THE VISION OF KEEP IT CLASSIC
||Golf is more than just a game. It is a pastime that embraces fundamental traditions and values that impact our everyday way of life. It remains a true test of character and at the same time provides a framework of playing principles for, among others, our children to aspire.
A considerable portion of golf’s foundation is drawn from its past architectural masterpieces. Though hundreds of years old, The Old Course at St. Andrews is still honored today as hallowed ground. In the United States, the Classic era of golf was ushered in with the opening of the National Golf Links by C.B. MacDonald in 1911 and gave us golf courses designed by the early masters that have long been revered. These legends of the game include architects such as Donald Ross, best known for his world renowned design of Pinehurst #2. Ross also laid out Pine Needles, whose renovation was completed in time to host the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open. Famed architect A.W. Tillinghast designed the East and West courses at Winged Foot as well as Baltusrol’s Upper and Lower courses. He also designed Bethpage Black which was renovated prior to the 2002 U.S. Open. World traveler and designer Alistair Mackenzie laid out Cypress Point, Augusta National, and Pasatiempo which is in the process of being restored. Other design legends include the lesser known Henry Fownes whose vision inspired Oakmont CC, the site of many U.S. Opens including the most recent in 2007. In California, golden age architects such as Willie Watson designed Hillcrest and San Francisco’s Harding Park which was renovated and will host the 2009 President’s Cup. Another master architect, Billy Bell, who partnered with Riviera CC’s architect George Thomas, designed noteworthy courses such as Brookside, Newport Beach and Torrey Pines which was revamped to host the 2008 U.S. Open.
Many of these classic golf courses were built on land ideally suited for golf. Today, for a variety of reasons, golf courses are often relegated to land that is left over after residential developments have taken the better terrain. As time passes, many classic courses sit on prime land and their on-going existence as golf courses becomes even more tenuous. It is now more important than ever that they be maintained, cherished, and preserved for future generations of golfers to enjoy and appreciate.
Today, there are many who want to see golf move toward a more natural and classic style of design. The success of Bandon Dunes in Oregon confirms this belief. In addition, while older private clubs often have the financial means to keep their classic courses as they were intended by the masters, many classic facilities in the public sector have languished. Countless classic public and municipal courses are mere shells of their prior glory to the detriment of their city and residents. Some of these courses have been made “easier” in the mistaken belief that a lack of challenge will result in quicker play and more revenue. The reality is that a bland and open course does not attract golfers, at least not for long. More and more courses across the country are finding out that golfers appreciate a well-designed layout and that “affordable” golf doesn’t necessarily have to mean dull and boring golf. They are finding if they enhance the quality of their design, it will help increase the number of rounds and bring new players into the game. They are beginning to recognize that the golfers they thought only played for the fresh air and exercise, also enjoy interesting and thought provoking golf holes.
Tom Doak, whose designs include Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Oregon, has commented that it is bad policy to “dumb down” any golf course that is public, noting that “these golfers deserve a similar experience to those playing at private facilities.” Golf architect (1) Mike Hurdzan opines that while the goal of public courses is often to get as many players around as possible, holes can be designed to “look hard and play easy” for average golfers and “look hard and play hard” for better golfers. This balance makes for an enjoyable experience for all levels of play.
A flat uninteresting public or municipal golf course will not invoke the true pleasures of playing this great game. Indeed, George Thomas, one of the master designers of the Golden Age, wrote in his book Golf Architecture in America:
“Place the golf course on a level plane; have no traps of any kind; let every fairway be flat; the green unprotected and without rolls; let there be no rough; nothing between the tee and green but perfect fairway, and the green itself absolutely level; and what would be the result? a thing without interest or beauty, on which there is no thrill of accomplishment which is worthwhile; a situation untrue to tradition, and apart from the spirit of golf as it was given among the rolling sand dunes of Scotland.”
Robert Hunter, who designed Mira Vista Golf & Country Club in California, said:
“There can be no real golf without hazards and unless these be varied, plentiful and adroitly placed there will be no great golfers. Hazards are the decisive influence in the making of golfers.”
As stated by Forrest Richardson/Mark Fine in their book, Bunkers, Pits & Other Hazards:
“The ideas of playability, standards and fairness must be communicated by the golf course architect based on an assessment. So, too, must the architect’s design intent for a course. How awful it is to see a great design become derailed by decisions made by committeesoften without ever researching or considering the original design.”
