Course Hole by Hole Overview

June 27, 2002

2002 USGA SENIOR AMATEUR TIMUQUANA COUNTRY CLUB

THEN AND NOW by Bobby Weed, ASGCA

Those who subscribe to the view that being a golf course architect requires jetting about, playing golf, and rubbing elbows with the elite, might do well to spend a day on a site with an architect while a course is under construction. Let me reflect a few experiences and observations from the "startover" construction in 1996 at Timuquana Country Club.

The pedigree of the golf course is well documented as Donald Ross was the architect of record in 1923. I can only assume that Mr. Ross was favorably impressed with the site upon his initial inspection. The property meets standards that have never gone out of favor with views along the moss-laden, live oak banks of the St. John's River and a native, sandy soil. Mr. Ross, who was quite prolific in the south Georgia-north Florida area, set out to build a course that could be favorably enjoyed by its members.

The end result in 1923 was a masterful, core-routed layout. Not until we uncovered an early 40's aerial from the adjacent Naval Base did, we realize how treeless the original golf course was. Except for a few live oak hammocks and surrounding native vegetation, the course was open with ample space to play. Interestingly, it appeared from the photo that a number of green complexes were sited near these live oak clusters, like holes' two and eleven.

With the postwar euphoria of new technology, ( i.e., automatic irrigation, golf carts, ball and club improvements), much of Mr. Ross' work was redone. In the mid 50's, Robert Trent Jones was called upon to modify the golf course with subsequent alterations by George Cobb and Dave Gordon. This type of evolution on a golf course, which occurs over such a long period, typically goes unnoticed. How often do you see yourself change if you look in the mirror every day?

 

While the effects were obvious once we began to rebuild the golf course in '96, the Naval Base aerial was the only evidence of Ross' original intent. With such a lack of data, we believed that the only way to properly restore the golf course was to check our ego at the clubhouse and endeavor to see things as Ross might have seen them.

 

With only fourteen weeks of actual construction to accomplish what originally took well over a year to complete, I remember a quote from Mr. Ross about a day in the heat at Pinehurst: "I was plastered with dust, and looked like a coal miner!" With a prolonged drought in the summer of '96, the entire site at Timuquana was a dust bowl and I could certainly relate to the "coal miner" after a twelve to fourteen hour day. We mechanically roto-tilled the entire property, removed more than 800 trees and built a brand new golf course, start to finish and reopened in six months.

During the clearing process, we discovered three sets of 150-yard markers! The original 150-yard markers, now 75-foot Southern Red cedars, were discovered approximately 60 to 75 feet in the woods, followed by a second set of holly bushes and most recently ligustrum shrubs. Just look to the right on hole #11. This is one of the most profound examples of how a course evolves and matures over time.

 

The construction and feel of the features on the golf course mimic what Mr. Ross might have done. Because scoop pans, drags and lots of hand labor was used in the 1920's, we restricted ourselves to the smallest dozers and mechanized equipment. The flat site warranted small features with little elevation change, hence the subtle Ross-style bumps and fall-offs around the greens.

Where one of Mr. Ross' associates oversaw construction and made numerous on-site observations, we paralleled the process with intensive supervision during the project. This could mean shaping a 'green' with our hands in the dirt at an operator's feet or climbing on a dozer or power rake ourselves. The best golf courses are always the result of in-the-field creativity.

The reconstruction of the course also solved severe infrastructure problems. Drainage and irrigation constitute the two major components of infrastructure. Three drainage outfalls were found and numerous open ditches installed by Mr. Ross were reclaimed. Groundwater wells used to irrigate in the past were abandoned and an agreement with the adjacent Naval Base allowed the use of treated effluent to be sprayed onto the golf course, which had up to this point, discharged into the river.

Strategic values worth mentioning include the balance and variety of the golf holes. Mr. Ross was a master at alternating left-to-right and right-to-left shots within the same hole, like at hole #17. We have tried to implement this same concept throughout the golf course today. An interesting note regarding the bunkers at Timuquana is how they are offset in the strategic mode instead of penal, or opposite each other. For example, consider the offset bunkering at greens two,ten and twelve.

Today, the members at Timuquana are enjoying their golf course as it continues to evolve. The game today is different even since we upgraded the course just six years ago. Technological advances have been a challenge well before Donald Ross was designing and building golf courses. I wonder what Mr. Ross would think today if he could witness how the game is being played on his courses. For me, I accept the challenge and continue to play in the dirt.


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