Design Notes

Florida’s St. Johns Golf Club gets an Erik Larsen facelift

Tim Liddy renovates Indiana’s Harrison Lake; Donald Ross’ Wampanoag in Connecticut breaks ground on a restoration

An artistic rendering of St. John Golf Club.

Golf course architect Erik Larsen has renovated and rebuilt St. Johns Golf Club, a "traditional throwback" public golf course in the northeast Florida town of Elkton.

The course incorporates the essence of Golden Age U.S. and U.K. layouts with its design features and a closer proximity of practice facilities and ending holes.

St. Johns was established as a county-owned facility in 1988 and operated as a 27-hole course for a several years, with nine holes closing in 2012. After weighing developers’ offers, the county opted in 2021 to fund an $8 million renovation, which included drainage improvements. Approximately 30 days per year were previously lost due to wet conditions, and the drainage upgrades are anticipated to bring that total down considerably.

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Larsen and Wes Tucker, St. Johns' director of golf, brainstormed old-school design principles by taking three old holes and changing others drastically to produce a new routing. The par-71 course has the look of early 1900s architects Seth Raynor and C.B. Macdonald, including wider fairways, Biarritz, Punchbowl and Redan greens in places and low maintenance "coffin" bunkers throughout. A large short-game area was created, the putting green was enlarged and the range, holes nine, 10 and 18 were situated much closer to the clubhouse to form a social hub.   

The club anticipates reopening in mid-November. Fees will range from $25 for walkers to $60 for out-of-state visitors.


Harrison Lake Country Club in Columbus, Indiana, recently reopened following an extensive renovation by Tim Liddy. Originally designed by Bob Simmons, the course was restored in spots, redesigned in others, with a rerouting and five new holes (7-9, 16, 17) being the byproducts.

"The project is a remodel with a new routing," Liddy said. "The eighth was an important hinge point for the rerouting. This is a short par 3 of 165 yards, playing over a deep swale. The green site was lowered approximately eight feet, benched into an existing hill. It has similar design qualities of a 'visible' Dell hole."

Work at Harrison Lake has also focused on tree removal and on bunkers.

Harrison Lake Rendering

"The course is located in a rural area, and I felt that natural looking bunkers combined with updated bunker infrastructure would improve the layout," Liddy said. "Our work has aimed to add strategy and artistry along with addressing safety issues. One other hole where strategy has been improved is at the third which now has a risk-reward element to it. We have increased the challenge for bigger hitters around the landing areas, while allowing plenty of width for the shorter hitters."

Harrison Lake reopened in August.

The team of Tyler Rae, Kyle Franz and Bradley Klein has commenced work on the restoration of Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Klein — an area resident, Donald Ross scholar and keen student of design — joined the two veteran architects to produce a master plan, following detailed research on the 1924 Ross creation. To arrive at their final suggestions, they studied historic overall plans, hole-by-hole drawings and ground and air imagery.

The architects intend to cut back trees to restore sightlines, to restore fairway width lost over time and to lengthen the course by 400 yards — to slightly more than 7,000 yards — while also adding forward and intermediate tees. The team will also strip three greens and rebuild them to their previous character and expand the putting surfaces on nine other greens.

Perhaps the biggest change will be the increase in sand bunkers, as well as in their placements. Bunker sand will nearly double, going from 71,000 square feet to 140,000 square feet, with much of that sand taking the form of restored cross bunkers that were in place in the early days of the course.

"That sounds like a lot of sand," Rae said. "But once you’ve opened up the site visually through tree work and fairway expansion, the bunkers take on the proper scale that Ross originally envisioned."

MAS Golf Course Construction is the contractor, with Golf Preservations Inc. performing the drainage work. Rae and Franz will handle the fine feature shaping themselves with their own team. Anticipated reopening is June 2023.