NCGA Golf

FALL 2017

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has been working quietly but steadily for years with architect Mike DeVries to un- cover the place and open up its long views of the Bon Tempe Meadow at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais. Along the way, they've regained lost hole locations on the newly reclaimed green surfaces and restored the scruffy-edged bunkers that MacKenzie and Hunter had originally put into the place back in 1926. The trick, says Tully, is to move away from "defense by trees and embrace defense via the short game." It's a good thing that there are second chances in golf. The rebirth of Poppy Hills Golf Course validates the effort of rethink- ing everything. The original work of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. from the early 1980s has gone through a total re-do, emerging with an airier look, a better inte- gration with the surrounding forest floor and a lot more diversity in its shot-making. The ruling mantra there is now firm, fast and fun. If the original Poppy Hills was a left- over from 1970s-80s ideas about course design, the new Poppy Hills is a culmina- tion and synthesis of several important, emerging trends including water conser- vation, naturalization of rough areas and simplified maintenance. The result is a simpler, cleaner viewscape across the entire site. From the newly elevated tee of the par-4 third hole (from what was previously the back of the old par-3 11th green) golfers now have an unimpeded view of Monterey Bay in the background. The sense of place has never been stronger at Poppy Hills. That's a sure formula for reclaiming the design character that animated classical Northern California golf design. It's all about a powerful interaction with native landforms and the environment writ large. The Northern California terrain allows for the ground game, whether on coastal dunes or deep within forested parkland like Schaffer's Mill, a mile above sea level in the High Sierras west of Lake Tahoe. There's still one outstanding project that would bring back the feel of the ground game and infuse it in a uniquely public setting: Sharp Park in Pacifica (See story pg 20). From the WPA-era clubhouse to the use of a native lagoon and holes running sheer along the Pacific Coast, Sharp Park embodies the spirit of a rugged outdoor experience. And yet it's seamlessly meshed into a town's lifeā€”much as the holes at North Berwick, St. Andrews, Gullane or Machrihanish weave their way into the village center. It takes a particular kind of genius to make those elements of nature and contrivance work as if one composition. MacKenzie was able in a public setting here to express his art form to an unusual degree. There's still hope to see that original vision at play. If not a recapture of the lost holes beyond the seawall that was built in 1941, at least the lure of play under salt spray along and through the sandy dunes west of that marshland. Now that would be another piece of classic Northern California golf design. Bradley S. Klein is a longtime senior writer at Golfweek and considered one of the leading authorities on golf course architecture. He has written seven books on the subject, the most recent being "Wide Open Fairways." 28 FALL 2017 | NCGA.ORG C ypress Point

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