Design Notes

David McLay Kidd eyes the finish line for Comporta Dunes

Rees Jones dresses up New York’s Tuxedo Club; King-Collins plots a new course at South Carolina’s Palmetto Bluff; David Whelchel renovates Colorado’s Raven at Three Peaks

Comporta Dunes
After more than a 12-year journey, the David McLay Kidd-designed Dunas Course at Terras da Comporta is scheduled to open in July 2023.

After a 12-year roller coaster ride, David McLay Kidd can finally see the finish line on his first design in mainland Europe — Comporta Dunes in Portugal, more formally known as the Dunas Course at Terras da Comporta.

Kidd has teamed with Vanguard Properties, the largest real estate developer in Portugal, to bring the long-awaited creation to fruition. The opening is slated for July 2023.

"I’m super excited about the course and it is pretty much finished," he said. "We are around seven months from a soft opening and, in the next few months, we’re going to be trimming up the bunkers and setting up the course so that it’s ready for players. And as part of that, I get to play to see how it feels after quite a few years of working on the project."

The par-71, links-style layout is situated on the coast, one hour south of Lisbon, in a secluded setting on the edge of the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve. First launched in 2010, Comporta Dunes languished after the struggles of the original developer. It sat fallow for several years, until Vanguard purchased it in 2019. The course unfolds over natural, sandy terrain and Kidd promises that the course — and the region — will be a compelling draw.

Even in 2021, Kidd was anticipating the future.

"It’s a lot of fun but it’s not easy by any means," he said. "It’s pretty challenging but it is forgiving if you get into trouble. You’ve got a chance to get back in the game, and how could you ever complain about the amazing weather in Portugal together with the beaches, cafes, food and people."

Complementing the Dunes course will be a new clubhouse and golf academy. Also, a second golf course, Torre, is in the works and it will be a collaboration between Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia.

> Rees Jones has completed work on a renovation for one of America's most prestigious playgrounds, the Tuxedo Club.

Situated just to the northwest of Manhattan in New York’s Orange County, the Tuxedo Club was founded in 1886 and played host to the country’s first interclub matches in 1894. Shinnecock Hills and then later St. Andrews Golf Club and The Country Club (Brookline) participated.

In 1886, the fledgling club also introduced the concept of the tuxedo— the tail-less jacket in formal evening wear — courtesy of member James Brown Potter, who had dined with the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in England, observed the Prince’s attire and adapted the look back home.

In 1955, the club’s golf course was decimated by the creation of the New York Thruway, so golf’s royal architect of the day, Robert Trent Jones was summoned. Jones created a new nearby layout for the club, with nine holes opening in 1956 and the second nine the following year. Now son Rees Jones has restored parts of his father’s layout and modernized other aspects.

"It was a very exciting project for my father because it was such a high-end established club and he was able to select this wonderful, pristine piece of property within this natural area, where you really feel like you are away from the travails of life in the city, while also being so close to a major population base," Jones said.

Needing an update, not an overhaul, the club turned to Rees Jones to refresh his father’s work, especially as it concerned bunker shapes and placements, notably on the par 5s.

"From my father’s time to my time the par 5s have really become par 4s, so they had to be adapted to today’s play a bit more," he said. "In particular, we wanted to make the second shot more thought-provoking and place more demand on the drive, so it wasn’t just an automatic bomb."

Jones and associate Bryce Swanson teamed with the club’s director of agronomy, Casey Klossner, to revamp Tuxedo’s bunkers into a more playable, member-friendly style, but also to a style that was better for maintenance and that was more faithful to the Jones Sr. originals. Sand is flashed lower and bunker edges are more jagged with fewer downhill slopes on the bunker floors. Fairway lines were adjusted as well.

The only design change came at the ninth hole, where Jones and Swanson crafted a new tee and green complex so as to accommodate a new short-game area on land occupied by the old ninth green.

> Fresh off their design of Nebraska’s Landmand Golf Club, King-Collins Golf Course Design will create a new reversible nine-hole course for Palmetto Bluff, the acclaimed private residential and resort community near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

King-Collins — composed of Tad King, director of construction and Rob Collins, principal designer — first burst into prominence with its nine-hole design of Sweetens Cove in Tennessee, which quickly attracted a cult following. This new nine-hole, par-36, 3,100-yard effort, situated on level terrain that edges an inland waterway, will offer the bonus of reversible play.

"We had a blank slate on about 50 acres," Collins said. “We’re doing something different with this space. We have room for nine holes, so we thought, why don’t we do nine reversible holes? This will allow us to deliver something outsize on a small site."

Even with the limitations of the site, King was encouraged by what they could accomplish.

"The site is completely flat, but we can build cool dune formations and really get the ground moving," he said. "Normally in the Lowcountry you can only cut two or three feet before you hit groundwater but this site is a bit higher so we can cut fifteen feet if we need to."

Masterplanned more than 20 years ago, Palmetto Bluff had ambitious plans for multiple golf courses, but those were waylaid for a variety of reasons. The only completed course so far is May River, a Jack Nicklaus creation that debuted in 2005. The new owners, South Street Partners, have started to realize those early ambitions.

Not only is the currently unnamed King-Collins course scheduled to come on board — with an anticipated groundbreaking for January 2023 — but Coore-Crenshaw has been retained to create a new 18-hole layout, which is currently in the planning process.     

> The Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks has recently benefited from a bunker renovation by David Whelchel.

Located in Silverthorne, Colorado, 30 miles east of Vail and 67 miles west of Denver, the Raven at Three Peaks sits at 9,035 feet of elevation. The course was a 2000 design collaboration between Tom Lehman and the firm of Hurdzan/Fry, and they draped an entirely new layout over the remnants of an old one, Eagle’s Nest. Intrawest sold the course to Escalante Golf in 2009. Whelchel, a former associate with Hurdzan/Fry has assisted the club since 2012.

Most recently, Whelchel oversaw a bunker renovation that deleted some bunkers, constructed new ones that were more easily maintained and reduced the overall sand footprint from 160,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet.

Play never shut down through the summer and Golf Sculptors International completed the work in August.

“As Hurdzan/Fry was involved in the project originally, it was a real pleasure for me to be able to work at The Raven again with Escalante to give the course a facelift and return it to what we had envisioned back in 1999,” said Whelchel. “The golf course is really fun to play, with great views of the mountains and lots of wildlife including eagles, moose, elk and even a few bears. And at 5,200 yards from the forward tees to just over 7,400 yards from the back tee, it is challenging and fun for all golfers.”