Robert McNeil nears completion of bunker restoration at Kernwood CC

  • Kernwood
    Courtesy of Northeast Golf Company

    Robert McNeil of Northeast Golf Company is nearing completion of a bunker restoration at Kernwood Country Club in Massachusetts

  • Kernwood
    Courtesy of Northeast Golf Company

    Architect’s work aims to respect Donald Ross design while improving course character and strategy

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Robert McNeil of Northeast Golf Company is nearing completion of a bunker restoration at Kernwood Country Club in Salem, Massachusetts.

McNeil has been Kernwood’s consulting architect since 2003 and, over this period, has provided design services and short- and long-range master planning for several projects. “All of our work has been driven by the objective to recapture the Donald Ross character that had gotten tired, or lost, over the years since the course’s inception in 1914,” he said.

Prior to the bunker project, around 1,000 trees were removed. “Our continuous study of the course coupled with a pointed USGA report, prompted the execution of a very aggressive tree management plan, further exposing lost lines of play, fairway contours and lost features,” said McNeil.

“With many of the planted trees removed, the bunker project became a priority. With the help of the original drawings for 11 holes and some wonderful aerials from the 1950s we were able to develop a restoration plan that both respected the original design and improved the character and strategy throughout the course.

“For our current project, work has included constructing 44 new bunkers, removing a few and reshaping several into grassy catchment areas and pitch areas. With original Ross drawings available for many of the holes we were able to carefully interpret the plans and locate and shape the features accordingly.”

The architect also designed many pitch areas, fall offs and hollows, and expanded fairways to add strategy and highlight the new work.

“The latest work, recapturing the Ross bunkering throughout the property, has exceeded expectations,” said McNeil. “The work of Country Golf, led by Jerry and Jim Demers and the tireless efforts of golf course superintendent John Eggleston and his staff have resulted in a new set of bunkers that now bring the classic era styling back to the playing experience at Kernwood CC.”

The bunker restoration, which began in October, is expected to be complete before Thanksgiving on 26 November.

“Kernwood CC is a hidden gem often lost in the shadows of its more well-known neighbour and Ross layout Salem CC,” said McNeil. “This is no longer the case, with impeccable conditions, bunkering and strategy now embracing the early Ross style and 360-degree views of the Danvers River and out to Rams Horn Channel.”