Tom Doak – known for his excellent restoration work – said that not everything should be restored. There are cynics that suggest the restoration movement is just a “fad” and will eventually come to the logical end called “progress.” Others argue that this so called “progress” was previously known as “modernization” and it was the source of so much architectural malpractice that it drove clubs to restoration since the work of the older architects was so clearly better than the renovations of the newer architects.
I think when you area dealing with the work of one of the greatest architects of history – you have an obligation to try and preserve most of their work for future generations to learn from and for the members to enjoy. I think a good restoration begins with preserving what obviously already works very well and identifying the features to the club so they won’t be lost by future generations. The next stage is to point out what is not working as well as it should and figure out if there are any easy ways to make it work without major change – such as a new tee or an additional bunker. Finally the last stage is to look through the holes that time and equipment has rendered obsolete and figure out if there is a way to make change and still preserve pieces to keep the spirit of the holes. The last alternative is to take those architectural elements and recreate them in a new location.
But what if the course was designed by one of the greats but really doesn’t have much in the way of great architecture to work from? What if an associate built the course? What if the project was a routing plan built by the members? What if it’s a great course with one awful hole?
If there is truly little there, you preserve what you can and set out to renovate the course to the style of the architect – that way the work should blend in with the original features that remain. If an associate worked on it – if it’s good you work with it since it doesn’t matter who designed good work – if it’s bad you make change based around the famous architects work making sure you still blend in with what will remain. In most cases features like bunkers are all done at once to keep things consistant and to allow for a broader change if necessary. If the architect did a routing plan but the features lack the artistry – you simple step in and try to make the course appear like it was done by the original architect by interpreting the drawings. If it’s a great course with an awful hole – you fix the hole. You try to work with the original intent and just remove the part of the hole that fails to work – like a green or poorly placed bunker scheme.
Occasionally you find yourself looking at a course that provides little or no inspiration – if they want a restoration – you pass on the work (and yes I’ve done that before). If they understand you need to make change - then you pick a style based around an architect, an era, or a technique that is appropriate for the course and the club.
Tom Doak is right after all – there are courses by famous architects that should not be preserved.
Tough to choose pictures since most clubs would be upset with being included. St. George's is aware of how good a course they have and how much the 3rd holds them back from being by far the best in Canada. If the 2010 Canadian Open goes there - very likely - that green will be rebuilt.