In more than three decades of covering golf, the Forecaddie has never lost his sense of awe at the audacity of architects willing to blow up greens in the process of rebuilding them.
A similar sense of amazement and respect befell the Man Out Front during a recent trip to venerable Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course in Mamaroneck, N.Y., as it prepares for its sixth U.S. Open in 2020.
Architect Gil Hanse is working hand-in-glove with superintendent Steve Rabideau and a construction team from LaBar Golf Renovations. A year ago they rebuilt the greens, bunkers and tees on the back nine of A.W. Tillinghast’s 1923 design. In late September this year they tore up the front nine and are scheduled to wrap up the work on greens by Thanksgiving, with other work proceeding into the spring.
The holes remain routed where they always have been. Greens are being rebuilt to U.S. Golf Association guidelines and equipped with SubAir to facilitate internal drainage and air venting. Along the way, the putting surfaces are being expanded to their original size, which in most cases entails a 15-25 percent expansion. Example: the eighth green is going from 5,770 square feet to 6,600.
Along with lots of tree work, the fairways are being extended to wrap into bunkering. All of the bunkers are being rebuilt (and outfitted with Billy Bunker liners) and in some cases repositioned. New back tees will add about 250 yards to a course that played 7,264 yards (par 70) during the last U.S. Open here in 2006 (won by Geoff Ogilvy).
Anyone who thinks creative designers such as Hanse “wing it” in the field would be amazed, as was the Forecaddie, by the precision laser technology used to chart greens surfaces within 1/100th of an inch before bulldozers and excavators tore into the place, so that they can be rebuilt to exact dimensions. A “feel” for classical design is one thing. The use of science adds a
whole new dimension.
After the dust settles, the place will look like nothing had ever been disturbed.