Rees Jones brings back South Carolina’s Wellman Club; Drew Rogers relaunches Florida’s Seagate
Forrest Richardson, a past president of the ASGCA, has been selected to adjust holes at the historic Brookside Golf Club, a 36-hole facility originally designed by William Park Bell. The 94-year-old courses are owned by the City of Pasadena, California, and operated by the Rose Bowl Stadium, home to college football's iconic Rose Bowl game.
The reconfiguration work will involve shifting a few golf holes to allow for new community amenities, including an expanded entertainment-based driving range and 36 holes of miniature golf. Both features are aimed at attracting new and diverse people to the highly regarded public facility, commonly referred to as the Rose Bowl Arroyo Seco public recreation area.
"These new concepts will bring a new dimension to Brookside," Richardson said. "But at every turn we are taking great measures to uphold the legacy of Bell’s work, and to make certain the courses remain true to the design hallmarks of his work here."
Bell, affectionately known as "Billy" Bell throughout his career, later worked with his son, William "Billy" Francis Bell, who consulted on changes at Brookside during the 1960s and 1970s.
Having grown up in nearby Burbank, Richardson’s work is a homecoming of sorts. "The courses represent the best of public-access golf, and they have always been familiar to me and my family and friends who play golf in the area," he said. "The courses deserve to be preserved and improved, which is fundamental to our work adjusting holes for these new uses and players."
"One of the greatest benefits of public golf courses are their ability to also accommodate non-golfers," Richardson said. "Much like The Old Course at St. Andrews, where we see families strolling across the course every Sunday, Brookside has taken the concept of a golf course serving as a park to the next level in its programming and community uses."
Estimates are that more than a half million people use the Brookside facility every year, even though less than 25% percent are actually playing golf.
"We’re looking to the future, while regarding the past," Richardson says. "We envision a Brookside that will delight golfers for the next 100 years, yet will also continue to expand its reach to include people who may not currently play the game, but will be given an opportunity to see what golf has to offer."
Implementation of changes to the courses will follow finalization of reports on the impacts of historical and environmental aspects. Work could begin as early as 2024, although there is no definitive schedule until Richardson and project administrators continue public outreach.
Shots of the day from The Keep. Notice the angle change on the 11th. We have 100 yards of width on those tees! pic.twitter.com/QI1X0up8VV
— Bill Bergin, ASGCA (@bergingolf) November 11, 2023
REDESIGNED WELLMAN ALSO GETS NAME CHANGE
The Wellman Golf Club in Johnsonville, South Carolina, reopened in mid-November following a redesign by Rees Jones and his design associate Bryce Swanson. Originally known as the Wellman Country Club, the course was originally designed for in 1966 by Ellis Maples as nine holes for the Wellman Corporation as an amenity for management and employees.
Maples and associate Ed Seay added a second nine in 1971. Wellman closed its polyester fiber operation in 2006 and the well-regarded golf course finally shuttered in 2010. A Florence County penny tax provided the funds to resurrect the layout, which respects the essence of the old course, while elevating variety and playability.
"It will play like an old-style, classic golf course," Jones said. "We took a minimalistic approach to the layout, largely preserving the original Ellis Maples routing and allowing the holes to fit the land. The trees have matured over the years, giving the layout the character of an older course.
"The finished course will look a lot like a Pinehurst-area golf course, with sandy soil, pine trees and gently rolling topography. Golfers will be able to play the ground game and the aerial game. Shorter hitters can have a way to get to the green and the longer hitters can have a challenge."
Said Swanson: "The bones were good. The natural elevation changes create movement, so each hole has its own unique feel to it and yet they all tie together."
The new public course offers five sets of tees and measures 7,247 yards from the back tees. Standouts include the risk-reward, 629-yard, par-5 11th, which arcs around a large lake and the unusual par-3 closer, which stretches 223 yards.
The mission of the town officials for the revitalized golf course was to provide a recreational facility for everyone in the region to enjoy at an affordable price, as well as potentially spurring economic growth on the highway corridor.
SEAGATE TURNS 50 WITH REFRESH
The Seagate Golf Club in Delray Beach, Florida, reopened its 50-year-old golf course in early December following a complete refresh at the hands of Drew Rogers. Designed by Joe Lee in 1973, the handsome, well-bunkered layout was known as The Hamlet of Delray Beach and then the Hamlet Golf Club for its first four decades, until being renamed in 2012 following its acquisition by the Seagate Hotel & Spa. In 2013, Gene Bates executed a significant facelift, with the help of member and former PGA champion Jeff Sluman.
Rogers thoroughly tweaked the design, adding additional options and variety for all classes of players. Greens, fairways, tees, bunkers, irrigation, drainage, grasses, landscaping and practice areas all saw enhancements in the project, which began in April 2023.