Brian Schneider of Renaissance Golf Design has completed renovation work, including redesigned green complexes, bunkers and ground features, at Llanerch Country Club in Havertown, Pennsylvania.
“Llanerch’s bunkers had reached the end of the life cycle and the membership felt that if we are going to re-do all of the bunkers, we should look at the greens and see if we could find more pinnable locations, as they are 100 years old and had shrunk over time,” said Brendan Byrne, golf course superintendent at Llanerch. “Also, we had a number of trees, which had been planted over the years, that were affecting turf quality. We realised we needed a plan on what trees to remove and, if we remove trees, how we keep the course interesting to play.”
Schneider was appointed in 2019.
“There is some legitimate history at Llanerch, with golf being played on the site late in the nineteenth century,” said Schneider. “The club also hosted the 1958 PGA Championship, so it’s a strong layout over very nice ground with a great mix of short and long holes, many of the half-par variety. However, the bunkers were worn out, the greens were a fraction of their original size and the course had lost both its polish and its identity... it was time for a facelift, and I was honoured that they reached out for our help.
“Philadelphia is one of the great golf cities in America and our goal was to give Llanerch a new, old-fashioned aesthetic that might distinguish the course from its neighbours,” said Schneider. “To that end, we wanted to do something different with the hazards, both in placement and in style, utilising contour and above-ground features over an abundance of sand. The bunkers we did build are deep, steep and best avoided. While leaving most of the existing putting surfaces intact, we also expanded all of the greens, some considerably, to reclaim lost space and in some cases added completely new hole locations. Combined with tree removal and fairway expansions and adjustments, these new hazards and hole locations should create a wide variety of shots and strategies on every hole.”
By approaching the project in two phases, the club was able to keep nine holes open at all times. The course is bisected by a road and the first phase of renovation work, which began in autumn 2019, addressed the nine holes on the clubhouse side of the road.
“On the clubhouse side, the eighth green needed to be completely rebuilt, so we started there and worked around to the other holes,” said Byrne. “In the early weeks of the project we could give Brian and his fellow designer, Blake Conant, time to work in the dirt and find the visual aesthetic they wanted for the course. It turned out better than we hoped, especially when you look at the work between the eighth and tenth green sites. Brian and Blake saw how they could expand the tenth green and tie in a quarry wall, which makes the land feel more connected.”
“Expanding the greens back to the edges of their fill pads along with improving the placement of greenside bunkers were key focuses,” said Schneider. “We were also aware of the budget and bunkers can often be the most expensive part of the project, so we decided to use more above-ground features to add interest to some of the flatter parts of the property. Last fall the most dramatic change was on the second hole, adding mounding down the right where trees were removed. The mounds are meant to give the player a different type of challenge when they hit a shot off line. They can still advance the ball, but it’s not going to be a simple shot when they are out of position.”
The second phase was completed in autumn 2020.
“This fall we continued work on the other side of Steel Road,” said Schneider. “The 300-yard fifteenth hole might be the biggest change where we removed the fairway bunkers and installed a mound that runs from the green diagonally through the fairway into the sixth hole. This feature helps connect the holes and tie the property together. The inspiration was the wall on the thirteenth hole at North Berwick. Also, we are creating a forward tee so that even players who don’t hit the ball as far can play forward and get to try to drive the ball up by the greenside mound.
“This has been a wonderful project and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity and the trust that we were given to create something unique for Llanerch. I hope that the process of discovery, getting to know the subtle nuances of their new course, is a long and enjoyable one for the members and I am confident that they’ll find a collection of holes and shots that they can’t experience anywhere else in the area.”
The renovated course will open for play in spring 2021.