Design Notes

Robert Trent Jones II helps resuscitate Idaho’s Osprey Meadows

Jeff Stein restores Devereux Emmet design at New York’s Seawane; Casey O’Callaghan completes renovations to California’s Newport Beach CC; Kris Spence revives North Carolina’s Woodlake

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Osprey Meadows Golf Course, which opened in 2006 to media acclaim, closed in 2015.

Landscapes Unlimited, in conjunction with the original architect, Robert Trent Jones II, has begun restoring Osprey Meadows Golf Course at Idaho’s Tamarack Resort.

Located 90 miles north of Boise, Idaho, Osprey Meadows opened in 2006 to tremendous acclaim, capturing a Golf Digest Best New Affordable Course award and earning ranking accolades throughout the industry. Economic setbacks forced the course to close in 2015 and it has laid fallow since that time — until now.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to reinvigorate the award-winning Osprey Meadows Golf Course at Tamarack," Jones said. "The confidence that the Tamarack ownership has exhibited in the long-term value of this unique golf experience is unprecedented. We appreciate their vision and commitment."

Long considered one of Idaho’s premier ski resorts, Tamarack offers a variety of family-friendly, four-season options. "It’s not often that you get a second chance to make a first impression, but we have that rare opportunity with the return of Osprey Meadows," said Scott Turlington, the resort's president.

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The aptly named layout unfolds over 400 roomy acres that are dotted with lakes, streams and wetlands on meadowland sandwiched between Council Mountain and Lake Cascade. Aspens, pines and tamaracks frame but seldom crowd the fairways. The course also features a variety of wildlife, notably of the winged variety.

Landscapes Unlimited and Jones are in the midst of enhancing variety and playability to the new version, with several holes being reimagined, as they proceed with grassing, seeding and irrigation. Bringing back the moribund golf course will assist with real estate sales. A collection of new homesites called Aspen Glade will be located near the fourth fairway.

Also brand new is the creation of a par-3 19th hole, once known as a bye hole. This watery par 3, with tee boxes adjacent to the 18th green, is called a "gambler’s" hole, constructed for players looking to settle friendly wagers. The driving range at Osprey Meadows reopened this summer, and the course is expected to open in summer 2023.

> Jeff Stein is helping to restore not only The Seawane Club in Hewlett Harbor, New York, but the reputation of the original architect, Devereux Emmet. Creator of such heralded layouts as Garden City Golf Club, Congressional Country Club and Nassau Country Club, Emmet was one of the most underappreciated of the Golden Age’s great architects, mostly because so few of his courses went unchanged. In particular, Stein sees Seawane as truly distinctive.

"Among Emmet’s many inland courses, Seawane stands out as a particularly special design because of its rarity as a true links and the fact that the routing has remained intact," said Stein, who has worked on other Emmet designs in the region, such as Rockville Links Club. "Working alongside Jim Urbina at Rockville showed me the depth of research that goes into this type of work. I bring the same curiosity and appreciation of history with my restoration work so that I can create a plan which is sympathetic to Emmet’s original design intent. At Seawane, I was able to dig up an amazing collection of aerial photography from the 1940s, a 1927 hand-drawn design proposal, and detailed descriptions of the original course construction. All of these research materials helped immensely to create an accurate restoration plan."

Working with Ryan Bell, Seawane’s new superintendent, Stein formulated a plan to rework all the steep mounds and ridges that had built up in previous renovations.

"Our plan simplifies the maintenance program, highlights the sandy nature of this site and makes the golf course more playable and fun," Stein said. "We will also address bunker strategy, honoring as many of Emmet’s drawings and design intentions as possible. Ultimately, with every swipe of the excavator we want to recreate a sandy seaside landscape, on a human scale, reminiscent of what you might see at other low-lying American seaside courses like Maidstone or Kittansett.”

Stein’s project is entering his third season at Seawane. He first restored the par-3 eighth, then moved onto the par-5 sixth. He is assisted by shapers Robert Nelson and Daniel Loveridge and the work is ongoing. He is striving to restore Emmet’s handiwork, where design features blended into the surrounding landscape.

"Other Emmet design features, as seen in his original drawings, are short grass running directly into hazards and wide fairway approaches to the green," he said. "Throughout the course we will be restoring these important architectural elements to provide fun and variety around the greens, while also allowing golf balls to run into fairway hazards."

