Art Schaupeter has completed a renovation project at Westwood Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri.
The architect had completed a bunker renovation for the club in the late 1990s, while working with Keith Foster.
“When the bunkers were renovated twenty years ago, the focus was on improving their maintainability,” said Schaupeter. “St. Louis gets a fair amount of annual rainfall – it tends to come in heavy doses through the summer. These rain events are devastating to bunkers, especially if the sand is flashed up on the bunker face.
“To improve maintainability efficiency with the bunkers in the 1990s, they were shrunk down in size. The sand was kept on the bunker floor and the bunker faces were grassed with Zoysia, which would require less-frequent edging. This approach did a good job of reducing the maintenance impact, but since the sand in the bunkers is only in the floor area, it’s not visible as players approach the greens. Thus, the course loses a lot of its potential aesthetic appeal with these smaller, unseen bunkers.”
Schaupeter’s recent work addressed this by adding a liner under the sand, which enabled the club to control subgrade soil erosion so that the new sand wouldn’t get contaminated as quickly, if at all. “After the club’s superintendent Corey Witzman and I met with the various representatives at the Golf Industry Show, we decided to go with the Better Billy Bunker liner,” said Schaupeter.
“I wanted to address the maintainability issues and I also wanted to improve the aesthetic appeal by using the new ‘design tools’ of improved liner technology and improved sand availability. By flashing the sand up on the bunker face I would be able to create bunkers that would be seen by the players, improving the aesthetics of the golfing experience. The bunkers are generally smaller in size at Westwood, so I kept the shaping of the bunkers simple, with subtle lines of movement on the edges.
“I also went about reallocating the positions of bunkers, removing some of the greenside ones to add variety at the green while adding some fairway bunkers elsewhere to improve strategic considerations on the golf course.”
The project was not just a bunker renovation — severe erosion on the slopes of the drainage channel that ran along the length of the short par-five eighth hole were also repaired. The erosion improvement work was completed by Witzman and his team.
“Because this was going to impact the entire length of the hole along the right side, the decision was also made to completely redesign and rebuild the green,” said Schaupeter.
“The green was very small, only about 3,900 square feet, and it had a small front shelf with a general pitch from the front-edge back towards the middle. With the approach shot being uphill and with a fronting bunker, it was an impossible hole location. The club couldn’t afford to have a third of the green being virtually unpinnable.
“Vegetation had also grown up over the years to the point that it created a virtual wall along the right edge of the fairway that would serve to keep players and carts away from the edge. Any ball hit to the right was instantly lost in the deep vegetation.
“The first part of the renovation project was the complete removal of the vegetated ‘wall’ of trees, which opened the view of the creek channel and opened airflow and visibility throughout the hole,” continued Schaupeter. “Stabilising the slope removed the liability concern that the club had to worry about while also creating some additional playable space along the right and reducing the frequency of lost balls that the players dealt with previously.”
Three oak trees short-right of the green have been removed and replaced with two small bunkers cut into the upslope. “The fairway approach was expanded down the slope to the right of the green, and the fronting bunker was put back in at the front-left of the green,” said Schaupeter. “The green was then enlarged with the surface shaped so that the front plateau above the bunker was shaped and sized to accommodate an effective and challenging hole location.
“I like that we were able to take probably the most unpopular hole and make it really interesting – it will be fun for all members to play with all of the options they will now be able to consider,” he added.
“I am very happy about the improved visual impact of the bunkers on the golfing experience. The members have been amazed at how visible they are now, even as you gaze across the property from the various high spots. It has completely changed the visual character of the course.”
This article is based on material that first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.