Highland Golf and Country Club

Graphic showing proposed practice areas and maintenance facility.

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New Projects

Ground has been, and is being broken on two new projects. Bunker reconstruction has begun at Fox Prairie Golf Club in Noblesville, Indiana. Verde Sports Construction is doing a great job.

Tee and bunker reconstruction are starting this week at Dye’s Walk Country Club in Indianapolis, Indiana. C. R. Lutzke Golf is constructing the project. It will be a pleasure to work with Chris Lutzke on this project as the 18 hole golf course is comprised of Pete Dye’s first nine holes. And, my father, Gary, designed the second nine.

Also, work is progressing on construction plans for the new and reconstructed practice areas at Highland Golf and Country Club in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Work at Fox Prairie Golf Club
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Honeywell Golf Club

In December 2020, my bunker project was completed at Honeywell Golf Club in Wabash, Indiana. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work on the project with Mel Thomas, Head PGA Golf Professional and General Manager. Mel and I go way back to 1976 when we played on the Tri State University’s Golf team together. Those were some special times!

The project’s scope entailed completely re-bunkering the golf course, and adding a tee on the par three 16th hole. Improving the golf course’s strategy, providing alternate lines of play, tying the two nines together aesthetically, and improving the beauty of the golf course, were all paramount in the project’s design. Another very important aspect of the design was to construct bunkers that are maintainable which was accomplished by the design and the use of the Better Billy Bunker system.

The project’s construction was done by Chris Lutzke and his terrific crew. The job they did was first-rate and first-class. It is always great to work with Chris. He is one of the best, if not the best, in the business. I can’t express enough how happy I am when he builds a project for me.

I am very pleased with this project and quite proud that Chris and I were able to provide Honeywell Golf Club’s players with an enjoyable, and challenging, round of golf every time they play.

The photographs of the golf course are from videos made by Roger Brown and the photograph of Chris Lutzke and me is by my wife, and best assistant, Julie. Click on the photographs to enlarge and view in a gallery.

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Too Long

It has been a very long time since I have updated the website. I have been very busy working on many excellent projects. I plan on making new posts in the very near future. Thanks!

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“Par for the Course,” an article about Bill Diddel

Here is an article on golf course architect, Bill Diddel that I worked on with Paige Wassell for Indiana Landmarks magazine, Indiana Preservation:
Par For the Course, Bill Diddel

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Photograph of Bill Diddel

Here is a photograph of Bill Diddel at age 95 that was given to me by my friend, Dwight Ladd.  Bill was still playing golf at this age.  He would stripe tee shots down the middle of the fairway, and he could get up and down from just about anywhere.

Bill Diddel

Bill Diddel

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Golf Course Architecture Magazine Article (and more)

On January 30, 2019, Golf Course Architecture Magazine, an international publication, published an excellent article, penned by Richard Humphreys, on my 27 hole remodel of Old Oakland Golf Club in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Click on the link above or the photo below to go to the article.  It is a good read and readily captures the essence of this exceptional project.


As always, space is limited in publications, so I thought that I would add a few details about the project here.  First of all, it has been a pleasure and privilege to work for Steve Sterrett and Old Oakland Golf Club for the past three years.  I could not have asked for a better experience, especially working with golf course superintendent, Chase Walden, and his crew.  There were many challenges along the way, but Chase always rose to those challenges, exceeded all possible expectations with his expertise, dedication and hard work.

Chase and Ron

Chase Walden and me on opening day when the golf course project was “complete”

Also, it was a pleasure to work with Doc O’Neal of Cohoat and O’Neal Golf Management.  Doc’s steady hand and common sense was instrumental in guiding the project’s progress.

As mentioned in the article, Old Oakland’s membership has swelled by 100 new members.  This is a testament to the success of the project as well as the quality golf course and practice facilities that are presented to the members on a day to day basis.

8, East Course, Par 3

8, East Course, Par 3

With regard to my design of the remodeling project, the article states it well:

How did you approach the redesign of Old Oakland?