Stein’s transformation of the par-5 ninth, that most recently featured 34 bunkers, is illustrative of his approach.

“We tried to tie in views of sand and fescue from tee to green so that members would truly get a sense of playing near the sea,” he said. “This sandy native landscape blends into more formal greenside bunkers with elements inspired from Emmet’s work at Garden City and St. George’s in New York, as well as the National Golf Links of America. These courses have a similar style and flair, with their greenside bunkers all having steep grass faces. It was the more diminutive scale of Garden City and St. George’s which we modeled our greenside bunkers on at Sewane. However, we were inspired by NGLA for its windswept fields of fescue and bluestem and its unique dune-top hazards. The more we are able to peel away invasive grasses, expose sand and let mother nature take over, the better this golf course will become."

> Designed by Billy Bell Sr. and Billy Bell Jr. in 1954, Newport Beach Country Club has witnessed many great names do great deeds on its golf course. Ernie Els, Fred Couples and Vijay Singh are among the greats who have captured PGA Tour Champions titles at this prestigious venue in Southern California’s Orange County.

Now add one more name to the list of significant golf figures who have left their imprint on Newport Beach — architect Casey O’Callaghan. No, O’Callaghan has never won a major, but he’s had a major impact on the golf course, recently finishing work on a renovation plan that culminated 10 years of projects.

Included in the renovation projects were rebuilding, adding and removing bunkers, rebuilding and adding tees, creating three new greens, expanding four others and modifying cart paths and landscaping.

"The previous bunkers were small, which created access issues for members," O’Callaghan said. "Many were located where they penalized average golfers but were not in play for better players. One of the goals for the new bunkers was to have them in better harmony with the scale and broad movements of the property. Now they are larger and have longer support mounding that complements the natural landforms."

The three greens that were shifted or completely rebuilt occurred at holes 13, 15 and 17.

"Previously greens had multiple tiers and slopes that limited pin locations, and the character of these putting surfaces, which were rebuilt in the early 1990s, was not consistent with the rest of the Billy Bell-designed greens,” O’Callaghan said. "The new greens have been designed and constructed with long movements that emanate from the surrounding landforms and now allow for accessible and challenging pin locations."

Adding new back tees to holes 5, 12, 13, 14 and 18 have stretched the layout from 6,613 yards to 6,821. Additional landscaping on the perimeter will allow the course to enhance its parkland feel while also screening many of the surrounding areas. Ultimately, the design changes were intended to benefit all golfers. O’Callaghan believes they succeeded.

"The updates have allowed us to make the course more playable for the high handicappers while making it more challenging and strategically significant for the better golfers," he said.

> Tis the season, apparently, for reviving dormant, moribund or abandoned courses.

Woodlake Country Club in Vass, North Carolina, in the Pinehurst area, is the latest example. Once a thriving community with two championship layouts situated next door the state’s largest man-made lake, the development spiraled downward a decade ago due to economic and water issues. Its original course, designed by Ellis Maples and Ed Seay in 1971, closed in 2015 and its 1995 Seay/Arnold Palmer course shuttered in 2018. After a foreclosure auction in 2021, the new ownership group retained architect Kris Spence to revive the Maples course.

After clearing the trees and weeds and installing a new irrigation system, work commenced on rebuilding bunkers and resurfacing greens.

“I liked the green surfaces so much that I wanted to restore them,” Spence said. “Jim Harbin, my design associate and lead shaper, did an incredible job bringing the definition back to the contours of the greens. The green surrounds needed new grass, so they were stripped and regraded to ensure they had good surface drainage and would be playable. After sodding the surrounds with TifTuf Bermuda, greens were sprigged with TifEagle ultradwarf Bermuda in July of this year.”

Spence was intent on retaining Maples’ design features, which included tilted landing areas and undulating greens. “I have worked on more than 10 Maples courses and the greens at Woodlake are some of the best I’ve seen.”

One major alteration will be the removal of the old 18th hole, which will now house 25 lakefront lots. The new 18th will occupy the corridor of the old Palmer course’s opening hole. Spence removed bunkers from behind greens, relocated some bunkers and rebuilt others. The bunkers will feature laced edges and flashed faces. Now lengthened to 7,350 yards, tree removal has widened landing areas, allowing for more freedom off the tee. Preview play is expected to begin in November, ahead of a grand opening in 2023.