Ever since the Great Recession of the late 2000s severely curtailed the golf industry's ability to build new-from-scratch courses, the job of golf course architect has changed considerably. Opportunities to treat a piece of ground as a blank canvas are precious, and tend to go to a small cadre of architects: the Doaks, Hanses, Coores and Crenshaws of the world.
So if you're an architect just about any other name, it behooves you to be more of a problem-solver and a historian, with a hint of artistry. That's because the overwhelming majority of jobs in the industry at the moment are in the renovation and restoration of existing courses. These projects run the gamut from top-100 private clubs eager to retain their elite status to struggling local public courses looking for ways to avoid closure and redevelopment.
The scope and timeline of these projects varies greatly, too. In some cases, it's the expansion of a couple green edges at a time, with the piecemeal re-cutting of a few bunkers until a few years down the road, the course is transformed at modest cost. Elsewhere, courses are being stripped down to the studs and being painstakingly rebuilt close to original specifications from ancient rolled-up plans. And there are 100 shades of green in between.
One young architect who has rapidly made a name for himself in this niche, both near his home in the Mid-Atlantic and as far afield as the Tryall Club in Jamaica, is Andrew Green. Green has several renovation and restoration projects set to debut in 2020. Around mid-year, his work at the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club outside Rochester, N.Y. will be unveiled to the membership with an eye toward the club's sixth major championship: the 2023 PGA.
In Maryland, three other courses will be improved by Green's hand. The Blue Course at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, itself a four-time major host. There, his charge is to recapture the Golden Age aesthetic and features that characterized the original Devereux Emmet-designed Blue Course as it prepares for PGA Championship (2031) and Ryder Cup (2036) hosting duties down the road. Congressional is Green's big project for 2020, slated to be unveiled in 2021.
Public golfers will also benefit from Green's expertise this year at the U.S. Naval Academy Golf Club in Annapolis, Md., Green recently finished a "complete 'sympathetic restoration' of William Flynn's last design," which will open in August.
In Anne Arundel County, just northwest of Annapolis, another course renovated by Green will open this summer: Eisenhower Golf Course, a county-owned local haunt. Given what he calls a "great property," Green removed all bunkers from the layout, relying on the land to provide the golfing challenge. This strategy may seem odd or bold to some, but the maintenance savings and tacit support from afar, given the bunker-free Sheep Ranch is 2020's highest-profile new course opening, should augur well for Eisenhower.
On the West Coast, Todd Eckenrode continues to leave the mark of his Origins Golf Design firm on several courses in California. Diablo Country Club represents his most ambitious project to date outside of his original designs: a complete remodel over the original William Watson routing of the course. "Much restored here in regard to strategies, widths, bunkers, greens," said Eckenrode. "I love this place. It’s a very historic club and now a standout course for the Bay Area." Diablo's exact reopening date is yet to be determined but it will be sometime in 2020.
Down the coast, Eckenrode is embarking on another project, one of more modest scope than Diablo but plenty important in its own right. He'll be renovating the course at San Luis Obispo Country Club. "The greens make the golf course, so we are leaving those intact, other than some restored 'wing' hole locations on the sides on a handful of holes," he said. "Bunkering and short-cut surrounds will all be renovated, as well as tees, tree conversions to native species, lakes and a new irrigation system."
Finally, 2020 will see the completion of a two-year renovation project at Barona Creek Golf Club, an original design of Eckenrode's that opened at Barona Casino & Resort in Lakeside, about 45 minutes northeast of San Diego. The course's green shapes and contours, as well as bunkers, have shifted over the last 19 years, and each of the last two, Eckenrode has restored the course to his original design. It will be fully open later this year.
To be sure, the golf course renovation and restoration trend continues apace beyond the Mid-Atlantic and California. Here are some more notable renovations to be aware of in 2020:
Muirfield Village Golf Club - Dublin, Ohio
Just as Donald Ross kept tinkering with Pinehurst No. 2, Jack Nicklaus keeps finding nits to pick about Muirfield Village, his most personal course design. The latest round of changes is a two-parter: some new tee boxes that will be ready for the 2020 Memorial Tournament, and then the complete reconstruction of all 18 greens in time for the 2021 edition. In the process, the short par-5 5th hole will become a par 4.
City Park Golf Course - Denver, Colo.
This course remodeling project, which started in 2017, will finally finish up this year, with the course scheduled to reopen in the fall. Architect Todd Schoeder's work also includes a new practice facility and four-hole short course meant for use by the local First Tee chapter. Stormwater management is also a key component of the project, with the course shaped to gather and redirect stormwater runoff from the surrounding neighborhoods.
