Phil Smith tweaks Tom Weiskopf’s Castiglion del Bosco in Italy; Lobb + Partners begin greens rebuild at Spain’s Aloha
Founders Group International, the parent company of the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club, announced in late February that the Lowcountry layout at the southern edge of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, will receive a makeover this summer.
As reported by MyrtleBeachGolfTrips.com, the course will close in late May to launch a four-month greens, bunkers and clubhouse renovation project that will reinvigorate the course.
FGI has contracted with Nicklaus Design and architect Troy Vincent, who spent 15 years with Nicklaus Design, to handle the first significant renovation of Pawleys Plantation since its opening in 1989.
"Jack Nicklaus is not just an iconic golfer but also an iconic architect, so if we are going to touch one of his best courses, we want to make sure we are working with him and one of his architects," said Steve Mays, FGI president. "Troy is going to do a fantastic job not only in restoring Pawleys but taking the course to a new level."
Vincent was onsite Feb. 20, meeting with FGI leadership as he prepares final plans, but his topline goals are clear:
— Every green on the course will be resurfaced and restored to its original size and specifications, an effort that will increase the number of pinnable areas on each green complex.
— All greenside bunkers will be overhauled, returning shape and character to them, in addition to the installation of Concrete Capillary Bunker Liners, which will significantly improve conditions throughout the year.
— All of the course’s sprawling fairway bunkers will be evaluated with many being reduced in size or eliminated entirely. In place of acres of sand will be additional fairway — and in some instances, a more native look.
— There will be significant tree removal throughout the property, an effort that will provide more room off the tee and just as importantly, provide better conditions for turf growth.
Collectively, the renovations will produce a layout that is more playable for mid- to high-handicappers while maintaining its ability to test more skilled players. The renovation will also extend to the Pawleys clubhouse where a completely reimagined pub and dining experience will take place.
Upon the course’s reopening, the bar will offer an expansive view of the marsh and there will be outside dining, among other enhancements.
In recent years, FGI has commissioned major renovation projects at Grande Dunes Resort Course, Pine Lakes and River Hills and the effort at Pawleys Plantation will be the biggest to date.
"There is more interest in golf and Myrtle Beach than there has been in a long time,” Mays said. “We want to make sure we continue to reinvest in our courses and make the experience the best it can be."
#TBT As part of our bunker renovation at Tiger Point in Florida last fall, we reduced 120,000+ sq ft of maintained bunkers to 49,000 sq ft and also turned a number of long unsightly fairway bunkers (like the 14th here) into waste areas that fit the feel of the site! @TPAgronomy pic.twitter.com/pPokZuxfzV
— Nathan Crace, ASGCA (@lipouts) February 23, 2023
TIP OF THE HAT TO TOM WEISKOPF
The late Tom Weiskopf was honored this past week by being elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. One of his most acclaimed golf course designs is honoring him as well.
The Club at Castiglion del Bosco in Tuscany, Italy, is currently being renovated by architect Phil Smith, who collaborated with Weiskopf on the original design in 2012. Joining Smith in the effort are Atlantic Golf Construction, Turfgrass Consulting, Bunker Solution and advisor Patrick Fogarty of Golf IQ.
The work will include new back tees that will stretch the layout to 7,500 yards, restoring bunkers to their original shape with new bunker liners, adding 135,000 meters of drainage, introducing drought-tolerant grasses, increasing the native grass areas, updating the irrigation and upgrading the practice range.
"Our objective has always been to make Castiglion del Bosco the finest golf experience in Italy," Smith said. "As with all great courses, it is important to continue to invest and evolve and that is what we are doing, by extending the course to professional tournament length and ensuring world-class playing conditions all year round and a resilience in a changing climate."
Smith noted that Castiglion del Bosco, currently ranked 8th in Italy by Golf Digest, was among the most sustainable courses he ever helped produce in his 20 years of working with Weiskopf.
"The new turf variations and improvements to the closed drainage system will ensure the traditional Tuscan style and sustainable roots remain an integral part of the course design and ensure The Club at Castiglion del Bosco continues to be regarded as one of the top courses in Italy," he said.
David Waters, general manager of The Club at Castiglion del Bosco, said: "As Tom Weiskopf’s only golf course design in Europe, we are committed to continually maintaining and improving the course in the way he envisioned, with sustainability at the forefront of our long-term plans. We are delighted to welcome back Phil Smith to lead the work and help realize our shared ambitions for The Club to be seen as one of the very best golf courses in the world."
In addition to the golf club and winery, the 800-year-old, 5,000-acre estate is home to Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, a five-star luxury hilltop resort, crowned the No. 1 Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure in 2022. Access to The Club at Castiglion del Bosco is reserved for members and resident guests of Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco.
Construction work will start in April and is scheduled to finish in July, with a staged reopening of the course expected during August and September. All 18 greens will be rebuilt in a single phase of work with TeeOne bentgrass laid — the turf has already been grown in an offsite nursery.
Arana produced only 10 courses during his 30-year career as a golf architect. He was hired to build the Aloha course in 1972, at the age of 67, and construction started later that year. He last visited the course in May 1974, at which point seeding of the greens had not yet started, because of a shortage of water to grow them in. Arana died in January 1975 and never saw the course completed. It opened that October.
The Aloha is very proud of its heritage and its status as the last project of Spain’s greatest designer. But the course’s greens have been a challenge for some years. Half of them slope at more than 5%, an untenable level of pitch at modern heights of cut. Agronomist Luis Cornejo, who will serve as project manager and agronomist for the rebuild, says that when the course opened, the greens were typically cut at 5.5mm and Stimped at six and a half feet.
According to Alfonso Erhardt, author of "The Golf Courses of Javier Arana," the architect drew detailed plans of the greens. There is, however, some debate as to how precisely the final surfaces reflected his intent as he died before opening and several of them have been reworked in the interviewing years.
"When we were first invited to review plans for this ambitious 18-hole green rebuild last spring we were very impressed with the club’s planning and vision for the project," said Tim Lobb, principal of Lobb + Partners. "The course is set in a rolling and striking Andalusian landscape and the Arana strategic diversity on the greens was evident from the onset with a variety of steps, tilts and internal contours providing challenge and interest to the golf experience. But at modern day green speeds, the slopes are just too steep, so our aim is to soften them while retaining their strategic intent. I particularly like the way the greens are segmented into different zones with noses, tiers and low/high spots creating dividers, which we will emphasize in the revised surfaces and pinnable locations."
New and enlarged practice putting greens will also be constructed as part of the project and the area surrounding this slightly rejigged to create a better starting/arrival environment. British-based firm CJW Golf will carry out the build.
"This will be the largest course project undertaken by the club in our history, and it is an important part of the preparations for our 50th anniversary, which we will celebrate in 2025," said club president Rafael Fontan Zubizarreta. "We are thrilled to be working with such a strong team, and we are especially pleased that Tim Lobb has shown such a commitment to retaining the strategies set out by Javier Arana in his original design."