As a non-profit public benefit corporation organized in 2007, the Mission of Keep it Classic “KIC” is quite simple:
TO RESTORE AND PRESERVE CLASSIC PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSES IN THE UNITED STATES TO THEIR HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE IN LINE WITH TODAY’S GOLF TECHNOLOGY WHEN APPROPRIATE AND TO PROMOTE TRADITIONAL GOLF ETHICS TO CHILDREN.
Our plan for success is to put a “KIC”, as we call it, back into classic public golf courses.
We are in the process of identifying classic public and municipal golf courses across America designed and built during the classic era of golf for their feasibility to be renovated and restored. Currently, over 75 targeted courses have been identified.
Our list of targeted courses will be prioritized. The top five or ten courses will be visited and further due diligence will take place. We will likely complete what we call Preliminary Assessment Reports (PARs) for these courses. These reports will include:
• An initial analysis of:
- Greens - Tees - Bunkers - Fairways
- Drainage - Micro Climates - Traffic - Landscaping
• A meeting with the local township and/or committee members responsible for the golf course to:
o Review course history/background information on the property
o Understand financial, maintenance, design, and aesthetic issues/concerns
o Discuss key goals and objectives of the course
• A written overview containing:
o A summary evaluation of the overall property
o Our initial “hole by hole” assessment of the golf course design/architecture
o A simple color drawing of the routing
o Preliminary cost estimations
o Conclusions and Recommendations
These PARs will provide a beneficial outline of the potential for the property and help us catalyze our vision for the golf course. They will be used to present our vision to course officials and for fund raising efforts.
If a golf course meets our initial criteria, the entity or municipality that owns the course will be contacted and asked to complete a feasibility assessment and grant application.
Once KIC accepts a classic public or municipal golf course’s proposal for funding, KIC will undertake a detailed review of the golf facility and prepare a master plan of the proposed renovation and restoration of the course. This activity will be directed by our Golf Course Architecture/Research Team consisting of members from various states including presently Arizona and Pennsylvania, one of whom is a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, an organization formed in 1946 as the first professional organization of golf course designers in America. For over 50 years, its members have designed some of the world's greatest courses. This team will oversee all renovation and restoration work to its completion upon which it will be gifted to the municipality. KIC will not be participating in any on-going revenue.
It should be made clear that in order for a golf course to be selected for funding of restoration work, the following must occur:
1. The entity or municipality must agree to have the golf course dedicated for preservation status so that the course will not become a shopping mall or be used for any other non-golf course purpose.
2. KIC will prepare an “Owner’s Manual” that will provide the entity or municipality with a cost effective means of on-going course maintenance. KIC will have the ability to review/inspect the maintenance on an as-needed basis and prescribe changes and maintenance plans to ensure that the golf course does not again degrade. It must be remembered that a golf course is a living, breathing complex that will change with time and that needs constant attention.
3. The entity or municipality will ensure that there is a golf program for youth. Golf can provide a venue for teaching children about ethics that are sometimes not available because of, among other things, their environmental surrounds. KIC’s goals for youth are similar to those embraced by The First Tee program. These include teaching honesty, integrity, respect, perseverance, sportsmanship, confidence, responsibility, judgment and courtesy. These goals must become a priority for programs directed at the golf course. While KIC may or may not assist with the financing of these programs, the owner or municipality must ensure that there are ample instruction and practice areas as well as golf course tee times available for these young men and women. Children are the future of golf and of our society and their exposure to traditional golf ethics is an important objective of KIC.
In summary, KIC was organized to not only further golf, but to help communities strengthen and enhance the traditional values that have helped to make our country great. Municipalities will benefit from transforming courses back to their original grandeur and will once again become landmarks in their communities and a cherished asset for their city. The improved playing grounds will provide a lasting experience to golfers, both existing and for future generations. The added benefit of teaching proper values to our children is a clear positive that cannot be ignored or over emphasized. It is a “win-win” for all.
1 Much of the research was conducted by Forrest L. Richardson and Mark K. Fine in their timely book, “Bunkers, Pits & Other Hazards” (Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey)
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