Kenwood completes course renovation to mark 90-year anniversary

  • Kenwood
    Seana Hue

    Kenwood Country Club has reopened its Kendale course following a renovation by Fry/Straka

  • Kenwood
    Seana Hue

    Sightlines have been opened on several holes, including the 600-yard par-five fourth

  • Kenwood
    David Bell

    “The fairway bunkers are characterised by ‘low entry and high exit’,” says Tom Morand

  • Kenwood
    David Bell

    The club celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2020

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Kenwood Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, has reopened its Kendale course following a renovation by golf course design firm Fry/Straka.

The project was prompted by the club’s need to update the irrigation system for both its Kendale and Kenview courses. The Kendale renovation began in August 2019, with Fry/Straka principal Jason Straka saying: “The club wanted to explore what other improvements should be done ahead of time, or in concert with the irrigation installation. Refurbished bunkers were on their list, as was improved drainage and removing overgrown trees.”

Renovation work was able to progress during the pandemic as no restrictions were imposed by local government. The first nine holes reopened in June and the second nine in August.

Tom Morand, vice-chair of the club’s improvement committee, said there have been many comments from members since completion, and “all of them have been favourable”. He added that most feedback has been about “the bunkers, particularly the fairway bunkers”.

“The first thing you notice is that on any hole, every bunker on that hole can be seen. The fairway bunkers are characterised by ‘low entry and high exit’, allowing for enhanced visibility and an increased degree of difficulty in advancing the golf ball. They have been strategically placed, resulting in many risk-reward situations, tempting you to clear the bunker, but if you don’t, you pay the price,” said Morand.

“Several holes have also undergone fairway cuts – including the fourth, fifth, tenth, thirteenth and sixteenth – to enhance sight lines and open up the hole. Most notable is the fourth, a difficult 600-yard par five that allows one to visualise all 10 bunkers between tee and green.”

Over 800 large trees were removed as part of the renovation. “The trees were choking the course,” said Straka. “Yes, they made the rough and fairways much thinner and susceptible to disease, as well as shading out many tees and greens, but they also narrowed the fairways and disabled so much of the original strategy of the course. With tree removal, we were able to widen the fairways back to what they historically had been in most cases.

“This made a profound impact when restoring much of the original bunkering, which strategically cut into the wide fairways at different angles and distances. This is what brought back the strategy.”

Fry/Straka also rebuilt all the course’s greens. “The restoration of the greens is significant,” said Straka. “The slopes were so severe that many interesting pin locations behind bunkers, or ridges, had completely become obsolete. The original greens were laser scanned and rebuilt with all the same nuances, but just at softer slopes in critical pin locations. This will result in hole locations not seen on Kendale for 30 or more years.”

Morand added: “There are fairway surrounds on each green complex that adds to the beauty of the golf course and provides the golfer with interesting shot options when the green is missed, including putts, chip shots, bump and runs, and flop shots.

“All greens have also had drainage systems installed resulting in a consistent performance from one green to another.”

Work has also been done on surface drainage to encourage firm and fast playing conditions.

The renovated Kendale course will officially be reopened next year at an event to celebrate the club’s 90th anniversary, which was this year.