|Augusta National 1941|
San Francisco early photos
To do a restoration, you need all the available documents you can get your hands on. Nothing beats photographs from around the opening date of the course. They provide us with a fairly clear vision of what the architecture looked like. Some architects, liked Donald Ross, left detailed working drawings. These are very helpful for recapturing lost greens and lost features. Depending on them as the sole or final decision is dangerous since every architect made field adaptations and field fits to make their ideas work. On everything I have worked on, nothing was built 100% to the drawings, so what are the odds the past masters would have built everything accurately to their drawings.
Aerial photos are available for almost every course in an urban center. For example Toronto was flown in the late 30’s. The aerials are very helpful for layout but limited in feature recreation since you can’t get details on heights or shapes. Everything is a two dimensional overhead form, which is great for tree lines, tee location, bunker location, fairway contours, green shapes, chipping area, etc.. They can be great for recapturing and locating lost holes or features which are often hidden in trees. Writings and sketches offer a terrific insight into the strategic or artistic intent, but usually provide little beyond historical knowledge. You must be careful of the architects or writers prose, often they tell a tale that turns out to be hype – just like some of the articles written today. A good restoration comes from multiple sources, used carefully together like the pieces of a puzzle to create an accurate assessment of what was actually there. To restore, you must know what was there first.
The last step is to go have a look at what is left on the ground. You are left to use all the available historical information to decide what features are still in place, what can be returned with minimal work, and what will need complete recreation to return the architecture. Restoration only happens when everyone involved cares.