The second phase of renovation work is complete at Montclair Golf Club in New Jersey.
The work is part of a project covering the club’s 36 holes, which is being overseen by Brian Schneider of Renaissance Golf Design alongside Michael Campbell, the club’s director of golf course operations.
Tom Bendelow originally designed an 18-hole course for Montclair, which opened in 1899. In 1928, Donald Ross redesigned the course (today’s First and Second Nines) and added the Third Nine. Charles Banks added the Fourth Nine six years later.
The first phase of renovation work at Montclair was completed earlier this year and included the creation of a new fifth hole to improve the overall design and to also allow for the construction of a new short game area. The second phase focused on bunkers, greens and tees on the club’s Third Nine.
The team made use of historic aerial photographs, the oldest from 1930, to guide the project. “We’re not going back exactly to 1930 but very, very close,” said Campbell. “We are redoing the bunkers and rebuilt four greens [the third, fifth, sixth and ninth] on the Third Nine. Those greens that we’re not redoing are being recontoured along the perimeters to regain lost pin positions. And we’re rebuilding tees. It’s all being done with a 1930s flavour, but to modern specifications.”
Bunkers have been rebuilt with Better Billy Bunker lining. Some have been removed as they did not reflect the Ross style, while others were added to increase playability, aesthetics, and challenge.
“I think Ross operated under the philosophy that even a high handicapper wants to have fun, and there’s something fun about hitting over a bunker and making the shot,” said Campbell. “We’re also taking the short-grass lines and bringing them back to the sand line: we want to encourage the ball to release from these short-grass areas and release into the sand rather than get caught in the long rough.
“When the ball lands [on the greens], it will keep rolling, so the intended approach to the green will be much different. Some people might say widening the fairway perimeters will make the course easier. But back then the ground game was an important aspect, probably more so than in the air.
“People will have to think about these characteristics, and in my opinion, it makes a far more interesting game than tree-lined, tight corridors with the only option to hit the ball straight.”
The Third Nine is expected to reopen for the US Memorial Day weekend 2021.
The third phase of the project will focus on the Second Nine and is scheduled to begin in late July 2021. The final phase, scheduled for 2022, will see the restoration of the Fourth Nine, where the Banks holes have notably different characteristics – huge elevated greens and big, flat-bottomed bunkers – to the 27 originally designed by Ross.
“Regardless of the original architect, our work scheme will remain the same – wide fairways, correct bunkers, grass lines corrected, perimeter lines enlarged, and new tees,” said Campbell.