John LaFoy completes three-hole project at Bent Brook

  • Bent Brook
    Mike Klemme

    John LaFoy has completed work on three holes of the Windmill nine at Bent Brook Golf Club in Alabama, including designing a Biarritz green for the seventh hole

  • Bent Brook
    Mike Klemme

    On Windmill’s sixth hole, LaFoy has created a Redan-style green

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Golf course architect John LaFoy has completed a three-hole project on the Windmill nine at Bent Brook Golf Club in Birmingham, Alabama.

The club has 27 holes, comprising the Brook, Graveyard and Windmill nines, which originally opened in 1988. Holes, especially on the Windmill nine, were built according to the property restraints at the time, which made designing some of them “somewhat awkward”, according to LaFoy.

In recent years, club owner Jimmy Lee has bought property next to the Windmill nine and has used it as an opportunity to revise some Windmill holes with the help of an architect.

Lee selected LaFoy, who was asked to design a version of a Redan green for the short par-four sixth hole, and a version of a Biarritz green for the relatively short par-three seventh hole. LaFoy also worked on the par-five eighth hole.

“Just about every architect has designed Redan-type greens whether they realise it or not,” said LaFoy. “It is a very strategic green, running diagonally – usually right to left – with a significant slope in the putting surface. The rear third, or half, of the putting surface slopes away from the line of play towards the back-left. There is usually a significantly deep bunker on the left side, and a bunker or two short-right and one located further back on the right. When the flagstick is in the middle or back of the putting surface, it tempts the golfer to fly the ball directly over the bunker towards the hole. Because of the slope of the green, away from the line of flight, it is difficult to hold the ball near the flagstick or even on the putting surface. More often, the best approach is to play a running shot to the front portion of the green and let the ball run to the hole. Safe shots to the right run the risk of landing in a bunker and playing out to a surface that runs away from the flight of the ball.”

LaFoy’s Redan-like green has a bunker to the left side that is not particularly deep in order to fit with the style of Windmill’s other greenside bunkers and to ensure the recovery shot is not too penalising.

“This green also has a false front,” said LaFoy. “Since the hole plays slightly uphill, I thought that it was important for the golfer to have visual contact with the putting surface from the landing area. That is particularly important when you are asking the golfer to land the ball on the front portion of the green if they intend to hit a running shot.”

Making use of the recently acquired land, LaFoy has straightened and stretched the hole from 367 yards to 440 yards, adding a very slight right-to-left dogleg.

LaFoy’s Biarritz green at the seventh has a four-foot-deep swale between the two putting platforms. “Both putting surfaces are mildly sloped, as once the ball is on the proper level, the putt should not be terribly difficult,” he said. “Other Biarritz greens are flanked by two long and narrow bunkers, but here, the long bunkers were cut in half – making four of them – to facilitate surface drainage from the swale that separates the two platforms.

“The rear platform, unlike many Biarritz greens, is kicked up a little with a significant centre-rear mound to help hold shots that are in most cases hit with a long iron or fairway metal. The hole plays a little over 240 yards from the back tee and offers great flexibility in length as it can also be played from as little as 110 yards.”

Both the sixth and seventh greens were seeded with Auburn University Victory bentgrass to provide firm and fast putting surfaces.

LaFoy’s work also included the par-five eighth, which he has lengthened from 494 yards to 562.

“The hole featured a pond that stretched from the left of the landing area to the green,” he said. “Between the pond and the landing area was a huge bunker that was 101 yards long. That was shortened and made into three smaller bunkers, although they are pretty large. Moving the green back and to the right 50 yards not only made the length of the second shot more challenging, but made the lay-up shot much more difficult, as bunkers were added on the right side of the fairway and out-of-bounds to the left. Like the other greens on the course, this one is large, with two bunkers on the left-front and one on the right.”

LaFoy was assisted on the project by contractor Sur-Line Turf, shapers Double Eagle Golf, Mickey Smith, golf professional at Bent Brook, and golf course superintendent Johnny Perry.