When it comes to design skill, working with native contours is a matter of restraint. The tougher test of an architect’s vision is being able to manufacture something out of nothing. Or, in the case of Bayonne Golf Club, to create a stunning dunes-like golf course out of an abandoned industrial wasteland.
Here on the piers of the New Jersey coast overlooking New York Harbor, Eric Bergstol has fashioned an amazing landscape. “We wanted to embrace the city and the harbor,” he said.
Anyone who thinks links-style golf is a matter of naturalism will be in for a shock here on these 50-foot-high, fescue-laden dunes.
The private course, which opened Memorial Day weekend, has arisen on the back of industrial waste and harbor dredge. And yet the whole contrivance assumes a soft and lovely demeanor, one that contrasts sharply with the iconography of a bustling, working harbor. Like Central Park or Yankee Stadium, this place offers jarring juxtapositions of the pastoral and the urban. This isn’t escapism from modern life. Golf here is a post-modern simultaneity of contrasting lifestyles and landforms.
The project is part of a wider Bayonne redevelopment program that ultimately will reclaim the industrial waterfront with upscale homes, retail and recreation. Much of the waterfront retains its working character, with huge petroleum storage tanks to the south of the site and the loading docks of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s ocean terminal to the north.
The course site includes 128 acres of uplands, plus 20 acres of wetlands, a helipad, aqua range and water taxi dock with direct routes to lower Manhattan. The land was built up over seven years, with 7.5 million cubic yards of construction fill, non-hazardous debris and material dredged from the New York and New Jersey harbor channels. The main playing areas then were capped with up to 2 feet of sand and organic matter. A 28,000-square-foot clubhouse, designed by the firm of Hart Howerton in the manner of a shingle-style lighthouse, is under construction and set to open in mid-2007.
Thirteen holes sit on the water, and many of the fairways are nestled in towering dunes, all of them built with material off-loaded on site and whipped into shape on this windswept, treeless setting.
The result is not only an impressive technical achievement, but also a powerful interplay of golf and the lower Manhattan waterfront.