Design Notes

Tom Lehman revives the Arizona Biltmore

Barry Jordan restores Donald Ross’ Brook-Lea in New York; Greg Norman uncorks a bunker renovation at California’s Wente Vineyards

AZ Biltmore GC Estates Course Hole 3 - Photo by Bill Hornstein.jpg
Hole No. 3, Estates Course, Arizona Biltmore Golf Club.

The Arizona Biltmore Golf Club in Phoenix has reopened its former Adobe course after an eight-month renovation project by Lehman Design Group, led by Scottsdale resident and former British Open champion Tom Lehman. And it has been rebranded as the Estates course.

Using the existing corridors, Lehman crafted nearly an entire new golf course atop the bones of one of the Grand Canyon state’s oldest courses, dating to 1928. The new layout — measuring 6,721 yards and par 71 from the Black tees — features more variety, recontoured fairways, new greens and bunkering, and enhanced landscapes.

“It was a pleasure working with the JDM team to refresh one of Arizona’s most iconic and historic properties,” Lehman said. “The renovated course demands a much wider variety of shots, has more length and much improved strategy. We used the most efficient and highest quality modern turf to dramatically improve the ability to maintain the greens, fairways and tees to the highest standards. Add on to that a wonderful landscape plan full of trees, colorful plants and flowers and the result is a far more visually appealing course for players of all levels.”

The Estates name was chosen to represent the tony, exclusive neighborhood where the course resides, astride some of the priciest real estate in greater Phoenix. Originally designed by William F. Bell, the course opened 96 years ago a few months before the iconic Arizona Biltmore Hotel. During the renovation, crews installed a new state-of-the-art irrigation system and planted new drought-tolerant TifTuf bermudagrass throughout the golf course. TifTuf maintains turf quality under drought stress. In addition, green complexes were rebuilt, tee boxes laser-leveled and all the bunkers were renovated, incorporating a variety of shapes and sizes.   

 JDM Partners, led by former Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo, is the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club’s Phoenix-based ownership group. JDM consulted with neighbors, community stakeholders, the City of Phoenix and industry experts on the multi-phase property improvement project. The significant investment by JDM brings the historic property on par with the neighboring Arizona Biltmore Resort and Wrigley Mansion.

This spring, Brook-Lea Country Club in Rochester, New York will begin phase II of a restoration project of its 98-year-old, Donald Ross-designed course, continuing with the architect that performed the work in phase I, Barry Jordan. “The project includes an extensive bunker renovation, green expansions, fairway expansions, drainage, tree removal and establishing native grass and seasonally mowed areas,” Jordan told

Jordan produced a masterplan that incorporated the original routing plan blueprints, so as to maintain the most historically accurate representation in the restoration. Bob Graham, Brook-Lea’s historian, and architecture scholar Bradley Klein assisted in compiling the research.

“The club is in possession of all 18 original hole notes and sketches done by Donald Ross and a corresponding set of green sheets,” said Jordan. “The course contains a wonderful collection of holes that wind their way across the landscape, moving through both moderately rolling topography and linksy flatter terrain. Little Black Creek runs across, along, and through several holes, hence the name Brook-Lea.”

The research team discovered contemporaneous accounts that documented changes to three of the original greens during the first ten years of the course’s existence, which depicted eliminating some of the surface contours. “Our plan is to restore those greens to their original forms based on the green sheets prepared by Ross,” said Jordan, who plans on putting back those greens — the fifth, ninth and 18th — to their original specifications.

“We will also be eliminating misguided changes from various architects that have occurred over the past 30 years,” Jordan added. “There are historic articles referencing Ross’ design intentions--mostly bunkers—and the club’s decision to postpone the construction of several bunkers. Those bunkers will now be installed as part of the restoration.”

Ultimately, 18 bunkers will be eliminated, 44 restored and 57 added. “The work is bringing back to life the strategy, character and brilliance of the original design,” Jordan said.


Wente Vineyards, America’s longest continuously operated family-owned winery in Livermore, California, announced in late February that its championship course, The Course at Wente Vineyards, has completed the first phase of its three-phase masterplan. Greg Norman Golf Course Design, the original course architect, oversaw the bunker renovation project, and will continue to oversee the next two phases of the masterplan.

“The Course at Wente Vineyards is excited to improve the golfing experience for our guests,” Cody Price,
The Course at Wente Vineyards general manager, told “The primary goals of the bunker renovations were to improve playability, aesthetics, functionality, and the maintenance of the golf course. Each bunker throughout the course has been renovated with the guidance of Greg Norman Golf Course Design to maintain the integrity of the design. Rogelio [Abarca] and Jason [McCoy] with GNGCD knocked it out of the park with the vision and oversight of this project, and Diamond Golf International proved yet again to be a top-notch course contractor.”

As part of the renovation of the 7,181-yard, par-72 layout, Diamond Golf’s Robert Pedigo masterfully reshaped all bunkers prior to the installation of the ZLine Bunker liner system, which helps to fortify the edges, protect drain lines and eliminate contamination in the bunkers. Delta Bluegrass provided and installed new sod around all bunkers and construction areas. Perennial ryegrass was the primary turf installed, but several bunkers are framed with tall fescues, which yield a strong contrast, highlighting the bunkers. Fresh white bunker sand is also on display.

The second phase of the course’s masterplan is currently pending and will include tee renovations, tree work and improvements to the drainage system. The Course at Wente Vineyards opened in July 1998 and features three distinct topographies: native woodlands, mature vineyards and rolling hills of natural grasslands.