Golf Course Architecture - Issue 76, April 2024

70 REPORT A test for all The Old course at Broken Sound has been renovated to suit tour pros and club members alike. Toby Ingleton spoke with the design team to find out more. One good test of a golf course’s ability to accommodate players of all standards is a pro-celebrity tournament. So when the PGA Tour Champions’ new James Hardie Pro Football Hall of Fame Invitational debuts in 2025, we’ll find out whether golf course architects Rees Jones and Bryce Swanson have met their brief for the renovation of the host venue: the Old course at Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton, Florida. The opening two days of the tournament will see 78 tour players joined by 26 NFL legends. The course will need to be challenging for the elite golfers and playable for the average for the designers’ work to be deemed a success. We already have a good idea that they have delivered. The TimberTech Championship in late 2023 was played over the renovated layout and proved to be a solid test for the pros, with only eventual winner Padraig Harrington managing double digits under par, and nearly half the field finishing at or above par. Members of the private club, however, are finding the course significantly more inviting and enjoyable than before. Originally designed in 1975 by Joe Lee (whose remark that the silence was only broken by the sound of a golfer’s swing gave the club its name), the Old course is a relatively rare example of a Florida course with a core layout. Holes wind through stands of large, mature trees and fairways are flanked by lakes rather than housing, eliciting a feel of natural retreat. It had, however, become quite difficult. “Like many courses of that era, greens tended to be perched up in the air, requiring golfers to hit a highly elevated shot,” says Swanson. “As members have got a little older, and are taking more long irons and hybrids into greens, the course had become quite punishing.” The club wanted good shots to be rewarded, and that became the theme for Jones and Swanson’s overhaul. “It was a new design, restored to the original routing,” says Jones. “We’ve given it a classic old style; features on the green are not overly pronounced but by the same token an accurate shot is required for a good chance at birdie. If you play safe, you may have a long breaking putt just to get close.” The new greens are designed to suit the length of the hole. “We kept some of the higher elevated greens, on the shorter par fours and even the shorter par threes and fives,” says Swanson. “On the longer par fours, we lowered them to create more of a ramp approach that allows the ball to feed onto the green. Before the renovation, several greens were fronted by substantial bunkering, meaning an aerial approach was the only practical option. Jones and Swanson’s design offers more choice.