Golf Course Architecture - Issue 62: October 2020

64 Once the new “world class” clubhouse was complete, and with the club’s status on the rise, attention turned to the course. “We said ‘we’ve gone this far, let’s not stop’,” explains Trainer. On the promise of returning the layout to a standard worthy of its past glories, Columbine hired Rees Jones and his associate Greg Muirhead to develop a new master plan. Their goal was to provide a course that would test the best in the game – Columbine has over 200 single digit golfers, of which nearly 20 have plus handicaps – while also appealing to everyone else. “Our initial question to the designers was ‘can you make this a championship facility?’,” says Bryan Heim, the club’s director of golf. “Make it a little harder for those who have a low index – that’s an important part of the club. But at the same time, we want to be a family club, so it must be fun and enjoyable for everybody else playing the game.” The primary focus was to address issues with the course’s bunkers. “We had widespread dissatisfaction with the bunkers,” says Trainer. “They typically washed out after every heavy storm. We had mud in the bottom and ragged edges around the tops. If you went into a bunker, oftentimes it was a penalty stroke.” “They were overly penal,” adds Muirhead. “Very large, and very deep.” And to make matters worse, their location meant shorter hitters and higher handicap players were more likely to find the hazards than the club’s better players. Right from the opening hole, and in many other instances throughout the course, bunkers were positioned on each side of the fairway at the same distance from the tee, creating a pinch point. This removed much of the strategy, forcing most players to simply lay up with an iron. Jones and Muirhead went back to the drawing board and evaluated every one of the club’s 80 bunkers. They returned with a plan that saw locations changed to provide a strategic test and a more balanced challenge. The club appointed contractor Duininck Golf, and work began in September 2019. “We’ve introduced cross bunkers and carry bunkers again to give people options on how they want to play the hole,” says Muirhead. “And with most of these bunkers if you go in them you can still have a legitimate recovery shot. “They’re all in the right spots now. And it’s interesting that the players who end up in them don’t complain. They feel it’s fair – they had plenty of fairway, but just didn’t hit the right shot.” “We challenge the everyday player as well as the better player,” adds Jones. “We’ve introduced cross bunkers and carry bunkers again to give people options on how they want to play the hole”