Town & Country Club in Saint Paul, USA, is continuing to make progress on a long-term restoration project, following a master plan created by golf course architect Jeff Mingay.
The club played host to the first ever round of golf in Minnesota in 1893, and the course occupies the same location today. Mingay said: “It’s a very unique, beautiful property on the bluffs adjacent to the Mississippi River, featuring stunning views of downtown Minneapolis.”
The project, which has been in progress for three years and Mingay expects to last at least three more, aims to enhance the distinctiveness of a club which has many interesting features, such as back-to-back par threes at the second and third holes, and a closing four-hole stretch that comprises three par fives followed by a par three eighteenth hole.
Work includes improving teeing areas by adding length where available and forward tees; adjusting fairway mowing patterns, simplifying lines and adding width; removing trees; and restoring the original sizes and shapes of green surfaces. “This has reintroduced some interesting pin positions and, in turn, presents more variety day-to-day throughout the golf course,” said Mingay.
“Obviously, the golf course and features of the property have evolved significantly over the past 125 years,” said Mingay. “Most important in this process, we’re ensuring that the golf course continues to function properly and can be maintained agronomically up to contemporary expectations, and at the same time using this opportunity to also restore an architectural character that’s consistent with the club’s unique history and design pedigree.”
Tree removal has been met with some opposition. “Town & Country Club was originally routed through an indigenous oak savannah,” said Mingay. “In its early days, the course featured beautiful stands of native oak and other indigenous specimens complemented by open space that presented awesome views across a beautiful, rolling property. Superintendent Bill Larson, who’s been at T&C for over two decades, has been restoring this character by removing declining, damaged and diseased trees, along with non-indigenous plants, over the past few years, to great effect. Many long-time members are simply used to T&C being a heavily treed golf course. But, T&C was only heavily treed over the past four or five decades, or so. Remember, the course is 125 years old. For most of its history it was comparatively open, featuring native species.”
The tree removal has also benefitted turf health, said Mingay, by increasing the course’s exposure to sunlight and wind, and eliminating root competition.
Mingay is keen to restore some of the uniqueness that has been masked over the years. For example, he is restoring a green from the original 1893 six-hole course. “This green was existing – it’s all there – among a grove of trees that’s been removed. It’s about 140 yards off the back tee at the current par-five sixth hole. The idea is to present a fun option to play to this green as a nineteenth, or betting hole, from those tees at the sixth. You can drive at the par five sixth, then play ‘Little Six’, as some members are calling it, before continuing with your round.”
All work is being handled by Mingay, Larson and his golf course maintenance team.