Saturday, May 5, 2012

Inspiration @ OGC.

New bunker short-right of the 3rd green, at Oakville.
(Click image to enlarge.)
The Oakville Golf Club - where we're in the midst of a comprehensive bunker renovation project - was originally designed by George Cumming. Mr. Cumming was head professional at The Toronto Golf Club for half a century. He also laid-out a number of the best early courses in Ontario beginning shortly after the First World War.

Mr. Cumming's course at OGC opened for play in 1921. Studying historic aerials from the 1930s - which roughly illustrate what was built under Mr. Cumming's direction - provided some inspiration for our plan but certainly didn't serve as a 'road map' to restoring the original design. So much has changed over the years at Oakville - mostly as a result of piecemeal redesign work by no less than three (other) golf architects over the past few decades and more.

In my opinion, there wasn't enough really 'good stuff'in aforementioned aerials to persue true restoration at Oakville. Still, I think the course's design pedigree is very important. You can't create history, which is very important in golf. So, thinking about what to do, 'my gut' told me that overall the course should aesthetically match that '1921' proudly displayed as part of the club's logo. Again, those old aerials didn't show much, but one thing stood out - the variety amongst bunkers throughout the course in the early days. Some were large and elaborately shaped, others were very simple and small, with the rest fit somewhere in the middle of this spectrum - great variety, which made me think of the distinctive work of another early 1920s golf architect: Devereaux Emmett.

While relatively unheralded these days, Mr. Emmett produced some fascinating golf architecture throughout his career at places like Garden City Golf Club (Garden City, New York), St. George's Golf and Country Club (Stony Brook, New York), and Huntington Country Club on Long Island's North Shore. I began studying photos of St. George's and Huntington, in particular, for further inspiration relative to the planned bunker(s) 'upgrade' at Oakville.

As per historic aerials, an overview of Mr. Emmett's bunker designs at Huntington reminded me a bit of the old bunkers at Oakville (NLE) - albeit on a much grander scale. Some were large and elaborately shaped, others were very simple and small, with the rest fit into the middle of this spectrum. Additionally, contemporary ground view images of St. George's (where architect Gil Hanse and course superintendent Adam Jessie have done a remarkable job at restoring Mr. Emmett's original design over recent years) showed some really cool (and clearly manufactured) mounds that factor prominently into the design.

It seemed to me that a loose interpretation of this pre-World War II era 'Emmett style' - featuring extreme variety amongst bunkers throughout the course and a (manufactured) 'bumpiness' - is exactly what Oakville needed to (re-)create a course that matches its own design pedigree and, more important, stands out as distinct amongst others in the Greater Toronto Area. So that's what we're doing; and, the results thus far are very interesting.

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