Dramatic reduction proposed at Fairmont St. Andrews; Tripp Davis completes redesign at Houston’s BraeBurn; Andrew Green to advise New Jersey’s Mountain Ridge
The latest news and notes in golf course architecture.
> Mackenzie and Ebert’s Martin Ebert, architectural adviser to seven British Open venues, has given the members at Royal Troon a second chance to lick the Postage Stamp. His redesign of the club’s nine-hole, par-27 Craigend course features a par 3 called Wee Postage Stamp that replicates every feature of the club’s legendary Postage Stamp eighth hole on the Old Course.
Measuring exactly 123 yards, with identical bunkering and green surrounds, the new hole sprung from the mind of past club captain Alasdair Cameron. He posited that such a replica hole would be ideal for older or younger members who couldn’t handle the rigors of the rugged Open venue, but still craved the Postage Stamp experience.
In 2021, Ebert transformed the former par-29 Craigend layout into a par 27, with holes ranging from 61 yards to 187, and also installed a state-of-the-art practice range, a welcome development for players who arrive for the 2024 British Open. The cherry on top is the addition of the extra Postage Stamp, achieved through a combination of a precise topographical survey and the talents of shaper Jamie O’Reilly. Though the direction of the hole is slightly different and there is less elevation, it will play identically in all other respects when it opens in late May. Its official debut will take place on July 18, when Henrik Stenson, the 2016 British Open champ at Troon, will attend.
> Mackenzie and Ebert may soon have more work to do in Scotland, likely infinitely more complicated than their work at Royal Troon. A proposal from Fairmont St. Andrews owner St. Andrews Bay Development is currently in front of Fife Council to entertain the idea of scrapping the resort’s existing courses — the Torrance and the Kittocks — and creating an entirely new 18-hole venue on the old site.
Mackenzie and Ebert has been retained to advise on the new layout. While some existing hole corridors and features would be utilized, the proposed work would remodel the fairways, reposition the greens and improve the use of the landscape to significantly enhance the playing experience. As stated in the proposal, “As golf course design, technology and maintenance of golf courses have evolved there is an opportunity at St. Andrews Bay to adjust and remodel the courses to establish the location as one of the ‘must-play’ courses in Scotland and the world, with the aim being to draw golfers from around the world.”
> Houston’s venerable, 91-year-old BraeBurn Country Club re-opened this past weekend, following an extensive renovation from Norman, Oklahoma-based Tripp Davis and Associates. While keeping the same basic routing of the original course, Davis and his team rebuilt and reshaped all of the greens, rebuilt and shifted tee locations, and rebuilt bunkers that embrace a more classical style. NorthBridge Bermudagrass was installed along with a new irrigation system and upgraded drainage.
“BraeBurn has been an exciting project for us in taking a piece of ground with so much potential, and then realizing that potential,” Davis said. “We rebuilt almost every part of the course to try to give it a feel of being from that early American era — the Golden Age of architecture. Working with the entire club, superintendents Terry Gill and Aaron Englehard, golf course builder Greenscape Methods, and irrigation contractor Heritage Links has been a great experience.”
BraeBurn's course was originally designed by John Bredemus in 1931 and was extensively reworked in 1991 to address flooding issues. It was the 1991 project that saw the addition of significant elevation changes, an unusual feature in the Houston area. Hall of Fame player and three-time Masters champion Jimmy Demaret was one of the club’s early professionals.
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> Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, New Jersey, has hired Andrew Green of A.H. Green Design/Green Golf and Turf Inc. as its new restoration architect. Green will evaluate current golf course plans and also identify potential areas of improvement. Designed by Donald Ross in 1930, Mountain Ridge is ranked among the nation’s Top 100 courses by several publications. It was the site of the 2012 U.S. Senior Amateur and also the LPGA Tour’s 2021 Cognizant Founders Cup, won by World Number 1 Jin Young Ko of Korea. Green has earned multiple accolades for his recent renovations of other Ross classics, including Oak Hill Country Club’s East course, site of the 2023 PGA Championship, Inverness Club (2027 U.S. Women’s Open), Scioto Country Club and Wannamoisett Country Club.
“It’s hard to deny the quality of golf and of Ross’s routing at Mountain Ridge,” said Green. “And the commitment of the members to the game and their course is second to none. It’s infectious to be around.” While Green’s plate is awfully full at the moment, he was drawn to Mountain Ridge in part due to the quality of the greens, which he said were “the best Ross putting surfaces I’ve ever encountered. I’d love to have a conversation with Ross about his mindset about them. They have spectacular contours, are aggressive and bold but at the same time subtle and unique, with a lot of usable space. They’re inspired, for sure!”
Until retiring last year, course architect Ron Prichard had a 25-year-long relationship with Mountain Ridge, overseeing extensive tree clearing as well as many other projects. “I look forward to picking up the baton from Ron and all his great work over the years,” said Green. “I want to carry on the wonderful Ross tradition and make the club the best it can be.”