Architecture Newsletter No. 1

Thoughts on what's happening in the world of golf course architecture


Hey there! You don’t usually hear from us on Sunday, but here we are. We always keep up to date on happenings in the world of golf course architecture, so we figured we’d start sending out the occasional GCA-focused newsletter. Let us know if you like it!

Hobe Sound explosion

Jupiter grabs the headlines, but our favorite golf town in South Florida is Hobe Sound. It boasts three of the area’s best courses—Medalist, Loblolly, and McArthur—and will soon add a fourth. News began to circulate recently that McArthur Golf Club will be building a second 18, this one designed by Coore & Crenshaw. It should be an excellent addition to the club’s very good Fazio design.

Ordinarily Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw may not have had space in their schedule to take on a build like this. But one side effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is that even the most in-demand golf architects have started working closer to home. The circumstances are unfortunate, of course, but Americans certainly won’t say no to a few more domestic C&C designs.

McArthur hopes to begin construction of the new course in early 2021.

The return of Congo

Throughout its storied history, Congressional Country Club has tried to keep up with the Joneses. By the 21st century, the championship Blue Course had become like an aged model after too many plastic surgeries. The 2010 recent renovation by Rees Jones wiped away most signs of the course’s character. Benched fairways, monotonous mounding, and soulless greens made Congressional’s prized property largely forgettable.

Enter up-and-coming architect Andrew Green, whose growing résumé includes restorations of Inverness and Oak Hill East. At Congressional Blue, Green decided to draw on the original Devereux Emmet design for inspiration but not strictly restore it. Because previous earthmoving had flattened the fairways, Green focused on creating contours in the hole corridors that resembled those of the natural surrounding areas. Congressional’s topography now has a muscular look, which is characteristic of the D.C. region.

The 10th green at Congressional Blue. Photo: Andy Johnson

In addition to reshaping, Green made strategic elements a priority. The Blue Course now offers advantageous angles to shots that flirt with hazards and features greens with memorable contouring and a variety of pin positions. Sometimes the restored landforms result in blind shots, and Green didn’t shy away from those. All in all, a round at the revised Congo is a game of chess rather than checkers.

The 14th hole exemplifies how the course has changed. A 35-yard-wide fairway cascades downhill before rebounding to an elevated green on a ridge. From the tee, you can play down the left side, where out of bounds lurks, or hedge safely to the right and face a blind approach. The green is wild, with numerous shelves and tiers that place a premium on precision. Basically, all of the key aspects of the 14th hole—a wide-enough fairway, options and angles, a blind shot, and an interesting green—are things that haven’t existed at Congressional for a long time.

Over the next two decades, we’ll be seeing plenty of tournament action at Congo. The PGA of America is already planning to take eight of its championships to the Blue Course, including the 2022 and ’27 Women’s PGA Championships, the 2031 PGA Championship, and the 2037 Ryder Cup. In case you’re wondering, by the time that Ryder Cup rolls around, two thirds of The Fried Egg’s current editorial staff will be in their 50s.

Doak to Dornick

Dornick Hills Golf & Country Club has one of the most fascinating backstories in the history of American golf architecture. Designed by the great Perry Maxwell, it was, in a literal sense, his home course, sitting adjacent to where he and his family lived in Ardmore, Oklahoma. By all accounts, the Dornick Hills of the 1920s was a remarkable design. (Check out Christopher Clouser’s book The Midwest Associate for a full account of the course as well as some mouth-watering hole diagrams.)

Over the years, Dornick Hills fell victim to tree planting, shrinking greens, and poor renovations. But now, according to an announcement from Tom Doak on Instagram, the club has engaged Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design to restore the course next summer. The restoration could vault the small-town club back to where it belongs: somewhere near the elite tier of Maxwell designs that includes Prairie Dunes, Old Town Club, and Southern Hills. When Doak returns from his road trip, we’ll make sure to ask him about Dornick on the next installment of our Yolk with Doak podcast series.

Odds and ends

The Pipe – Back in 2009, Tom Doak drew up a renovation plan for Sandpiper Golf Club, a public course near Santa Barbara, California. Recently, that plan seems to have moved closer to being carried out. Sandpiper has a sensational location on the bluffs above Haskell’s Beach, but it has long needed a design upgrade.

Strong Herbs – A pair of Herbert Strong courses recently brought on exciting new consulting architects. Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb will be working at Canterbury Golf Club near Cleveland, and Jaeger Kovich will be making changes at Knickerbocker Country Club in New Jersey.