Golf course architect James Cervone is collaborating with professional golfer Rocco Mediate on renovation work at Greensburg Country Club in Pennsylvania, USA.
Cervone has been working with the club since 2005, including developing a master plan for a bunker renovation in 2007-2008.
“In 2009, Rocco Mediate – who grew up in Greensburg and learned to play at the course – was home visiting family and wanted to meet with me,” said Cervone. “We spent a few days together reviewing the master plan I developed and discussed some of the ideas Rocco always had for the golf course.
“At that time, Rocco and I did discuss partnering up to do some design work together, but it never materialised for one reason or another. We did keep in touch from time to time and earlier this year we decided to embark on partnering up on design work. He has impressed me with his knowledge and ideas regarding golf architecture. He is a big fan of the classic courses and has an amazing memory of course features and overall details. We met a couple of times this summer to review potential projects, and also spent time speaking with the owners of Greensburg about potential improvements. It is the perfect project for us to begin with, especially with Rocco’s true connection to the course and this area of Western Pennsylvania where he is from originally.”
The club contacted Cervone in the autumn of 2017 to review the greens at holes six, fifteen and sixteen and to consider augmenting the percentage of slopes and increase the pin locations.
“The work includes addressing the putting surfaces on three greens and re-working a portion of the outside of the green on fifteen,” said Cervone. “Also, after a presentation Rocco and I did with the owners, it was also agreed to include some tree clearing on hole five as well.
Golf contractor Henderson Company started work this month. Each green can be completed within a three-to-four-day period, including stripping the existing sod, re-floating the surface and re-laying the sod. The sixteenth green has already been completed.
“Our intention for this project is to improve the putting surfaces on the three greens and create additional pin placements throughout the greens,” said Cervone. “Also, with the tree clearing on the fifth, Rocco wanted to bring the hole back to what he remembered growing up. Clearing the trees and opening up the hole will result in improved agronomics and playability while also creating better aesthetics for the hole.
“Based on many conversations throughout the master planning process, and further involving Rocco in the project, a general concept was developed on how best to augment the putting surface. Each of the three greens involved different circumstances, but ultimately the adjustments in percentage of slopes will be achieved through adding new root-zone mix – matched to the existing mix in the greens – versus lowering existing areas of the surfaces.
“Realising the age of the golf course, and by probing the existing profile of the greens, we did confirm the overall consistencies or inconsistencies in the depth of existing rootzone mix. In most cases, this existing depth of mix would allow for little to no availability to lower areas of the surface and retain a minimum depth of approximately ten inches. This is especially an issue as we are augmenting the surfaces and not coring out the greens to change the sub-grades.
“The main issue in raising areas of the surface to augment the percentage of slope is how best to tie back in to the outside edge of the greens. Where appropriate we also tightened up the transitions or slopes within reason from an area of higher elevation to areas of lower elevation.
“Within the framework of re-floating the overall putting surface, we looked to create large enough pinnable areas on the green consisting of one to two percent slopes. The work done on hole sixteen will result in creating three new pinnable areas with multiple pin placements versus one area on the existing green with only two to three pin placements.
“Although we began with an overall concept for adjusting the putting surfaces, without detailed base material available to work with, the process includes me making several site visits to work hand-in-hand with the contractor in the field. Once the green is stripped, the contractor hauls in the additional mix and begins to rough in the changes to the surface. I review the general concept of the changes, tie-ins, and confirm percentage of slopes using a smart level.
“Inevitably, certain adjustments to the concept must be made to achieve the end goals of the improvements which must be done in the field with boots on the ground. Careful attention is paid to both the design and practical circumstances of undergoing such a project. And, all the while I must make sure the owners understand and agree with any derivations.
“Proper planning leading up to any project goes a long way toward avoiding any major changes; however, golf architects are much attuned to the artistic components involved in a project while being logical and working within a specified budget. Some refinement of initial ideas is what takes a project to the next level and provides an even better final product.”
Mediate said: “I couldn’t be happier and prouder than to be a part of the restoration at Greensburg. It’s where I learned the game and I want to bring it back to what it was in the old days and with Jimmy’s help and guidance that’s just what will happen!”
Greensburg opened in 1904, originally as a nine-hole course designed, according to the club, by P. B. Graham of Carnoustie, Scotland. Cervone points out that there is some recognition to Tom Bendelow in Geoffrey Cornish and Ron Whitten’s book The Architects of Golf. Over time with the purchase of additional property, the course expanded to a full eighteen. Five of the original holes remain largely intact.