Update: Golf Course Architecture Magazine has published a new article on the Highland Golf and Country Club bunker renovation project. Click here for the article.
(click on photographs to enlarge)
In September of 2008, I completed a Master Plan for Highland Golf and Country Club’s Golf Course. It is a Willie Park Jr. and Bill Diddel design. The Master Plan was essentially a historic restoration and rehabilitation plan. The strategy of the original 1919 design was thoroughly examined and evaluated. The existing putting greens and the slopes of the surfaces in concert with the original bunkering scheme revealed a golf course design by Park and Diddel that was nothing short of exceptional.
In late 2013 I designed final construction plans for a bunker remodeling project that was constructed in the Spring of 2014. This is the first of two phases of the bunker project. This phase replaced existing bunkers into proper positions and form. The second phase will add bunkers that were previously removed.
A project constructed in the early 1990s removed all traces of the original bunkers and adjusted the strategy of the golf course away from its original design. The club realized that this was a mistake and charged me with reviving the strategy, playability and classic character of the golf course.
I designed all of the golf course features in the field. At each location that was to be modified, I visualized what I wanted in three dimensions and then made a drawing with notes to convey the design to the shaper and finish crew, as well as the club’s membership. During construction, I was constantly on site working with the shapers and finish crew to ensure that the features were realized as I intended.
The new bunkers are constructed with respect to the character and in the spirit of the original golf course design by Willie Park Jr. and Bill Diddel. The bunkers are formed by mounding that melds into the original construction or the surrounding natural ground. Bill used to say that he wanted his golf features to appear that they were created by the forces of nature, they were not to look artificial, even though they were indeed manufactured by man and machine. The proposed bunkering strategy was adjusted to relate to the contemporary game with respect to the fact that the golf course’s priority usage is member/guest play.
The newly constructed bunkers’ appearance are much more of the period of the original construction. They have lower sand lines on more gentle slopes that work into steeper grass faces. The bottoms are gently concave to better facilitate drainage and also to be more attractive and natural looking. The rolling perimeter mounding that forms the bunkers are of variable heights, sizes and slopes.
When designing and constructing the new bunkers in putting green complexes, I maintained all existing original contours in the green surrounds. All construction work melded into these existing features such that all new features are in character with the golf course’s original design and construction.
The construction project was facilitated by Highland’s Director of Agronomy and Facilities, Ryan Baldwin, CGCS and his A-1 crew. Ryan and his crew helped make the construction project run in a seamless fashion by scheduling, staying on top of material ordering, immediate maintenance after features were constructed and placing sand in the finished bunkers. Sadly, this summer we lost Michael Reynolds to an automobile accident. He is missed greatly.
Duininck Golf constructed the bunkers. They did a stellar job in all phases of the project. Judd Duininck and Ahren Habicht were instrumental in implementing and overseeing the progress of construction. Construction Superintendent, Paul Deis, was a pleasure to work with. He ensured that the project was completed in a professional manner. The quality of the construction and finished product is excellent and is the finest that I have seen.
Rich Quisberg and Derek Dirksen, shapers of exceptional skill, took the plans and field direction and formed the bunkers as designed, melding them into adjacent features and the existing ground, making them appear as if the bunkers had always been in place.
The finish crew provided the “icing on the cake.” They performed incredibly detailed work that resulted in features that drained perfectly and had the character and form that the design required.
The Better Billy Bunker system was used for the drainage and floors of the bunkers. This system was perfect for our application and its performance has exceeded expectations.
It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with Highland Golf and Country Club to improve and restore their golf course. They are a terrific club to work for.
A side note: Highland’s golf course is arguably the most historic in Indianapolis. It hosted the 1926 Western Open that was won by Walter Hagen by nine shots over Harry Cooper and Gene Sarazen. And in 1945, Babe Didrikson won the Women’s Western Open by defeating Dorothy Germain 4 and 2. The day before her win, Didrikson learned of her mother’s sudden death in Los Angeles.