I analysed the routing with respect to the sequence of strategic concepts and penal situations it offers through its topography, natural features, lines of play and golf course elements such as tees, fairways, green complexes, bunkers and mounding.

A variety of shot-making requirements into differing circumstances are significant and essential ingredients. This provides a challenging and enjoyable round of golf, day in, day out.

In the case of the club’s plan, it was paramount to develop and implement a design that delivers to the golf course definition, strategic options – alternate lines of play for various skill levels – and beauty.

All detailed design was performed on site. I spent a significant amount of time on site during construction working hands-on with the shapers, the contractors and the golf course superintendent. Many times, I was on site five or six days a week during each phase of the project.

6, East Course, Par 4

6, East Course, Par 4

This is a detailed list of the golf course improvements that were made as a part of the remodeling plan:

1. Re-bunkering the entire golf course, incorporating Better Billy Bunker method
2. Adding/rebuilding select tees
3. Widening and enlarging fairways, including grass hollows and chipping areas adjacent to putting greens
4. New irrigation system for the original holes and additional areas of remodeling
5. Tree removal
6. Improved drainage
7. Beautify lake banks by use of stone walls and cobblestones
8. Continuous cart paths
9. A major stream construction and relocation project
10. Practice improvements including:
•A 3.1 acre short game comprehensive practice area consisting of one practice putting green and two practice chipping/pitching/sand-shot greens
•An enlarged, one level, practice range tee
•An auxiliary practice tee
•A practice fairway bunker

4 West Course, Par 3

4, West Course, Par 3

The practice facilities will be among the best, if not the best, in this region of the country.  The short game area occupies over three acres and features one practice putting green, two short game practice greens, undulating contours in the fairways and roughs, and two bunkers.  We accomplished this part of the project in a very compressed time frame (about three months).  Therefore, the drawing/plan for the short game practice area is more rough than I typically produce, but we had to get bids and get to building.

Short Game Practice Area Drawing/Plan

Short Game Practice Area Drawing/Plan

I am itching to get out and play all three nines at Old Oakland Golf Club this Spring.  I’m also excited to see the opening of, and experience, the new short game practice facility and the other expanded practice facilities.  Wow, what an excellent project.

Aerial Photograph, March 2018

Aerial Photograph, Old Oakland Golf Club, March 2018

I would also like to reiterate, as found in the Golf Course Architecture article, that this project was a total team effort.  Thanks to everyone involved in the project, from start to finish – Chase Walden (golf course superintendent) and Crew, Doc O’Neal (general manager), Derek Dirksen (shaper), Ted Blahnik (engineer), Ted Nelson (construction superintendent), Chris Lutzke (construction superintendent and owner), Eric Graudszuz (shaper), Tony Altum (irrigation designer), Adam Garvey (construction manager), Jim Held (irrigation designer), and  everyone at Golf Creations, Duininck Golf, Leibold Irrigation, Albanese & Lutzke, Automatic Supply, Commercial Irrigation, and anyone that I forgot!

Click on the photos to start a slideshow.


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My Father, Gary Kern, Passes Away

GaryCarOn Friday, November 30, 2018, Golf Course Architect, Gary Lee Kern, passed away at the age of 80 in Chesterfield, Missouri.

Born on December 27, 1937, Gary grew up in the small town of Kendallville, Indiana. He was the only child of Ralph and Edith Kern. After high school graduation, he went to Texas to attend Texas A&M University for two years, where he began playing golf. Moving back to Indiana, Gary worked in the engineering department of the Indiana Department of Highways for two years. In 1960, Gary became a principal in the civil engineering and land survey firm of Weihe Engineers, Inc. located in Hamilton County, Indiana. In this position, Gary was responsible for land use planning, site design, and engineering drawings for single family subdivisions and multifamily projects.

