Golf course architect Jay Smith is preparing for a renovation of the Hyde Park Golf Club in Jacksonville, Florida.
Smith’s first task has been to research the design history of the Hyde Park course.
“It has been long storied that Donald Ross was the original designer, and Stanley Thompson did the construction,” said Smith. “No plans are archived. Both the Ross and Thompson societies give Ross credit, but neither can provide any documentation of Ross’s involvement. Only ads, articles and publications mention that Stanley ‘built’ the course.
“I have spent an inordinate amount of time searching newspaper archives looking for any information regarding Hyde Park Golf Club. The Jacksonville Historical Society sent me the residential plots around Hyde Park from 1926. On the residential plans, it labelled the club as Hyde Park Country Club Golf Course. Once I revised my search term, an article appeared from The Miami News from May 1926, stating that Frank Thompson, Stanley’s brother and business partner, was ‘designing and building the Hyde Park Country Club Links’, which by any account was his brother Stanley doing the actual routing and feature designs.”
Smith received help with his research from golf journalist Ron Whitten and fellow golf course architects Ian Andrew and Jeff Mingay, who sourced various materials. “One ad from March 1925 states that Stanley was laying out three courses in Florida, and Hyde Park was one of the three named,” said Smith. “Another ad from December 1926 states the course opened on the fourth and was built by Stanley. All the evidence points to Stanley. I’m still piecing together the history of the club, but this latest find fills a large void in that timeline. It’s become quite the rabbit hole so far!”
Smith is currently working on renderings for the project, which is being phased over three years – six holes at a time – so the club can be flexible with its budget.
A renovation of the clubhouse will be completed in 2021 by local building architect, Robert Gray.
“We will focus mainly on greens and bunkers,” said Smith. “Minor fairway and tee work will also be completed as well as adding native areas and emphasising maintenance on the ‘golf’ surfaces. Canopies will be native sand and sunlit areas will be various native vegetation.
“The club’s irrigation system had failed, so it was necessary to use phase one funds for a new high-density polyethylene system. MacCurrach Golf Construction is more than halfway complete with irrigation work. Clearing and mow-line adjustments are also taking place.”
Smith is working with the owners to ensure irrigation goes in accurately, as it is being looped around proposed greens. The architect will also do the shaping and aim to get greens as close as possible to the original contours.
“Greens were renovated in the 1970s by the owner,” said Smith. “No plans were drawn for those changes – so determining authenticity in features will be difficult. I’m hoping the 1970s renovation didn’t destroy the clay drain-tile.”
Although Smith and the club are making use of historic materials, the project is more of a renovation than a restoration.
“The oldest evidence of the layout we can find is from an aerial taken in 1943,” said Smith. “We will be restoring those green lines as per the aerial, and the contours by what’s left of green pads. I’m hoping that during the process of stripping the greens more about the original contours is revealed.
“We don’t know what changed between 1926 and 1943 but I’ve discovered a couple of bunkers that aren’t on any aerials or satellite images. Those will be replaced to the best of the evidence.
“Other modifications like green sizes and the number of bunkers are necessary because of traffic and maintenance budgets. Greens are larger than the 1943 sizes, and the number of bunkers will be reduced, as a few are not necessary when considering the club’s budget. If anything can be considered as ‘restored’, it shall be angles and some type of strategy.
“The course needs to be revitalised, and the classic North Florida golf feel needs to be returned to this great course.”