Golf Course Architecture - Issue 70, October 2022

TEE BOX Davis takes Thunderbird back to the 50s Tripp Davis has completed renovation work at Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, host of the 1955 Ryder Cup. “Our approach was to use a classic bunker style, give the fairways nice pitch and roll, give the greens interesting strategic contouring, and allow grass and trees to be the dominant part of the landscape, which is not often found in a desert setting,” said Davis, who began the project in 2021 with work on the practice area and opening three holes. “We want the golf course to look like it is refined, but also look and feel like the design came from the 1950s. “We took some cues from the original location of tees, bunkers and greens. The original design was evidently more classic in how angles were important to playing off the tee and into greens and we restored that in places.” Playability was a key objective for the club. “We accomplished this objective by placing bunkers to more readily challenge longer hitters, while giving the higher handicappers plenty of options to avoid bunkers and water,” said Davis. “We developed subtle angles into greens that allow all players an open approach, while shaping greens so that a good angle and distance control are often needed to get close to many pins. Greens have a lot of subtle movement so better players are challenged to match up speed with the correct line, but we kept them from being so severe that two-putting is a difficult challenge.” Davis has added more tees to offer a wider range of lengths to hit from. “We developed mowing lines so the fairways extend through all the tees where possible, so players don’t look down a hole and see a lot of different tee boxes,” he said. Some of the course’s water features were removed. “In the interest of getting back to a more classic look and feel, we removed some of the more artificial waterfalls and parts of lakes that didn’t fit well into the landscape,” said Davis. The regrassing portion of the project allowed Davis to bring the native soil back to the surface to provide firmer playing conditions. “We did this in a strategic way so players can use the firm fairway and the pitch and roll to work the ball into position, but they will have to be aware of how this can subtly move the ball out of position,” said Davis. The renovated course will reopen to members in early November. Photo: Tripp Davis A classic bunker style was designed to return the course’s 1950s character 39