Golf course architect Richard Mandell is approaching completion of the first phase of a restoration project at Lake Forest Country Club in Hudson, Ohio.
The course opened in 1930 and was thought by the club to be a Herbert Strong design.
“I searched for evidence of Strong, and that’s when I stumbled upon the Tom Bendelow connection that was first in the local Hudson Times newspaper,” said Mandell. “I cross-referenced that with the Cleveland Plain Dealer and found more articles about him being there at the opening.
“At my interview, I revealed to them that it was actually a Bendelow course and I showed them an original drawing.”
Mandell described the existing layout as narrow with very small greens. He said that over the years the course has experienced “piecemeal changes” which has made the course look nothing like the original drawing or the old aerial photographs that he has. Mandell referenced aerials from the late twenties, 1938, 1951, and every decade since in his work.
“It’s wide open. The first thing we did a few years ago was to remove over a thousand trees, then we did a renovation business plan and that led to phase one of the project.”
Phase one includes new fairway bunkers that reflected the original Bendelow style, fairway widening, drainage and installing a new irrigation system.
Construction, by TDI Golf, began in August 2018. Mike Kuhn & Associates is handling irrigation design and golf course superintendent Tom Bolon and his staff is providing support and input to the project. The first phase is expected to be complete within in the next few weeks.
“The look of the golf course is completely different to what they have seen before,” said Mandell. “What they had before was vanilla and bland. The bunkers over the years had evolved with no shape and not much character – they are flashed but not too severely.
“So, with Tom Bendelow in mind, we’re recapturing a completely new look for them. What they have now are grass-faced flat sand bunkers. We have photographs that show that even though it was built in the 1920s and 30s, it was very pre-Golden Age. There is now an abrupt, almost chocolate-drop mounding that surrounds the bunkers, with the bunkers looking just like they would back in the day.
“We’re digging out the bunkering and using that dirt to create surrounding mounds. We have a few bunkers with islands in them."
“The project tends towards restoration,” said Mandell. “The original Bendelow plan had about 150 bunkers scattered all over the place. The second hole, which is a straightaway par four, had six or seven bunkers randomly placed throughout the fairway. We’re not putting any bunkers in because it is too difficult a golf hole as it is – it would be nothing but penalty.
“We are widening fairways –the second is a good example – and clearing trees. We’re bringing in the rolling topography and making that more of a feature of the golf holes. The first hole is a short par five that you hit over a creek to a high point – almost like a turtleback fairway. It used to be a very narrow 25-yard-wide fairway with white pines along the left side. We cleared all those pines out and shifted the fairway to the left more and removed not only the white pines but trees that grew up along a little creek along that left side. We cleared everything out and now the fairway juts towards the creek and even though it is twice as wide as it was, it is much more challenging to keep the ball on the fairway because its going to be fast and firm. If you hit it too far left you can hit on the downside of the fairway, kick through the rough and into the creek, so we’re bringing the natural features in to play much more now in that regard.”
Mandell said the second phase of work will include the expansion of greens, surrounds and greenside bunkering. Phase three will be tee construction – Mandell completed a few tee boxes in the first phase, and will do more in the second phase, with the remainder in the final phase. Phase two and three will be completed in subsequent years.