key notes and lyrics, and is undoubtedly part of why the Black went to a different place architecturally. He might also have made the 18th hole better had he stuck around.

Onward!

Whitten has narrated a nice drone flyover of the course to get you in the mood for the Black’s return to major championship golf:

Chambers Bay Gets A New Development Plan And Boy Has It Been Losing A Lot Of Money...

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Thanks to Aaron Levine for Tweeting several elements to the recent vote to add a new hotel and other amenities to boost 2015 U.S. Open host Chambers Bay, including this VERY detailed op-ed by a councilman explaining the vote for a new deal.

Included in that commentary are financials, talk of the new restaurant where the 9th tee sits (Not Jason Day’s Cafe!), but it’s mostly shocking to see the drop off in revenues since hosting the U.S. Open. High-end daily fee just isn’t what it used to be.

There was also a fantastic bit of controversy, with John Ladenberg, part of the original development, pushing an anti-development petition. His wife sits on the council, which prompted a lively back and forth!

State Of The Game 93: A.W. Tillinghast's PGA "Tour" With The PGA of America's Bob Denney, Plus Other Vital Stuff

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As we approach the PGA Championship there will be the inevitable discussion about A.W. Tillinghast’s role in the course’s final outcome. While that’s certainly a fun debate to have, the PGA of America’s first trip to Bethpage-Black offers a chance to revisit Tillinghast’s later-in-life work for the organization.

The PGA “Tour” started as a nice consulting job for the organization he was a longtime friend of, but became a major odyssey that sent the famed architect to around 500 courses to a wide variety of suggestions and assessments. You can read Tillinghast.net’s excellent description here with a list of courses.

I have worked with Golf Channel on a feature about this and Tillinghast’s fairly anonymous last years that will air a few times in the coming days, first on the CBS presentation of the “Road to the PGA.” That show re-airs Monday night on Golf Channel.

In the mean time, Rod Morri, Mike Clayton and I were joined by the PGA of America’s Bob Denney, who has preserved the bound volumes of Tillinghast correspondences and notes made by headquarters. These historic letters have moved around a lot and the golf world owes a debt of gratitude to Bob and the PGA for saving them (digital versions of most can be seen here thanks to the Tillinghast team of Wolfe, Wolfe, and Trebus!).

Here’s the pod! As always you can get it wherever fine pods are streamed, or here at the iTunes store.

Video And Podcast: The Fried Egg On Rustic Canyon

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It’s a treat to see the continued interest in Rustic Canyon 17 years after it opened, but as we knew at the time, the opportunity to work on a sandy site not far from a major U.S. city was something special.

So it’s an honor to have contributed to Andy Johnson’s Fried Egg podcast to discuss the design and his stunning drone photography of the place this winter.

Garrett Morrison looks at the design, what it meant to the region at the time and more, in this review with some fantastic still images.

Andy clipped out some of my comments on behalf of the design team—Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner as well—to provide these views:

Introducing The National Links Trust: "To promote and protect Affordability, Accessibility and engaging golf course Architecture at municipal golf courses"

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Good on Outpost Club co-founder Will Smith and Michael McCartin for building on the many great efforts nationally to restore run-down munis by starting the National Links Trust. Give them a follow on social and check out their excellent website along with the embedded podcast discussion with Andy Johnson.

For the legions who have long wondered how to get a movement going to rejuvenate the muni’s with great bones but little else, they’re looking to build on the Winter Park’s and Save Muni efforts of our golf world. They’re starting with a focus on D.C. area gems but hope to spread the gospel of restoration and architecture “growing the game".

Our first project will focus on the incredible opportunity to improve the facilities of our nation’s capital’s three municipal golf courses, East Potomac, Langston and Rock Creek. Each one of these sites has a rich and storied history, but none of them are currently living up to their potential. The National Park Service will soon be issuing a Request For Proposal (RFP) on a long term lease to operate these facilities. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and the NLT’s goal is to ensure that the proper course of action is taken to improve and ultimately protect these national treasures. 

Here’s the iTunes link or find the Fried Egg podcast wherever fine pods are streamed.

Wilshire Is Back! A Quick Roundup Reminder Of This Week's LPGA Tour Venue

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The Hugel is back!

Actually it’s the Hugel Air Premia LA Open, or, as we will call it going forward, the LA Open.

The LPGA Tour’s breakout venue of 2018 is back and celebrating its centennial and hosting many of the world’s best women in the heart of Los Angeles.

As I noted last year for Golfweek and here on the blog, Norman Macbeth’s design reminded how much a fresh, interesting and well-presented piece of architecture can add to our viewing pleasure. Sitting in the heart of a big city and the energy that pulled in certainly did not hurt.

Some of Andy Johnson’s drone footage will whet your appetite, as well his analysis of Macbeth’s varied group of holes.

