Friday, January 15, 2021


Starting with the bunker renovation in 2012-2013, we have been working very hard to keep all of our renovation projects consistent with the goal of recapturing the vintage allure of the golf course which dates back to the golden age of golf architecture.  The golden age of golf architecture is basically that period between 1910 and 1937 when most of the top 100 golf courses in America were built. Tacoma's American Lake course opened in 1906, but it was the great renovation of 1923 that resulted in the playing field that we enjoy today. In the last 100 years, there's been a few major construction projects, but the bones of the golf course are still much like they were in the beginning.  With that said there are still some things that have changed just simply because it's hard to stop change.  These are the changes that are happening right before our eyes, but they happen so slow that many people never notice they're happening at all.  A good example of this is the growth of the trees.  It literally can take generations before a tree causes problems.  Of course now that Tacoma is well over 100 years old, there are many trees that are causing problems, and that is something we're addressing today.  Another problem that occurs slowly over time is edge migration.  The edges of bunkers migrate (see my post about this CLICK HERE), and so do the edges of putting greens.  With respect to the putting greens we've been working hard to recapture lost putting surface and also push greens out to create new areas.  In order to do this we first remove the collar dams, or "build up" of topdressing sand around the greens perimeter (CLICK HERE to read more about collar dam removal).  Once the excess sand is removed and the grass is put back, we can then start mowing the green out to where we want it.  Here's a series of pictures for this process which we recently completed on the 2nd green.
The first thing we do is paint out where we want the finished green edge to be.  This gives us a good idea of how much of the perimeter we need to strip off in order to achieve this new green shape.  

The next step is to cut the grass with a sod cutter and then roll it up and set it aside. 

Here you see the grass has been put back, the edge is repainted and we've started mowing the new green areas.   It takes several months to train the grass down to the shorter mowing height.  It takes maybe a year or so of regular mowing and topdressing before the new areas are good and smooth.  

We've completed this process on 14 greens so far and the new green shapes have created many interesting conversations.  The new green shapes have many straight edges and corners with an overall squarish look.  Many folks have said they aren't too keen on the new look and many folks say they love it.  Well let's just say the new look is really an old look, and very much consistent with the original golf course in 1906 (click HERE for a map of the first course at the American Lake site), and also after the great redesign in 1923 (Click HERE to see a map of the course after the 1923 redesign).   You can still find squarish looking greens at some of the greatest clubs in America like at Chicago GC (Click HERE), but many of those great old clubs have had renovations to their greens, and the vintage look became less fashionable.  Most recently, several golf courses have undergone renovations with an emphasis on restoration.  Like us, they are trying to recapture the vintage allure, and the brilliance of some of the great golf course architects of the past.  There's no better example of this than what we just saw this past year at the U.S. Open hosted by Winged Foot.  Click HERE to see a great blog post on this project.  Also, click HERE to see some great stuff put out by the USGA on this very subject.  Interestingly, Winged Foot was built in 1923, the same year Tacoma unveiled it's newly renovated golf course which is essentially the same golf course we enjoy today.