A man on an island: Hanse oversees Vineyard re-do

EDGARTOWN, Mass. – It’s rare to see any golf-course construction in the U.S. But at The Vineyard Club on Martha’s Vineyard, the bulldozers and backhoes are hard at work crafting four new holes that will open around Memorial Day 2013.

Gil Hanse, the architect of the changes at The Vineyard, has gotten more publicity in the past 12 months than any other golf-course designer at a time when golf architecture and design clearly is in a decline domestically.

On the week before Labor Day, Hanse made the trip from Fishers Island in New York, where he has a summer home, to The Vineyard Club to oversee the new holes, Nos. 4 through 7, and changes to two other holes. Hanse will reroute the par-5 No. 9 and move the green at the par-4 No. 1 closer to the tees on the second hole.

It was Hanse’s ninth day onsite, and he plans to spend 15-20 more days over the course of the project putting his personal touch on the new holes.

“The members had a lot of complaints about the first green,” Hanse said. “They thought it was unfair, the angle. We would have rebuilt the green anyway, so when we analyzed the golf course, we thought, Let's move it over here. It fits well. It gives it a little bit of a dogleg character.

Donald Steele turned the first spade of dirt at The Vineyard Club in 2000, and the course was opened in 2002. Known for its environmental record of not using pesticides, the course instead is protected by the use of natural products to fight insects and disease.

With Hanse's changes, the idea is not only to enhance the layout but eliminate a cart ride from the seventh to the eighth hole and improve the flow from green to tee on a course that predominantly is for walkers, with extensive use of caddies.

Expect the changes to be completed by mid-November, with Hanse then making the trip to Brazil to work on the proposed Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro and eventually return to the U.S. to work on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral.

Hanse said he expects to be in Brazil for the first four months of construction. “Once Doral starts, I'll come back probably every other week or for three days, shape and then go back down. Or if I'll just do three weeks in Rio, one week in Miami.”

Eventually, Hanse expects to make changes to The Vineyard's back nine, but for the next year, he clearly will have his hands full.

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