Scoring and tee times here, and ticket info can be found here.

Here are the coverage times and notes:

LPGA TOUR

Hugel-Air Premia LA Open

Dates: April 25-28

Venue: Wilshire Country Club, Los Angeles, Calif. 

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):

Thursday                     6:30-9 p.m. (Live)

Friday                          6:30-9 p.m. (Live)

Saturday                      6-9 p.m. (Live)

Sunday                        6-9 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:

Annie Park to Join Broadcast Booth on Friday: LPGA Tour winner and USC alum Annie Park will join GOLF Channel’s broadcast booth as a guest analyst following her second round of coverage on Friday.

PGA Rolls Out Plans, Timeline For It's Grow The Game Move To Frisco, Texas, Home To Future PGA's And Ryder Cups

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We’re making the world a better place! I mean, Grow the game!

It’s a tired mantra wheeled out to sell just about anything in golf, including, repeatedly by new PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh in lieu of just saying, “we got a great deal to develop a project in Texas that’s aligns perfectly with our organization’s history of partnering on projects and eventually walking away from them.”

I guess that doesn’t quite sing like grow the game and Silicon Valley, assuming he’s referring to the region and not the television show.

Anyway, the new development will have a monster Omni Hotel, offices to process those pricey PGA member dues and will serve as the 2027 PGA Championship host site. Also, a possible 2040 Ryder Cup is headed there, with the task force inevitably penciling in Captain Jordan Spieth in Frisco to play the 7,603 yard Gil Hanse course as the primary venue. The project breaks ground this winter and debuts three years later with the 2023 PGA Senior Championship.

Beau Welling will be doing the second course. (Awkwardly, Hanse recently renovated one of Welling’s biggest projects from the Fazio years, Pinehurst No. 4.)

Art Stricklin for Golf.com, explaining the inspiration for the Hanse design:

The East Course, measuring 7,603 yards from the back tees with a par of 72, has already been tapped to host two PGA Championships, the first in 2027 and another in ’34, along with a tentative Ryder Cup in 2040.

Hanse, who designed the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has recently redone Pinehurst No. 4 and is currently working on a complete renovation at Oakland Hills GC, outside Detroit. But it was his recent redo of the Maxwell classic at Southern Hills CC in Tulsa, Okla., that motivated him for the PGA Frisco project.

“I think you saw a true restoration of the (original) Maxwell course at Southern Hills and you’ll see a lot of stylistic imports from Maxwell at the PGA course here,” Hanse said Monday a press event for the new PGA of America HQ. “I haven’t been to all the Maxwell courses, but you will see the deep bunkers around the greens and the smaller greens. That’s part of what I hope to see [here].”

This Tweet lists the championships committed to Frisco:

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A Tweeted map of the Hanse design:

They had a diverse group for the big rollout…some men in ties, some not in ties.

Old Course: The Revamped Shell Bunker Looks Like A Swimming Pool

With a sand bottom…

I don’t meant to be cruel, but the fascination in Scotland these days with constant rebuilding of Old Course bunkers with an eye toward mechanical precision is increasingly tough to watch, particularly when we know a sense of naturalness is essential to reminding the golfer that most of these pits were accidental in origin. The more man-made they look, the more the golfer is likely to reject them.

Anyway, here are the photos of a recent reconstruction followed by a historic photo from a postcard I purchased a few years ago. Look at that face and lack of sand manicuring!

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Ridley Draws The Line On Distance? No 13th Hole Changes Until Distance Report Arrives

The predicted (second) lengthening of Augusta National’s 13th hole will not be happening in the summer of 2019 based on Chairman Fred Ridley’s prepared remarks delivered to the media Wednesday.

Read carefully and read between those lines…

It should come as no surprise to any of you that we continue to study other enhancements to the golf course.  That includes much‑talked‑about changes, potential changes, to the 13th hole. 

Admittedly, that hole does not play as it was intended to play by Jones and MacKenzie.  The momentous decision that I've spoken about and that Bobby Jones often spoke about, of going for the green in two, is to a large extent, no longer relevant. 

Although we now have options to increase the length of this hole, we intend to wait to see how distance may be addressed by the governing bodies before we take any action.

I think the former USGA president may have just suggested he senses action is coming.

I’m sorry, I interrupted…

In doing so, we fully recognize that the issue of distance presents difficult questions with no easy answers.  But please know this:  The USGA and The R&A do have the best interests of the game at heart.  They recognize the importance of their future actions.  You can be assured that we will continue to advocate for industry‑wide collaboration in support of the governing bodies as they resolve this very important topic. 

Of course, no resolution has been the stance of the PGA Tour, PGA of America and most major manufacturers, so the idea of a conclusion to the liking of Mr. Ridley and Augusta National would seem to include some form of new distance regulation. Or a new tee that they clearly do not want to add.