Golf Course Architecture - Issue 73, July 2023

74 REPORT A portfolio of renovation work at US championship venues including The Country Club, Hazeltine, Torrey Pines and Bethpage Black saw Rees Jones inheriting his father’s title as the Open Doctor. Now, demand for his pre-tournament surgery is gaining momentum in the East. Jones’ first project in Japan was completed in 2011, at Ibaraki Country Club near the port city of Osaka. The club’s West course had been selected to host the 2013 Panasonic Open and its members wanted an architect who they could trust to get the course tournament-ready. Jones says, “Ibaraki approached us to see if we would be interested in doing a complete rebuild of the existing golf course. The club had a proud history of hosting the Japan Open, but they had fallen out of the sequence.” “Over the years, tournament officials had determined that the course was becoming outdated for professional players,” adds Jones’ design associate Bryce Swanson. “The existing course layout had dual greens and the club wanted to convert to single greens with more strategic variety.” Jones and Swanson added back tees for distance, reviewed bunker placements to provide players with different challenges and redesigned the greens with new angles and orientation, along with introducing chipping areas in their surrounds. “We really tried to mix it up in terms of what was being asked of the golfers,” says Swanson. “Using the existing layout, we created a new course experience which resulted in a very exciting finish at the 2013 Panasonic Open.” “The closing hole is a par five where they can make eagle, birdie or get in trouble,” says Jones. “It was very well received by all the players and the scores weren’t overly low. It’s a really good finish – the seventeenth is the hardest par three on the course – and it really made their muscles tighten.” The club is now celebrating its 100year anniversary and preparing to host its sixth Japan Open in October 2023. Jones’ second project in the country (as featured in the January 2019 issue of GCA) was at Taiheiyo Club’s Gotemba course, southwest of Tokyo, in the shadow of Mount Fuji. There he worked alongside Hideki Matsuyama, a first course design project for Japan’s number one golfer. The course had previously hosted 2001’s World Cup of Golf, won by Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, plus an annual event on the Japan Golf Tour. Jones says: “Just before we worked there, Hideki shot 23 under par to win the Taiheiyo Masters, but after we completed work the winning score was nine-under, so it’s now much more of a championship test.” Gotemba has continued to host that event and in 2024, it will also be the venue for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, the winner of which will receive both Masters and Open invitations. Trips across the Pacific are now increasing in frequency for Jones and Swanson. A long-range master plan has been completed for Shizuoka Country Club’s Ogasa and Takamatsu courses, a composite of which are used for a Japan LPGA StepUp Tour event, and Taiheiyo Club owner Shun Big in Japan Rees Jones is finding rising demand for pre-tournament surgery in the East.