Forse Design has completed a bunker restoration project on the Donald Ross-designed course at Congress Lake Club in Hartville, Ohio.
The project has involved rebuilding and restoring bunkers to a Ross style, with architect Jim Nagle using original tracings and old aeriel photographs to re-establish their original placements. In some cases, multiple small bunkers have been replaced with a single large bunker that was evident in the original design. Some bunkers not found on the original tracings are being filled in.
Forse Design’s master plan also proposed greens expansion, tree management, the reinstatement of original fairway widths and work on water hazards.
The club’s original course opened in 1896, a nine-hole layout designed by a hotelier, an English steel executive and a railroad surveyor. In 1919, new land was acquired and Willie Park Jr was selected to build an 18-hole course, which opened in 1923. A few years later, Congress Lake’s directors purchased another parcel of land and hired Donald Ross to redesign and extend Park’s layout. The Ross course opened in 1930 and the design of its greens has remained unaltered since.
“Time, plantings, well-intending greens chairpersons, and nature had changed the playability, shot value, and character of the course,” said Warren Hackett, the club’s historian. “Brooks were covered and morphed to ponds. In some instances, bunkers were shallowed with clay bases and re-sanded, causing drainage and maintenance issues. Some bunker shaping occurred to make them more consistent with other holes.
The master plan was originally approved in December 2016.
“Funding to bring the project to fruition was not there,” said Hackett. “Our greens superintendent, Bob Gecik, and his staff, as part of yearly maintenance, could accomplish some of the work. However, due to lack of funding, this was to be a long-term ongoing project.
“We received some help with tree maintenance from Mother Nature. She offered a few significant wind sheers and low-level tornadoes. Bob did fantastic work enlarging putting surfaces to more original sizes. He has helped restore some of the original fairway margins.
“In December 2019, a small group of members proposed a matching gift to fund the bunker restoration. The board took it to the shareholders. It was enthusiastically supported.”
Construction work – by Forefront Construction, and including the installation of the Better Billy Bunker lining systems – began immediately after the shareholders meeting.
“The new depth of the bunkers will challenge members,” said Hackett. “Some are more severe, and running through a bunker is no longer possible. I am excited for the players to see the restoration of a significant mound to the front-right of our fourth green. Years ago, the bunker was replaced by a mound. I believe the mound to be a fantastic visual and playability challenge.
“The re-establishment of run-off areas will also propose new playability challenges. Previously long, overseeded bluegrass eliminated any chance for run-off.”