Gary continued to play golf and developed a love of the game which translated to an ongoing informal study of golf course architecture. He read and re-read everything he could get his hands on about golf course architecture, including one of his favorite books, The Links, by Robert Hunter. In 1969, Weihe Engineers, Inc. was commissioned to design Brookshire, a single family community in Carmel, Indiana that included a golf course. Gary suggested to the client that they hire golf course architect, Bill Diddel, to design the golf course. Working together with Bill on the golf course’s design and construction, Gary designed the golf course’s routing and Bill designed the golf course’s features. As they developed a close working relationship throughout the design and construction of Brookshire Golf Club, Bill encouraged Gary to enter the field of the golf course architecture. Bill endorsed Gary to a prospective client as a golf course architect resulting in Gary’s first golf course design commission for Tomahawk Hills Golf Course in Jamestown, Indiana. Gary and Bill continued their relationship throughout the rest of Bill’s life.
In 1974, Gary became a full time golf course architect designing and remodeling a long list of golf courses in the Midwest and throughout the country. Gary moved to St. Louis in 1983 and designed many notable golf courses in the area including, Fox Run Golf Club, Lake Forest Country Club, Aberdeen Golf Club and Crown Point Golf Club. His son, Ron came to work with Gary in 1983 and worked with him designing golf courses through 1992. Gary designed golf courses with Hale Irwin for a period of time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including New England Country Club in Bellingham, Massachusetts.

Gary’s golf course design philosophy was to design golf courses that are challenging for good players and enjoyable for all golfers. He was a design “minimalist” using the natural terrain to route the golf course long before that term was ever coined in the golf course design community. Gary leaves a significant legacy of golf courses on which players will continue to enjoy playing the game of golf for generations to come.

In retirement, Gary started playing the clarinet again in 2009 and kept busy practicing and playing in two community bands. Gary was an avid St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues fan and loved attending games and watching games on television. He also loved traveling the world with his long-time friend, Pat Pace. Sadie, Gary and Pat’s dog, held a special place in his heart.

A member of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Chesterfield, Missouri, Gary deeply valued his relationship with the church, the church’s members and the church’s Pastor Below. Bible study was an essential part of Gary’s life.

Gary is survived by his long-time friend, Patricia Ann Pace, son Ronald Lee Kern and daughter-in-law, Julie Marie Kern.

Services will be at Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Chesterfield, Missouri on Thursday, December 6 with visitation from 9 to 11 a.m. and memorial service at 11 a.m. Gravesite service will be directly following the memorial service at Bethel Cemetery, Wildwood, Missouri

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Lord of Life Church, Chesterfield, Missouri and The First Tee of Greater St. Louis.


Gary overlooking the 12th and 13th golf holes at Fox Run Golf Club, Eureka, Missouri

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The Art of the Matter, WFYI, Indianapolis

Online listening now available – Click here.

Saturday January 13, 2018 morning at 7 am EST my interview about the art of golf course design with Pete Brown was broadcast on WFYI’s promgram, The Art of the Matter.  It will be repeated on Thursday January, 18 at 8 p.m.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of this program, which has been an important torch bearer for the Indianapolis Arts scene. While the program hosted by the incomparable Sharon Louise Gamble is being retired by WFYI, great new programming spearheaded by Jill A. Ditmire is on the horizon. I look forward to the new programming and to seeing what is next in store for Sharon.

I will post a link to the podcast when it becomes available.

Here are two green complexes that I designed and remodeled/restored at Highland Golf and Country Club, the most historic golf course in Indianapolis. The first is the plan view drawing of the 8th that depicts my three dimensional visualization in two dimensions along with a photo of the green complex looking over from the 11th. The second is the 11th. Click on the photos to enlarge.



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Renovation at Old Oakland Golf Club – Ahead, Full Steam!

logoThe renovation of the South Course at Old Oakland Golf Club in Indianapolis, Indiana is in full swing.  This is phase two of the renovation plan.  Phase one was completed last year (2016) when the East Course was renovated.  Thanks to Old Oakland Golf Club’s owner Steve Sterrett, the club is on a path to being one of the finest private golf clubs in Indianapolis.  His investment into the infrastructure and design of the club’s three nine hole golf courses ensures the long term sustainability and success of Old Oakland Golf Club.  It is a pleasure and privilege to work with Old Oakland Golf Club in developing, designing and constructing the improvements to the golf courses.


