Golf course architect Richard Mandell has completed a renovation project at the Country Club of Asheville in North Carolina.
The club’s course was originally designed by Donald Ross and dates back to 1928. GCA caught up with Mandell to discuss his recent work and what golfers can expect now the project has reached its conclusion.
“I am very happy with the results,” the architect says. “The biggest challenge was securing permits in a timely fashion which required the project to be completed in consecutive, overlapping phases. The key was to expose as little ground as possible to minimise erosion. This required careful planning ahead of time to ensure that what we were proposing to do prior to starting could indeed be accomplished in the field.”
Due to the project’s phased element, enough vision to plan for the proper shaping of features, while still being able to properly tie these new features into the site’s existing topography, was necessary. Mandell said that shaper Marc Burger was able to ‘take my drawings off paper and onto the ground very effectively throughout the process’.
“Another challenge was matching owner expectations for dramatic greens without making them unplayable,” Mandell explains. “That was a fun challenge, but one that required constant monitoring of putting surface contours and slopes. It is vital that putting surfaces are playable when on a mountain course such as the one at the Country Club of Asheville. A miss on flat land stops quickly. A miss along a hillside can run quite a bit. So while the inner contours could be dramatic, the outer contours of the putting surfaces had to be slower.”
Mandell says he really enjoyed working with the course’s the greens, and that the project team definitely made them dramatic in accordance with the request of the club’s owner, John McConnell.
A final challenge was implementing minor routing changes, which included moving the first tee.
“A few very nice trees needed to be removed because over the years they had come to dominate greens complexes due to their presence,” Mandell says. “They literally took centre stage for decades. The greens adjacent to these trees were built around the trees and they were clearly not what they should have been in terms of size and presentation. Yet over time, the members came to accept the less than interesting greens.”
Mandell says that these greens have been replaced by green designs more deserving of attention by the members.
“The takeaway for me there is to see the members’ reactions to these features and others when they never realised what they were missing all these years by holding onto those trees,” he explains.