Thursday, 1 November 2012

Restore, Renovate or Rebuild?

St. George's was a Restoration
My first work on my own was a couple of projects involving courses of historical significance. I was a very vocal proponent for the preservation of historically significant work and the clubs were interested in preserving their architectural, so the decisions were only about how to rebuild the features so they would be mistaken for original.

That work was very well received by other clubs and it led to quite a bit of new renovation work. Most of that work was once again on courses of historical significance, but in many cases the courses had major alterations that could not be reversed and I was now required to make some decisions.  This became my first taste of renovation work and what I concentrated on was getting some of the original ideas to the new holes and making all the work to look like the original architecture and hide what had happened. I still preserved the remaining original features but this began the understanding of I would be asked to interpret what I was working with. I still tended not to stray too much from the original architecture and prided myself on re-creating what was lost, even in new locations.
Weston was a renovation

I remember calling Bruce Hepner to talk about restoration and renovation work because I was conflicted about some of the decisions I was being asked to make. Bruce and I share many similar opinions  on the big picture items like green recapturing (always), grassing lines (move them out where appropriate or possible), tree removal (necessary for sunlight, playability, views, health) and tees (more options equals better golf). We talked about everything from alterations to the original design for agronomic and technical issues through to dealing with the distance the ball travelled. Bruce helped me with some perspective on where to draw the line. Until you face the conflicts yourself, its hard to understand how difficult some of these decisions are early on.

Over time I began to get calls from other clubs where there was no architectural legacy to preserve. In this instance I took a much broader look at the architecture and set out to make the course more interesting to play. I looked at adding ground game options, playability, improving the strategic locations of bunkers, aesthetics and growing environments. I felt that was a critical role we had to play because we had more opportunity to address those issues than the superintendent because we were seen as impartial. I felt more comfortable with making bigger changes to these courses because often the routing was fine but the architecture was rudimentary.

Until recently I never really considered a complete rebuild. I always thought that I could solve the worst problems with the occasional rebuild of a hole or two and then a major renovation to the rest of the holes to make them more interesting to play.

Rebuilding of Laval's Blue Course was a Complete Rebuild

I have been involved in three in recent times.
 In Laval the club you had one of Canada’s elite clubs. They had a very disappointing second course with one of the worst routings I have ever seen for the second nine holes and two styles of architecture between the two nines. What they did have was the money, interest and second course to put all the club play on to allow them a complete rebuild of their second course.

The second involved an expropriation where they needed to replace nine. They rebuilt a very congested and short public course into a range and nine new holes. What I did do here was re-create the interesting greens for the original layout so they felt they still had part of their original course.

The final one will become the most common source of rebuilds for me. I have a club that has huge agronomic issues with its greens requiring a complete rebuild of all 18 greens. I have used this a s a chance to re-asses the architecture of the course and change the style of architecture to a course where the ground is no in play. The course is on an exceptional piece of land with a solid routing and weak architecture. I used the complete rebuild of the green sites to change the course.

Great architecture, regardless of who is the designer should be preserved or retained. Poor architecture, even by someone famous, requires you to consider your options and often suggest improvement. Rebuilding is a last resort when something is so completely screwed up that your better of starting again.

So how do I decide?  Since I never want to drive someone into bankruptcy, its 50% architecture and 50% economics. Regardless of your desires as an architect, you must put the long term financial health of the club or ownership first to ensure they can continue to operate a business.

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