7 East Green, 560 Yards, Par 5

This fall, the South and West Courses are being renovated along with substantial stream improvement projects on 4 golf holes.

We have assembled an exceptional team to accomplish the construction.  First of all, the golf course superintendent, Chase Walden, is the glue that keeps the project together and makes thing run as smoothly as possible.  Along with maintaining 27 holes, he is fantastically busy with the construction project.  His staff is incredible, too.  They are some of the hardest working golf course maintenance folks in the business.

Derek Dirksen is back again to shape all of the features and to assist in finish grading of the stream improvement projects.  Derek’s work is absolutely world class and is an important key to the success of the project.  Working hand in hand with Derek to shape the golf course’s features is an incredibly rewarding process for me.

Duininck Golf is the finish contractor that is installing all bunker elements, including the Better Billy Bunker system in the floors of the bunkers along with finishing and grassing.  Ted Nelson is the onsite construction superintendent and Judd Duininck, Ahren Habicht and Paul Deis are assisting throughout the project.  Duininck Golf’s skilled work and attention to detail is the best in golf course construction business.

Leibold Irrigation is back again to complete the installation of the irrigation system.  Their work is incredible and a pleasure to work with.

Williams Creek Consulting is designing and constructing the stream improvement projects.  Ted Blahnik and company are the best when is comes to environmental and civil engineering.  Their work will ensure the sustainability of Old Oakland’s golf holes that play along Indian Creek and its tributaries.

Doc O’Neal of Cohoat and O’Neal Management Corp. is the liason between Old Oakland’s membership and all of the activity of the construction project.  Cohoat and O’Neal Management Corp. is a fine company that manages many golf course in Indiana and works hard to provide golfers excellent places to test their games.

Work is progressing and the weather can not be better.  Below are some photographs of the construction up to the last week of September, 2017.  I will update the website from time to time with more information.  And, there are many photographs and videos that are made and posted daily at this Facebook gallery.

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My Dad, Gary

DadAndMeThis is my dad, Gary, and me. He is one of the great architects of the contemporary era of the greatest game, golf. While his work might not have made the glossy magazines and been a point of contention in irrelevant discussions about top golf course lists in magazines (most likely because he didn’t spend an exorbitant amount of money to construct his golf courses) his beloved designs are consistently enjoyed by golfers of all skills levels.

His designs are artistic in a way that utilizes the terrain to define the strategy and beauty of each golf hole. The putting green complexes are the brains behind every design, requiring precision approaches and accurate and confident putting to gain the benefit of a well played golf shot. Yet, the wayward golf shot is not unduly penalized.

In other words, his golf courses are fun to play by golfers of all skill levels. And, they are sustainable so they are affordable to play. In all of the financial turmoil of the past decade, none of my dad’s courses have closed because of financial hardship. Instead, they have continued to provide the golfing public, of all means, with wonderful golf courses to test their golfing abilities and enjoy the greatest game.

In my mind, this is a lifetime’s legacy that is impressive, is to be commended on the highest level, and is a benefit to all who want to escape day to day drudgery and play the golf, the greatest game, for a lifetime.

World class kudos to my dad, Gary, for making life enjoyable for golfers by designing and building some 46 golf courses over the course of his career, as one of the best golf course architects of this era.

Fox Run GC 12 & 13ComboFox Run Golf Club, Overlooking 12 Green and Hole 13

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Opening Day – East Nine, Old Oakland G.C.

Saturday, May 8, 2017 saw sunny skies, light winds and warm temperatures for the grand opening of the remodeled East Nine at Old Oakland Golf Club.  It was a perfect day.  150 members showed up ready to play their new nine.  It is a privilege to work with Old Oakland Golf Club on the design and construction of their 27 hole golf course remodel.

