Rees Jones is under way with a renovation of the seventeenth hole at LedgeRock Golf Club in Mohnton, Pennsylvania, with the club planning to reopen the hole by mid-May.
Jones, who originally designed LedgeRock in 2006, is working with course superintendent Alan FitzGerald and the club’s in-house crew.
The par-four seventeenth has a sharp, uphill approach, with players hitting over a cross bunker to a green nestled into a steep hillside. “In many ways it has always played as a half-par hole, a tough par four for long hitters and a par five for shorter hitters,” said Jones. “And the cross bunker was an issue.”
That cross bunker is being replaced with a single small bunker on the right, creating a generous lay-up area short and left of the putting surface.
The green complex is also subject to various changes with Jones having designed greenside chipping areas right and left to allow players a variety of recovery shots to replace a greenside bunker and bluegrass rough. Beyond the green, a swale has been created to catch approach shots that would have ran past the green into thick rough.
“On a hole this long and this uphill, players naturally take a bit of extra club to be sure they ‘get there’. But that downhill chip from the rough over the green at seventeen was very difficult,” said FitzGerald, who was also involved in the original construction of LedgeRock. “Now they can putt from back there. They can putt from everywhere around the green, including short left. Better players chip, but that’s a tough shot off a tight bentgrass surface. The green surface has not been touched. But everything around it has been radically expanded, regraded and softened to give players the chance to recover, if they happen to miss the target.
“We made the decision to sod these renovated areas with bentgrass, to move things along schedule-wise. The plan was to get it open by 1 May, but I think mid-May is more realistic. Either way, we’re only losing maybe a month of play on the hole.”
Work has been funded via voluntary membership donations, which has led to a speedy start to the project. “LedgeRock is a different sort of place,” said FitzGerald. “They aren’t much for lengthy meetings and drawn-out procedures here. People are really invested in this place. I suppose that informs the way things get done around here.”
“We had thought about trying to do the seventeenth when we renovated hole ten last spring, but for several reasons it didn’t make sense,” said general manager Garry Heller. “One reason we pulled the trigger this winter was Alan himself. The work his team did at the par-three tenth was so well received – and under budget, I might add. Once we had gone over the project at seventeen in real detail, to confirm all the numbers were solid, the members didn’t see any reason to wait.”
The weather has cooperated, even if the prevailing national health situation has not.
“We were well underway by the time the Covid-19 situation hit home here in the US,” said Heller. “But golf is one of the few sports where social distancing can be effectively maintained. After consulting with Alan, his crews, Rees Jones and his lieutenant Bryce Swanson, we continued full speed ahead. There are extra precautions to be taken. But outside, on your own, working a bulldozer is about the safest place to be these days.”
The second phase of renovations will be undertaken in October and includes the significant widening and regrading of the landing area on seventeen, which is flanked left by one of LedgeRock’s many brooks.
“The grading on the seventeenth fairway will accomplish two things,” said FitzGerald. “We’re making the fairway more concave, so off-center drives will kick into more advantageous positions. But we’ll also be building up the left side of the fairway to add more landing area. When it’s done, that fairway will be one-third larger.”