In 1916, Donald Ross was hired by Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, to design a championship golf course. His layout opened for play in 1919 and, the following year, hosted the US Open, won by Ted Ray.
In the ninety-nine years since, the layout has frequently hosted the world’s best golfers – with four US Opens, two PGA Championships, two US Senior Opens and a US Amateur to its name. It will host next year’s US Junior Amateur Championship as well as the 2021 Solheim Cup.
In that period many more architects have left their mark on the course: AW Tillinghast and Dick Wilson in 1930; George and Tom Fazio in 1978; and Arthur Hills on a number of occasions from the 1980s to the 2000s. In 2014, Hills associate Shawn Smith completed a twelve-month project to regrass the course and restore the shape of Ross’s design for greens.
In 2017, the club turned its attention to bunkers, and hired Andrew Green for the work. Referencing original drawings by Ross, as well as notes made ahead of the 1931 US Open and numerous archive photographs, Green pieced together the original intentions of the design. He shared his findings with the club, and the scope of the project expanded.
Green’s plans called for new holes on land adjacent to the course, plus renovations to existing holes. Work started in May 2017 and was complete by spring 2018, with the new holes opening on US Memorial Day weekend (26-27 May). GCA spoke with Green to find out more.
What has your work at Inverness Club involved?
The project began as a bunker renovation but evolved after I showed them how we could reintroduce the original Donald Ross vision of holes six, seven, eight, and thirteen, without closing the course. We did this by building new holes along the southern end of the property that was previously a farm field.
I made the new third a long par three that represented the original Ross eighth. The new par-four fourth used inspired concepts from the original seventh. And the new par-three fifth was modelled after the original par-three thirteenth. We continued the theme with a new eighth green that mimicked the strategy of the original short par-four sixth.
To make it all tie together, we also pushed the second green back 100 yards to a natural high point. That green was replicated using lasered survey information, restoring the feel of the Ross bunkers from the 1920 and 1931 US Opens, which helped to pull the entire course together. It also allowed us to reclaim some critical green area.
What were the major challenges?
The two biggest challenges of the project were the weather over the winter and limiting the impact on the membership. The weather over the winter just slowed our final work. The club had been able to do some project work during past winters, but the cold temperatures just did not provide that opportunity this time around. This meant that the final three holes of bunkers had to be done in spring 2018. It also reduced our ability to complete the final green expansions. This is primarily on eleven, fourteen, and seventeen. We will get that work done, but it will likely have to wait until after the US Junior Amateur Championship in 2019.
Keeping the course open and reducing the impact to the membership was a challenge, but I think the entire team embraced the moment and what we were asked to do. We created something special and did not sacrifice our product or cause the club any loss of revenue. That was huge for everyone. I think the membership enjoyed seeing and showing their guests the progress we made.
Who have you collaborated with on the project?
The team at McDonald and Sons Golf Course Builders was brought in to do the construction. We had an awesome group including Erik McDonald, Ryan Cox, and Steven Turner – those guys made the world go around. We worked together to review documents and put the history back into Inverness. Miguel Herrera was an important shaper on the project. He is an extremely talented operator and a person who respects the architecture and what we are trying to do. We all worked together to create the best methods to get the proper styling of the project. It was tremendous fun!
Michael Kuhn, Jr., was a valuable resource for the irrigation portion of the project. He was a master at making the new work fit into the existing system and with some significant changes to the way the golf course played, it was critical to have his knowledge allow us to shift things around in the heat of the summer without losing water to the adjacent areas.
Golf course superintendent John Zimmers and his team made us all look good by managing the new turf to a high level. Taking new sod into the depth of winter and getting the course ready to play into spring was an enormous task and could not have been done without their hard work and John's leadership.
What are your reflections on the project now the new holes are open?
I want to thank the membership of Inverness for their trust in me, their love of their club, and their passion for the game of golf. It was the most exciting and fun project I have done, and it all started with this vision to return to their roots.
The wealth of history they have is second to none. They are great people, it is a wonderful club, and they deserve to showcase the amazing course Ross set on the property almost 100 years ago.
Getting another major championship would be amazing but getting the golf course right for the membership was my greatest achievement.