Below are photographs from the celebration and the initial round.  I will be posting more photographs of the golf course and writing about the remodel in the near future.  In the meantime, enjoy the photographs.  (Click on photographs to enlarge and open slideshow.)

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Boxing Day, 2016, Highland Golf and Country Club

This morning I was at Highland Golf and Country Club in Indianapolis for a meeting.  A warm front had enveloped the area and the temperature was a balmy 64 degrees Fahrenheit.  So, I took a quick walk in the mist and snapped a few quick photos.  Even in December Highland’s golf course looks beautiful.  It is hibernation, awaiting warm Spring breezes and sunshine.








18 and Clubhouse

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Photo Gallery – Old Oakland GC Remodel

Here are some photographs of the new golf course feature work at Old Oakland Golf Club in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I will be posting more information about the project soon, but here is a list of who was involved:

Steve Sterrett, Owner
Doc O’Neal Manager
Chase Walden, Golf Course Superintendent
Ron Kern, Golf Course Architect
Derek Dirksen, Golf Course Shaper
Golf Creations, Finish Contractor


New fairway bunkers and green remodel, golf hole number 1, 420 yards, par 4


Green remodel, golf hole number 2, 418 yards, par 4


Green remodel, golf hole number 3, 388 yards, par 4


New fairway bunker from new tournament tee, golf hole number 4, 435 yards, par 4


Green remodel, golf hole number 4, 435 yards, par 4


Green remodel, golf hole number 5, 244 yards, par 3


Green remodel, golf hole number 6, 409 yards, par 4


Green remodel, golf hole number 7, 560 yards, par 5


Green remodel, golf hole number 8, 154 yards, par 3


New fairway bunker and green remodel, golf hole number 9, 585 yards, par 5


With Chase Walden, Old Oakland Golf Club’s superintendent and Derek Dirksen, golf course shaper, both consummate professionals that excel in their fields.

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New Statue of Purgatory Logo

From the article at TheGolfBiz.com:

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — Purgatory Golf Club — named the 2016 “Indiana Golf Course of the Year” by the National Golf Course Owners Association — will unveil an 11-foot tall, signature statue on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016.

“We offer what no other course in Indiana can: artistry on and off the course, thanks to Martin Schilessmann’s logo and Scott’s Westphal’s metal creation” says Tenna Merchent, Co-Owner of Purgatory Golf Club with husband Mike. “The sculpture complements what golf course designer Ron Kern brought to life with the land – people will be fascinated with the statue, be ‘wowed’ by the golf and return for the overall experience.”

Overlooking 16 green to golf hole number 17, Purgatory Golf Club, Noblesville, Indiana:


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Pebble Brook Golf Club Update

The bunker project at Pebble Brook is essentially complete.  Brad Mays and Phil Ephlin and his crew have worked very hard to bring the bunkers to life.  Here are the finished bunkers on golf hole number fifteen green.

It is incredibly sad that Eldon Palmer passed away on June 30, 2016.  I knew Eldon since I worked at Pebble Brook Golf Club as a very young man.  I was there at the golf course when Eldon drove up after closing the deal to purchase the golf course.  Eldon’s love of Pebble Brook Golf Club was more than evident as he continued to operate it through many years of difficult times.  Today, the golf course is in great hands with John Nichols and Brad Mays at the helm and golfers of all ages and skill levels continue to love the club.

My relationship with Pebble Brook is special and has lasted for forty three years, which is hard to imagine.  One of the first golf courses that I designed with my father was the North Course in 1986, and it was a pleasure and privilege to re-work the bunkers with Brad Mays just this last year.

Here is an old photo of Red and Eldon made around the time that the North Course was under construction.  These are two gents that I will always miss.

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Old Oakland Golf Club

I have been retained to design a three year improvement plan for Old Oakland Golf Club in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I look forward to working with Steve Sterrett, the owner, Doc O’Neal, Golf Club Manager and Chase Walden, Golf Course Superintendent.

