Michigan-based course designer Chris Wilczynski, ASGCA, has formed his own practice, and his new firm's inaugural project is underway at Wanakah Country Club in Buffalo, New York.
Wilczynski, who spent more than two decades working with the firm of Hills-Forrest, becoming a full partner in 2003, formed CW Golf Architecture last year. Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Wanakah is one of the region’s oldest clubs. It was formed in 1899, and while Donald Ross is documented to have worked on site in the 1930s, Wanakah's design pedigree is not so straightforward. The layout Wilczynski first encountered represents the work of several designers, amateur and otherwise, all of whom put their stamps on the layout.
“The result is a design that had very little stylistic direction, no unified themes,” Wilczynski said. “The green surfaces are actually quite good, but the bunker complexes that frame and protect those greens, and the fairway landing areas, were all over the map. So that was a focus of the work we did this fall, and it will continue to be a focus as we move forward in 2011.”
Wilczynski had done a complete master plan for Wanakah back in 2005. It was shelved until 2009, when drainage issues forced the club’s hand. Chronically soggy fairways were the impetus for updating the master plan in 2009, and for starting construction in the fall of 2010.
“The club sensed that it had to do something,” said Wilczynski, who has executed a dozen comprehensive renovations from Florida (Forest Glen Golf & Country Club in Naples) to Colorado (Green Gables CC in Denver) to Arizona (Camelback Golf Resort, Padre Course, in Scottsdale). “This is a common series of events: A club identifies design goals over a period of years but it's something practical and immediate, such as drainage issues or a poa annua infestation, that obliges the club to pull the trigger and implement the master plan.”
“The drainage issues at Wanakah were getting so bad that many sunny days, following rain events in the spring and fall, were routinely lost. We solved these issues on four holes this fall. We installed the drainage capability that's been lacking for 100 years by manipulating the fairway contours to create positive flow leading to these new drainage basins. This required real nuance. Wanakah is a relatively flat golf course and the contour we created had to look proper and natural in that context.”
All the areas exposed in 2010 were immediately turfed, so Wanakah will reopen these four renovated holes simultaneous with the other 14 come the spring of 2011. In the fall of 2011, CW Golf Architecture will tackle a new set of holes, along with bunker renovation and tee work.
Wilczynski is also working on renovation programmes for Forest Akers Golf Club in Michigan and Stoneybrook Golf & Country Club in Sarasota, Florida.