NCGA Golf

Spring 2018

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G olf course architect Kyle P hillips swings from what would become the new t hird tee. The course project was completed in 2008. process of building Cypress Point. MacKenzie's imaginative flair stamped Cal Club's greatness. Eddie Lowery, who famously caddied for Francis Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open, was a longtime member and club president in 1947. He brought Venturi, the 1964 U.S. Open champion whose replica trophy is on display at the club, into the fold along with Nelson, who conducted a clinic in 1953, and was made an honorary member the following year. In the 1960s, the club appeared on the list of 200 "toughest" golf courses in Golf Digest. But that decade would be marked by change. Around 1965, the State of California issued an eminent domain action to create a new street, Westborough Blvd., off Interstate-280, which was being built to the west of the course. Construction of the street, which today forms the north boundary of the property, eliminated the second hole and compromised the first and third holes. The club hired Robert Trent Jones Sr. to reconfigure the first five holes, and sandwich the practice facility between Nos. 1 and 2. When Venturi returned from the road, he was furious at the changes that bore little resemblance to the rest of the course. Venturi often told a story about confronting Jones on the property and questioning whether he had bothered to look at the rest of the course. Cal Club still managed to host the 1970 USGA Senior Amateur, and remained in Golfweek'sTop 100 Classic list at No. 92, before slipping off. The impetus for the renovation project began as greens-only when a nematode infestation, a micro- scopic worm-like creature and a common problem on Poa Annua greens in the San Francisco area, necessi- tated a conversion to bentgrass. With the course sched- uled to close for construction, Al Jamieson, the 1994 club champion, who served as chair of the renovation committee in 2005, and others realized a window existed to restore the luster to a cherished design. The project upgraded to a full-blown restoration when the renovation committee tried to convince membership of the club's potential to be ranked among the country's finest layouts. It gained support from Venturi, who advised club members to do a proper renovation rather than make serial changes. "You get one shot at this," he said. "There are no mulligans." The club interviewed nine golf architects for the job, narrowed the list to five and asked them to re-imagine the congested playing corridors that existed between the third and fifth holes in an effort to raise the front nine to a similar caliber as the back nine. Each architect complied, presenting drawings of their plan. All except for Phillips, who took charge of his presentation. "He politely said you don't know what you're doing, but I do," Jamieson said. Phillips wasn't there to fix three holes; he had a broader, bolder vision. Using 1927 as a benchmark, when MacKenzie had re-bunkered the course, Phillips envisioned 18 holes that could all be situated on land made for great golf. Thirteen of the holes had been built during the Golden Age of Architecture. He told his audience to picture these holes with wider corridors playing under firm, fast conditions. The other five holes were out of character, and reeked of another era. A forest of trees, which made the course play slow and wet most of the year, had to go, too. A less-is-more approach would allow for prominent cypress trees to provide a backdrop at many of the holes. Phillips high- lighted a 17-acre space that the club wasn't using. His plan called for abandoning the original eighth hole and converting it into a driving range and using the unused plot of land for a new Cape Hole that bends around a steep fall off. Member Dennis Trixler, a former PGA Tour pro who held the old course record of 64, had been cam- paigning for his pal Tom Lehman to get the job, but after hearing Phillips speak, Trixler voiced the majority view. "Is there any doubt this is our guy?" he said. Jamieson, the club president in 2006, was the cata- lyst and point man throughout the restoration and a buffer between the vocal minority unhappy with the project – a $13-million restoration that included bringing in 5,000 truckloads of sand. Phillips rerouted several holes throughout the front nine, moving the practice range to the center of the property, filling in two ponds built in the early 1990s, rebuilding and adding bunkers, converting 44 acres of mixed fairway turf to a blend of colonial bentgrass and fine fescue, and regrassing pest-infested Poa greens with bentgrass. A new irrigation system has enabled the staff to control the water output and produce a firmer, faster layout, one that allows more ground- game options. The project was completed in July 2008 in just 15 months. "The result is a startling transformation that makes 44 SPRING 2018 | NCGA.ORG

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