FOREGROUND: THE LANDSCAPE OF GOLF IN AMERICA

It has come to my attention that the design of Purgatory Golf Club in Noblesville, Indiana is included in the exhibtion, FOREGROUND: THE LANDSCAPE OF GOLF IN AMERICA.

The exhibition is at the Center of Land Use Interpretation in Los Angeles.  The Los Angeles Times has an extensive review of the exhibition, and names the aerial photograph of Purgatory Golf Club as one of the standouts of the exhibition.

Needless to say, I am quite pleased that Purgatory Golf Club is included in the exhibition.  With everything else stripped away, except the essence of the golf course as seen from above, it is satisfying to see the artistry of the design and its corresponding landscape recognized as being exceptional.

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Highland Golf and Country Club Bunker Project and New Article in Golf Course Architecture Magazine

Highland Logo

The 15th, Par Three, 192 Yards

The 15th, Par Three, 192 Yards

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.

15 Green Plan

Green Plan for the 15th

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 4th, Par Three, 179 Yards

The 4th, Par Three, 179 Yards

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.

The 3rd, Par Five, 563 Yards

The 3rd, Par Five, 563 Yards

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.

Jeremy Weidner and Michael Reynolds of Highland

Jeremy Weidner and Michael Reynolds of Highland’s Crew

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.

Paul Deis and his companion, Bowser

Paul Deis and his companion, Bowser

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.

Derek Dirksen Shaping Fairway Bunker

Derek Dirksen Shaping Fairway Bunker on the 2nd

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.

Finish Crew on Number 5

Finish Crew on the 5th

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.

Ahren Habicht, Paul Deis, Ryan Baldwin and Ron Kern

Ahren Habicht, Paul Deis, Ryan Baldwin and Ron Kern

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.

The 11h, Par Three, 168 Yards

The 11h, Par Three, 168 Yards

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.

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The 17th, Purgatory Golf Club

PGC, #17A recent photo of the 17th with a lefty hitting his tee shot.
(click on photo to enlarge)

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Golf Course Architecture magazine covers Highland bunker project

Golf Course Architecture LogoThe international magazine, Golf Course Architecture, has published an article on Highland Golf and County Club’s recent bunker remodeling project.  Penned by Sean Dudley, the article takes a look at the project, my history with Bill Diddel and the exceptional history of the club’s golf course. The article can be accessed at this link.

Below is a photograph of the completed 15th green, a par three of 192 yards from the championship tee.  More photographs will be forthcoming in the near future. The 15th, Highland GCC

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New Review of Purgatory Golf Club, Noblesville, IN

Alan Hinds has made a new blog post at the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau website reviewing Purgatory Golf Club.  We spent a recent morning playing the course and discussing the various aspects of its design.  Purgatory is a golf course that I am very proud of and I relish in the fact that so many enjoy playing the greatest game across its 218 acres.

Alan did a very nice job with the review and Tenna Merchent’s photograph of the tenth green is quite beautiful.

Below are a couple of excerpts that I especially liked:

With six sets of tees and several combination scorecards, the course is playable for everyone. It has a national ranking as one of the best courses for women and a length risk-reward challenge on every hole that also can make it one of the toughest for men. Try to find a course that has both!

and

Those who play Purgatory in Noblesville, Indiana frequently say it also offers “a different course every day.”

Be sure to check out the entire piece.

Here are a couple of photographs that I made during our round:  Alan Hinds on #12 and on # 17

Alan Hinds on #12

17PGCAHines

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The 15th at Purgatory GC Featured on the Cover of Midwest Golfing Magazine

For the Winter 2013 issue:

Midwest Golfing Magazine Winter 2013

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Changes to The Old Course

The Old Course

What the heck, I might as well chime in on the recent/ongoing changes to The Old Course in St, Andrews, Scotland.

There has been quite an outcry from the golf course architecture community, both amateur and professional regarding revisions on several features that is supposed to maintain The Old Course’s challenge for the best players in the world.  Rather than deal with the specific plans and construction I will address the situation in a conceptional way, with one exception.  It has been interesting watching the fallout and the politics generated by this news.  In this day and age it is quite difficult to get a honest opinion since so many fear power and want to maintain their access and status.  To some people’s credit, at least they were willing to put themselves on the line.