The first project is improving the bunkers on the East Nine.  Shaper Derek Dirksen has been contracted to do the reshaping and adding of bunkers and associated golf course features.

I have a history with Old Oakland Golf Club as I played in high school state championships in 1975 and 1976 as well as other amateur events.

Below is the plan for the seventh green and approach.  I will post updates as we progress through the project.

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Purgatory Golf Club’s Bunkers

I have been going through some Purgatory Golf Club design plans and correspondence and came across this, which is the highest compliment I could have been given regarding the design of the bunkers:

Purgatory GC, Noblesville, Ind. A big, brassy 7,700-yard breakout course by young Ron Kern, it’s a daily-fee–and heavily bunkered. All 133 are marvelous splashed-sand stuff, the best since Alister Mackenzie worked his California magic 70 year ago.

Ron Whitten, Golf Course Architecture Editor, Golf Digest and Golf World

GD 17 BrochureNew

The 17th at Purgatory Golf Club

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Aerial of Highland Golf and Country Club, 2015

Below is an interesting aerial showing the first phase bunker work on Highland Golf and Country Club’s golf course.  The golf course is a classic strategic design and is a shot maker’s golf course.  As Mike Bailey of the Golf Channel and Senior Staff Writer at Golf Advisor said in this article, “…as Highland stands now, it’s one of the best golf courses in Indianapolis, and that would be true even without its history.”

2015 Aerial
(Click on the photo to enlarge.)
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Update: Bunker Remodeling, Pebble Brook Golf Club, North Course

No. 15, right ride fairway bunker

No. 15, right side fairway bunker, ready for sand

The bunker remodeling at Pebble Brook’s North Course is progressing.  We’ve been blessed with some fine weather in which to work.  Shaping is complete, thanks to excellent work by Derek Dirksen, golf course shaper.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the process for reshaping the left green side bunker on golf hole number 15, so here we go!

Here is the existing bunker before remodeling.

Exisitng Left Green Side Bunker No. 15

The North Course’s bunkers originally had grassed faces with rolling capes and bays and the sand was on a slightly concave bottom.  Over time, the capes and bays had been edged up to the top of the grade with very steep slopes that then eroded, contaminating the sand causing the bunker to seal up and not drain.  The proposed design eliminated the cape and bay design and provides for more simply shaped bunkers with grass faces.  During construction when material allowed, some movement was introduced into the bunker design.  This is what happened on the green side bunkers here on golf hole number fifteen.  In most cases, material barely balanced as we had to generate fill to reconstruct the grassed bunker slopes.

Below is a photograph from a 1989 article in the now defunct publication, Golf Course News, that shows three of the original bunkers on golf hole number 8 as constructed in the late 1980s.  Note that the writer got my father’s name, Gary (Ken), wrong in the caption, but it was correct in the article!

Original Bunkers

After design work was complete, Pebble Brook’s golf course staff prepared the area for shaping by rototilling and minor excavation.

Next, the area was worked into form by the shaper.  Derek Dirksen, a very skilled shaper, did all of the shaping for this project.  He did an exceptional job within a difficult timeline.  In this case, he was actually shaping in a mist and a light sprinkle.  Lucky for us, the ground had been very dry, so prepping the area right before he shaped enabled him to complete his work before it became too wet.

After working the area to the grades and slopes required, Derek then tracked the work into its final form.

Here is a photo of the shaped bunker.

Shaped Left Green Side Bunker No. 15

Golf course shaper, Derek Dirksen.

Derek Dirksen, Golf Course Shaper

Next, I painted a line where the sand will go along the edge of the bunker, that sand line was cut and then the bunker was finish graded, drainage was installed and the prepared seedbed was sodded by Pebble Brook’s golf course staff.

Laying Sod Left Green Side Bunker No. 15

When the sand is installed, I will update this post to show the finished bunker.

The new bunkers meld into their surroundings and existing grade giving them a natural appearance, making the North Course at Pebble Brook feel as if it is more from the golden age of golf course design, rather than a contemporary golf course.

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