Design Notes

Royal Birkdale unveils future changes

Gil Hanse partners with Pebble Beach to redesign the Links at Spanish Bay; A redesign and name change at the Arizona Biltmore

The proposed redesign of Royal Birkdale Golf Club's seventh hole will make it a par 3 with a raised green.

Ten-time Open Championship venue Royal Birkdale in Southport, England, this past week announced a series of course changes and the addition of a spectacular new par 3 that will enhance the experience at this historic facility.

With a club history dating to 1889, Royal Birkdale’s current course enjoyed a substantial revision in 1931 and has experienced multiple alterations since that time. The latest plan involves changes intended to elevate the challenge and beauty of the layout while preserving the traditions and heritage that make Royal Birkdale so iconic.

The club will partner with Tom Mackenzie from the renowned Mackenzie and Ebert Golf Course Architects and with eminent golf course construction company Golf Link Evolve for this project. Mackenzie and Ebert are known best for renovations at eight of the 10 current Open Championship venues, plus Japan’s Hirono, the top-ranked classic course in Asia.

The work at Royal Birkdale will be carried out in two phases. Phase one will begin this fall and conclude in spring 2024. Phase two will start in fall 2024 and conclude in spring 2025. All work will be completed in time for the club to host the Open Championship again in 2026.

The key highlights of the work will include:

> Brand new par 3: Royal Birkdale will introduce a new par 3, which will play as the new 15th. This is designed to offer more variation to the current set of par 3s and will have the club’s iconic clubhouse in the background.
> Redesigned 14th hole: The existing par-5 15th will become the new redesigned 14th hole.
> Existing 14th hole: The green will be converted into a short-game area and existing teeing grounds will be kept in play as a 19th hole.
> Fifth hole: The current fifth hole will be completely redesigned.
> Seventh hole: The current seventh hole will be redesigned to become a short par 3 with the green raised.
> General Improvements: The bunkers, tees and pathways throughout the course will be renovated to provide players with consistent, more natural playing conditions.

"The changes at Royal Birkdale reflect our dedication to upholding the club’s esteemed reputation while offering a golfing experience that is second to none,” said Neil Cruickshank, course chairman. “We are confident that these alterations will be warmly received by both our members and visitors from around the world."


The Pebble Beach Company announced on Sept. 12 that it is partnering with Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and Hanse Golf Course Design to redesign the Links at Spanish Bay.

Opened in 1987 between the world=famous Inn at Spanish Bay and the Pacific Ocean, Spanish Bay offers a Scotland-inspired golf experience with ocean views on nearly every hole. The hope is that the redesign will help put Spanish Bay with its more heralded sibling courses — Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course.

Golfers around the globe are familiar with Hanse's originals, which include Castle Stuart Golf Links, Ohoopee Match Club, Pinehurst No. 4, Streamsong (Black) and The Olympic Golf Course (Brazil) along with restorations of The Country Club at Brookline, Los Angeles Country Club (North), and Oakmont Country Club.

"The Links at Spanish Bay possesses nearly every raw element you’d want in a golf course, from expansive ocean views to rolling, sandy terrain,” Hanse said. “With these natural attributes already in place, our team will have a significant head start on delivering a final product that will be in the top echelon of ‘must-play’ courses.”

Arizona’s newest golf course, the Estates Course at the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club, is in the final stages of grow-in and will open for daily fee and member play in early November.

Named after the iconic Biltmore neighborhood in Phoenix that surrounds the property, the Estates Course sits on the same footprint as the club’s former Adobe Course. However, that’s where the similarities end.

Designed by the Lehman Design Group and Scottsdale resident and five-time PGA Tour winner Tom Lehman, the completely new Estates Course features recontoured fairways, new tee boxes and green complexes, as well as new sand and grass bunkers throughout.

“This project began as a renovation of the 95-year-old Adobe Course,” said Jerry Colangelo, of Phoenix-based JDM Partners, owners of the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club. “As we moved through design and into construction, it became clear this would be a completely new golf course with more length, variety and challenge for golfers. In rebranding the Estates Course, we recognize the beautiful neighborhood we call home and begin a new chapter in the storied history of the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club."

In planning for the project, JDM Partners sought to make the refreshed golf course more sustainable, choosing to plant a new drought-tolerant TifTuf bermudagrass throughout the golf course and installing a new state-of-the-art irrigation system.

The new irrigation system allows the agronomy team to control each sprinkler head while using high-tech sensors to measure soil moisture and salt levels to allow for precise watering and reduced water usage. During the six-month redesign period, crews have also planted over 400 new trees to add more visual appeal while helping to define fairways and playing corridors.

The multi-million-dollar Estates Course project is phase two of a three-phase reimagining of the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club. In March 2023, the club unveiled its new 19,500-square-foot golf shop building designed by Douglas Fredrikson, AIA, and Alexandra Lemos of Phoenix-based Douglas Fredrikson Architects.

The new building, complete with Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture, includes retail and office space, member locker rooms, fitting rooms, restrooms, and over 13,000 sq. ft. of underground golf cart storage. Work on phase three is currently underway as construction crews are building a new 19,400 sq. ft. clubhouse and restaurant to replace the existing Adobe Restaurant and event tent, while also adding additional on-site parking and making landscape improvements. The new clubhouse and restaurant will open in 2024.

Prior to starting the multi-phase property improvement project, JDM Partners consulted with neighbors, community stakeholders, the City of Phoenix and industry experts. The significant investment by JDM will bring the historic property on par with the neighboring Arizona Biltmore Resort and Wrigley Mansion.

The Arizona Biltmore Golf Club is set in the heart of Phoenix, with Piestewa Peak and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve to the north, the downtown Phoenix skyline to the south, and Camelback Mountain to the east. The 36-hole golf facility meanders through some of the most stunning homes in Phoenix and also includes the Bill Johnston-designed Links Course.