At this point the idea that any golf course needs to be changed to accommodate lower scoring by the world’s best players is ludicrous.  The PGA Tour et al has never been more irrelevant to the health of the game of golf in my lifetime.  The ability of the players to exploit golf courses with today’s equipment makes what they do essentially foreign to most golfers.  The equipment has been out of control for so long that to continue to change golf courses is an exercise in futility.  No longer is it possible to firm up the greens, grow the rough and set the tees up so the Tour player has one foot in the tall grass to generate a championship layout.  The skill gap and the golf courses required between the public (and club) golfer and the Tour player have never been greater.

With regard to golf’s contemporary equipment, for example, this year I was not able to play golf until very late into the season thanks to foot problems.  But when I finally did get out and was able to hit balls and get a couple of rounds in I was able to easily drive my year old golf ball over 300 yards, and straight, with a Ping G5 (yes, I’m a few G’s behind).  Sure, I have some skills thanks to hitting thousands and thousands of golf balls and having a couple of great teachers, Tommy Vaughn and Don Padgett II, but I’ve got a perpetually stiff back and could be in better shape.  The point I’m making is that if I can do that with an off the shelf, unfitted, driver the best players in the world can make mincemeat out of any golf course with their perfectly computer fitted sets of clubs and their select brand new golf balls.  So why bother to spend money on butchering golf courses just for a few days of play from these guys that, if they get a hot putter, can shoot almost nothing.

Most likely the powers that there is fear that The Old Course will yield a way low number during the Open Championship so they figure they better try to figure out a way to tinker with the course to ensure the scores don’t get too low.  In my mind this is all about money.  The championship committee, or whatever their proper name is, wants to make sure the general public doesn’t tune out if the course is seen to be a patsy.  Funny, that’s the USGA and the R and A’s fault, thanks to turning their backs on the equipment issue for all of these years.  Yes, these governing bodies are, and have been, their own worst enemies.

So, why stop with the “little” changes that are being implemented for the 2015 Open Championship?  There must be countless additional changes that could yield a truly difficult test.  Some of them could be radical, but if maintaining a challenge for a few players for four days every so many years is such a priority why not just go all out and really get the job done?  I don’t believe that radical changes will never be made to The Old Course as that would cause an even greater outcry.  It is The Old Course, after all.  Hmmm, that being the case, if the powers that be aren’t willing to step up and make The Old Course the challenge that it needs to be, then they might should just leave it alone, with the exception of maintaining bunkers, gorse, heather, et al.  They’ve added tees to the point where it plays 7,200 yards for The Open Champiosnhip.  That’s enough already.

With regard to one particular change, lessening the slope at the back of the eleventh, High, the famous Eden par 3 (arguably the greatest par 3 in golf), I’ve read that Jack Nicklaus made the statement that the back left of the green needed to be altered for the last 400 years.  Now, he might be right, but if that’s the case, since they haven’t gotten around to it until now, what’s the rush?  We could have waited another 200 hundred years and then evaluate how it plays.  Maybe by then it would be clear that a change to such a famous part of golf history would be required, and maybe not.

My bottom line?  Either make The Old Course into the test that the powers that be deem necessary or leave the place alone and let it remind us, and future generations, of the greatness, richness and the history of the game of golf.  A choice really should be made.

Scotsman article on the changes – click here.

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Purgatory Golf Club, Fourth Best Public Golf Course in Indiana

For 2012 Golf Magazine has chosen Purgatory Golf Club in Noblesville, Indiana as the fourth best public golf course in Indiana.  Find the entire list for Indiana at this link.

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191 Yard Eight Iron

On the fourteenth at the AT&T National Tiger Woods hit an uphill 191 yard eight iron and on eighteen he hit a180 yard knock down nine iron – just a reminder how irrelevant the game that the professional tour plays is to the game of golf.

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Thoughts

From time to time I will post my thoughts about the game of golf on this page.  I look forward to this exercise.

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Ron Kern, Golf Course Architect

This is the website/blog for Ron Kern, Golf Course Architect.

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