Design Notes

Tripp Davis completes a vintage bunker reno at Sonoma GC

Jackson Kahn and Casa Verde Golf reopen Arizona’s Grass Clippings at Rolling Hills; Malaysia’s The Els Club Desaru Coast upgrades its fairways and greens

Sonoma Golf Club

Tripp Davis and Associates recently completed a comprehensive bunker project at Sonoma Golf Club in Sonoma, California. The 1928 Sam Whiting design played host to many Hall-of-Fame names over the years, including Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Tom Watson, who won the 2005 Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Sonoma in 2005.

"It is part restoration to install a sustainable structure for the bunkers, part restoration of the style of the original architect Sam Whiting, and part redesign to position bunkers to fit the modern game with more strategic interest," Davis said.

“Sam Whiting was the original golf architect of the Olympic Club in San Francisco, where he exhibited a simple but very elegant style in his bunkers. That was his direction in style at Sonoma back in 1928 and I could not be more proud of what we have done there. Our team of [senior associate] Kyle Downs and [shaper] Jason Gold has collectively worked for TDA for 30 years and what they’ve done at Sonoma is amazing."

The bunker project at Sonoma is part of a larger Master Plan to enhance the golf course and practice facilities over time for owners Escalante Golf.

"Sonoma Golf Club has always been a hidden gem in the Sonoma Wine Country," head golf professional Tony Marshall said. "Having spent a tenure of 19-plus years at Sonoma, I have witnessed how the golf course has changed. Over time, golf courses require attention to detail and some changes are needed. The changes at Sonoma have been very impactful with the recent bunker renovation executed by Tripp and his team.

"Tripp clearly wanted to create an historic look, while adapting to the modern game for all levels of golfers. His course enhancements will continue to challenge the competitive golfer through new shots and sight lines. Importantly for our members, the renovated bunkers provide easy access to walk in and out of, which is so important."


Tempe's Grass Clippings at Rolling Hills reopened on Nov. 3 following a four-month golf course renovation project and recent rye grass overseed.

On Dec. 1, Grass Clippings will become Arizona’s first fully lit golf course as crews are currently finalizing installation of LED lighting around the property.

The golf and entertainment venue, the flagship location for Grass Clippings’ cutting-edge vision, is also in the process of adding a hilltop bar, a patio bar, a renovated clubhouse, an activity lawn and video display, and an entertainment site. Full completion of all projects is targeted for fall 2024.

Golf course architect Jackson Kahn Design, Grass Clippings’ director of agronomy Scott Hebert and Scottsdale-based Casa Verde Golf executed the golf course renovation work, which included a newly designed ninth hole, new tee boxes, installation of a new state-of-the-art irrigation system to improve turf quality, and a new 15,000-square-foot practice putting green.

Grass Clippings at Rolling Hills can be played during the day as an executive-length golf course and as a par-3 (par 54) golf course at night. Plus, Grass Clippings will soon be a concert venue with weekly live music, markets and events.

"We’re excited to reopen and show off the progress that has been made on the golf course and the new lighting," Grass Clippings CEO Jake Hoselton said.

Grass Clippings is a Phoenix-based modern golf brand that was founded in 2018. In March 2023, Grass Clippings agreed to a 30-year partnership with the City of Tempe to renovate and revitalize the 93-acre, city-owned golf course. It's located in the heart of the Papago Buttes, 2 miles from the Arizona State University campus. Grass Clippings’ property lease began on July 1, with Scottsdale-based Troon assuming management of daily operations that same day.

Originally designed as a nine-hole course by Milton Coggins in 1960, Rolling Hills features elite topography, elevation change, desert landscape and cheetahs on the third hole, as the course neighbors the Phoenix Zoo. Golf architect Gary Panks added the second nine holes in 1987.

The Els Club Desaru Coast, the coastal golf resort in Johor, Malaysia, has completed significant upgrades to the greens and fairways of its Valley Course. The comprehensive enhancements to the playing surfaces offer a superb experience for golfers, a significant step for The Els Club Desaru Coast, which already boasts luxurious facilities for its guests, set amidst an enchanting and unforgettable landscape.

Renowned for its coastal views and challenging layout, the Valley Course has been meticulously improved to provide golfers with an even more captivating and enjoyable playing experience. These enhancements to the fairways and greens have addressed challenges with the course, and oversaw the strategic re-planting initiative using fresh turf, resulting in the establishment of a more consistent playing surface.

The Valley Course, a challenging par 72, 7,200-yard course, was designed by three-time major champion Vijay Singh, and has already proven its excellence in the golf world, recognized as Malaysia’s Best Golf Course in 2020 and 2021 at the World Golf Awards.

Harris Abdullah, General Manager at The Els Club Desaru Coast, said “Our commitment to delivering an exceptional experience to our visitors remains unwavering, and these enhancements epitomize our commitment to raising the bar of excellence.

“Combining the beauty of the Desaru Coast with the challenge that our excellent Valley Course presents is a way to make memories that will last a lifetime, and we extend the invite to golf enthusiasts from around the world to experience the magic for themselves.”

DJ Flanders, Executive Vice President at Troon International, said: “Having recently visited The Els Club Desaru Coast, and witnessed first-hand the improvements to the Valley Course, it is no surprise that the course is held in such high esteem in Malaysia, but also across Asia and beyond.

The captivating coastal views set within the scenic forest landscape would give even the most well-traveled golfers a sight to behold. The Els Club Desaru Coast will continue to flourish now on the back of these improvements, a journey that we at Troon International are excited to be part of.”

The 45-hole Els Club Desaru Coast boasts the 27-hole Ocean Course, designed by Ernie Els, which overlooks the South China Sea and the Valley Course designed by Vijay Singh and jointly developed with Ernie Els Design. The Ocean Course holes take inspiration from the classic links courses from the U.K. with vast rolling greens and tight run-off areas. The Valley Course traverses valleys and streams with significant elevation changes and 187 bunkers.