Design Notes

Richard Mandell aims for grand slam with Sarasota’s Bobby Jones

Kevin Norby renovates Wisconsin’s Eau Claire; Jeff Lawrence re-crafts Lake Hickory; Brian Curley revamps Nevada’s Wild Creek

Eau Claire Golf and Country Club — Hole 18
The 18th hole at Eau Claire Golf and Country Club, which was originally designed by Charles Ramsdell and Tom Vardon in 1929.

The latest news and notes in golf course architecture. 

> Richard Mandell’s renovation and reimagination of Bobby Jones Golf Club in Sarasota, Florida, broke ground in early March. Rundown and a money loser for years, the municipal facility named for the Masters founder will see a partial repurposing, transforming its 45 holes into 27 and also a restoration of a Donald Ross original. Currently, the club has two 18-hole layouts, the American and the British, plus a nine-hole course. The back nines of the two 18-hole courses formed the original spread, which was designed by Donald Ross in 1925. Mandell, a winner of multiple awards for his refurbishing of municipal tracks, plans to rejoin the Ross nines and restore them, improve drainage throughout the site, create an adjustable nine-hole short course and practice facilities and will establish a 110-acre nature park.

“That park is a window into golf for people that don’t know about golf,” said Mandell. “My plan, not my hope, but my plan is that people will see the golf course from the park and say, ‘You know what, I want to try that game.’” The Ross course is expected to open in November 2022, with the short course to follow early in 2023.

RELATED: Get To Know: Richard Mandell
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> Minnesotan Kevin Norby has crossed the Mississippi River into Wisconsin to renovate Eau Claire Golf and Country Club. While the club dates to 1901, the existing course is a 1929 layout designed by Charles Ramsdell and Tom Vardon, brother to Harry Vardon and the longtime professional at the Donald Ross-designed White Bear Yacht Club in Minnesota. Architect Paul Coates redesigned part of the Eau Claire course in the 1960s. Because there were no original drawings located and few examples of surviving Tom Vardon work, Norby and his team worked on providing consistency in restoring Golden Age characteristics. Norby re-positioned bunkers and lowered the bunker floors, which improved visibility, and also enhanced the sense of elevated green pads. Norby also added forward tees and reconstructed the seventh green to raise it above the flood plain. The planning and design project was completed in October 2021 at this Troon Prive-managed facility and will open for play in spring of 2023.

> Former Tom Fazio associate Jeff Lawrence is set to commence detailed design for Phase I of a renovation project at North Carolina’s Lake Hickory Country Club. Situated 57 miles northwest of Charlotte, Lake Hickory features 27 Willard Byrd-designed holes, the Fox Run, Sulphur Springs and Dogwood nines that date to 1968. Phase I includes a bunker renovation, implementation of native grass areas, updates to the practice facility and remedial design work to holes 7, 8 and 9 on the Sulphur Springs nine. The three holes that will undergo design refinement will improve their playability by widening the landing areas and reducing the severity of the topography. The scope will include reshaping the landing areas, refined irrigation, relocating the cart path and added drainage and regrassing. Plans are expected to be completed in late May, followed by the bidding process, in order to begin construction in October or November of 2022. The expected re-opening is mid- to late summer 2023.

> Brian Curley of Schmidt-Curley Design has unveiled a renovation plan that will completely transform Nevada’s Wildcreek Golf Course. Located in Sparks, Nevada, just northeast of Reno, Wildcreek was originally a 1980 Phelps-Benz 18-hole creation in Washoe County that played host to the PGA Tour Champions from 1983-1985 and whose winners were Don January, Dan Sikes and Peter Thomson. Nine holes were siphoned off for a new high school a few years back and the nine that remained became home to the First Tee’s Northern Nevada chapter. Curley’s plan would create a nearly brand new course of par 34, 3,200 yards, partly on unused portions of the property. Emphasis will be on playability and walkability, conducive to finding the ball ball and quick rounds. Curley would also revise the existing executive course and build a new 1.5-acre putting course, a double-sided driving range and a complete short game area. Approvals are in place, but more working capital needs to be raised to enact the plan. Curley expects to that to happen by this fall. For now, he has begun irrigation design plans.