Union League National Golf Club - Swainton, N.J.
"Think Calusa Pines meets Pine Valley," said Jason Straka of Fry/Straka Design about the comprehensive renovation to an existing 27-hole original Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry design in southern New Jersey originally called Sand Barrens Golf Club. Now an amenity of the historic Union League, the course is being opened up to the wind and long vistas across the rolling property.
PGA National Resort & Spa (Squire Course) - Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
PGA National has steadily revamped its golf facilities over the last several years, and the next step in that process will be Andy Staples' "reimagination" of the Squire, which was designed by George and Tom Fazio and opened in 1981. Staples' star is rising in golf course design on the strength of his redesign of Rockwind Community Links in Hobbs, N.M., and his recent commission to oversee future renovation and restoration work at Olympia Fields Country Club in Chicago. He should reinfuse some much-needed excitement into the Squire.
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club (Ocean Course) - Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The Ocean Course, the older of the two layouts at this Old Florida resort, dates back to 1928, originally designed by Herbert Strong. It is in the midst of an $8 million renovation courtesy of architect Bobby Weed. The project will include the building of a new 10th hole, but much of the rest of the routing is being retained and restored. It should be complete by the end of the summer. The course renovation is a component of a larger, $40 million project at the resort that will also see the opening of new oceanfront guest accommodations this year.
Charleston Municipal Golf Course - Charleston, S.C.
Built in 1929, the state's first public golf course will be receiving a proposed $3 million facelift by architect Troy Miller throughout 2020. The city has put up the first half of the money for work, and the Friends of the Muni organization is working on raising the rest. The goal is to give character to the course in the style of Seth Raynor, who designed area gems at Yeamans Hall and Country Club of Charleston and is thought to have influenced the original design at "Muni." New features include a Redan-template par-3 11th hole.
The Refuge - Flowood, Miss.
The Refuge has been one of Mississippi's better public courses ever since it opened in 1998, but architect Nathan Crace has widened several corridors and fashioned a couple new holes to give the routing some flexibility for shorter than 18-hole rounds. The result will be a more playable and fun golf experience for residents of the Jackson area and guests of the soon-to-be-completed on-site hotel.
Old Overton Club - Vestavia Hills, Ala.
Jerry Pate will return to this course he co-designed with Tom Fazio outside Birmingham for a project that will encompass tee, bunker and green renovations. Among the tournaments the club has held is an annual collegiate event in Pate's name.
Club Pelican Bay - Naples, Fla.
The uber-competitive private golf scene in Naples is home to a handful of renovation projects seemingly every year, and 2020 marks Club Pelican Bay's turn in the rotation. This Arthur Hills design will get an update from Ron Forse, who has gained notice for renovations at such classic layouts as the Country Club of Orlando and Bedford Springs Resort and Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania.
Dalton Golf & Country Club - Dalton, Ga.
Bill Bergin is one of several under-the-radar architects getting steady work at courses in need of smart, cost-effective updates. His major redesign at McLemore Club in northern Georgia is a big recent coup. Construction begins in two weeks at this club between Atlanta and Chattanooga, whose only Golf Advisor review describes it as "a little on the bland side." Bergin will endeavor to bring classic vibes to a course to which he has a special connection: he won the Georgia Amateur there in 1981. (Note: Bergin is also currently working on a methodical renovation of Highlands Falls Country Club in North Carolina, home to an iconic par-3 with a green perched beside a roaring waterfall.
Schaumburg Golf Club - Schaumburg, Ill.
Limited budgets tend to mean elongated timelines on renovations, and that was the case at this 27-hole public layout northwest of Chicago, where architects Bob Lohmann and Todd Quitno undertook a three-year - one nine per year - project that modernized this muni. 2020 will be its first year back at full strength.
The Club at New Seabury (Ocean Course) - Mashpee, Mass.
Bruce Hepner's thorough renovation of this resort and club's shorter Dunes Course, unveiled last year, was a big hit, introducing some much-needed lassic style and strategy to a straightforward layout. Now, Hepner gets to do it all again at the 36-hole club's flagship layout, whose front nine heads back and forth along the Nantucket Sound and has some of the best views in New England. The course will reopen May 22, 2020.
Hamilton Golf & Country Club - Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
Harry Colt is best known for his work in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe, but he did visit North America, leaving a handful of courses in Canada and the United States. Hamilton, which has hosted the RBC Canadian Open, will undergo a complete greens renovation this year and into next. Architects Tom Mackenzie and Martin Ebert are in the midst of restoring the greens to Colt's plans as well as "restor[ing] a more naturalized style of bunkering."