By Rick Phelps, ASGCA Secretary
Pinehurst Country Club, in Denver, Colorado is a 27-hole private facility that was opened for play in 1960. The golf course was designed by J. Press Maxwell, ASGCA. The course is set up to play as a regulation length eighteen-hole course, plus a stand alone nine. The eighteen-hole course is a par 70 of 6790 yards from the back tees. The shorter, nine hole course plays to a par of 36 at a length of 3061 from the back tees.
The members and staff at Pinehurst Country Club contracted with Richard M. Phelps, Ltd. to prepare a comprehensive Long-range Improvement Plan for the golf course. The intention of the Club was to complete a portion of the work shown on the plan each year for the next three to five years.
The four major elements of the remodel design were the playability, maintainability, safety and aesthetics of the entire golf course. With each of those four main topics as the focus, there were a number of sub-topics that became an important part of the design challenge. Design elements such as strategy, challenge or difficulty for various skill levels of golfer, drainage, aesthetics, speed of play, etc. all became important facets of the design phase.
This family-oriented club has a relatively active membership, with a total member roster exceeding 900. Thus, the golf course sees a high volume of play for a private club.
It was generally agreed to by the club members, the staff and the architects, that the greens were excellent examples of the work of Press Maxwell and, since they were in relatively good agronomic condition, they should be left alone. Otherwise, with a modest budget in mind, there were no significant restrictions placed on the architect in terms of design solutions.
Therefore, the remainder of the golf course, including bunkers, ponds, trees, tees, fairways, cart paths, etc. was studied, with the four major design elements in consideration throughout. As is fairly typical on a course of this age, there were a number of issues that needed to be resolved and, as such, they were included in the Long-range Improvement Plan. As a brief summary of the more glaring problems, the following items became priorities on the improvement list:
Bunkers: The bunkers had never been renovated in the thirty-year existence of the club. Thus, they had very high sand faces, droughty sand lips (from years of explosions), contaminated sand and very poor drainage.
Tees: The flexibility of multiple tees did not exist and the forward tee length of the golf course was exceedingly long (5900 yards). Also, many of the tees were too small to accommodate the high play volume.
Drainage: In addition to the poor bunker drainage, there were a number of other areas on the golf course where the surface drainage was inadequate.
Trees: There were a number of instances where tree planting had gotten out-of-control and/or trees were becoming a detracting element in the strategy or aesthetics of certain holes. There were also a few instances where tree planting was desirable for safety and aesthetic reasons.
Throughout the design process, these issues, among others, were identified and incorporated into a Draft Improvement Plan. The plan was then reviewed in detail with the Green Committee and staff at the Club. Comments were received and minor revisions were made to create a “Final” Improvement Plan.
Once the Plan was in place, the Club requested the assistance of Richard M. Phelps, Ltd. in establishing a priority list and preliminary budgets for implementation. It was decided by all parties involved that the first phase of the improvement project should involve reconstruction of all of the bunkers. The decision was based on the thought that the bunker renovation would have the highest positive impact on the golf course and would generate support for the remaining work on the master plan.
The bunker renovation project was started in late January of 2000. The contractor was selected based on his expertise in remodel construction and his flexibility to work within the requirements of the Club. He utilized equipment specifically intended for use in turfgrass applications to minimize damage. He also limited the areas of disturbance to reduce interruption of play. Work was successfully completed by early May 2000, so the impact to the bulk of the golf season was minimal.
Although this construction project only represents a small portion of the work shown on the master plan, the success of this phase will prove critical when it comes time to begin planning for implementation of the next phase.