The restoration of Donald Ross’ classic Pinehurst No. 2 has gained national attention the past couple weeks as the course in North Carolina hosts back-to-back U.S. Opens.
Closer to home, however, another Ross gem has been resurrected.
The Country Club of Buffalo, which was originally designed by the transplanted Scotsman in 1926, recently went through a $2 million restoration intended to return the course to Ross’ original vision.
“The whole project was based on the premise we wanted to take it back to what Donald Ross built in 1926,” said CCB member Mark Bonner, who serves as chairman of the club’s long-range planning committee. “We used aerial photos and all the information we had at the club as our guide. Primarily from 100 to 150 yards and in, it’s virtually identical to what it was. Obviously we had to deal with the technology of today in terms of how far people hit the ball, so we made some adjustments by moving tees or bunkers to recreate the shot Ross intended in the first place.”
The restoration has gained national attention. Golf Inc., a quarterly national magazine that focuses on the latest trends in the development, sales and management of golf courses, has named CCB one of nine courses worldwide to be recognized in its Renovation of the Year contest.
Courses are judged on how well the renovations improved the course, based on four primary criteria: routing, playability, maintainability and aesthetics. The magazine has three categories – public-course renovations of $1 million or more, private-course renovations of $1 million or more, and renovations of less than $1 million. A winner and runner-up in each category will be selected in the summer issue, which is expected out in the next month.
An accomplished player as a young man, Ross came to America in 1899 and began designing courses. By the time of his death in 1948, he was credited with the design of 413 courses, including American icons like Oak Hill, Inverness and Pinehurst No. 2. More than 100 U.S. Opens have been played on Ross-designed tracks.
His only course in the Buffalo area, however, is CCB. Evidence of the course’s design, including its routing and the green complexes, suggest that Ross spent considerable time at the property along Youngs Road in Williamsville during its construction.
As such, the club has taken a good deal of pride in restoring it to its original look.
“I’ve not spoken to anyone who hasn’t been really pleased with the outcome,” Bonner said. “We’ve seen a nice uptick in the number of people who would like to be members of the club. When you’re out on the course, it’s not unusual to see a member out there taking a friend or a guest for a ride around the course just to show them the new course, obviously being very proud of what’s out there.”
During the U.S. Open, the Golf Channel aired a segment on the restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 that was overseen by the architecture firm of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
“We all had big smiles on our faces as they were speaking about it,” Bonner said. “They were talking about the process that they used, and it was identical to the process that we used. They tried to recreate everything as much as possible, to what was there.”
Most notably at Pinehurst, that involved the removal of acres of sod. In its place are the sandy “waste areas,” that became the topic of so much conversation. Similarly, CCB’s restoration promoted the return of native grasses in an effort for the course to be more environmentally conscious. In doing so, maintenance costs associated with the course have also lessened.
CCB hired Ron Forse, a golf course architect based near Pittsburgh, to oversee the restoration. Forse has restored more than 35 Ross courses across the country.
All 18 holes at CCB had at least some sort of work done. A few of the major new features include tee heights closer to ground level. This allows players to see the roll of the land.
The design and placement of bunkers was also another major part of the restoration. The largest complaint from CCB members before the project began was about the condition of the bunkers. The new sand traps have proper drainage and a playable base that is consistent and fair from hole to hole.
They have also been replaced or modified in several instances to better reflect Ross’ original scheme, which allows for “run-up” shots into the green.
“Depending on who you talk to, they all have a different perspective in terms of how they look at golf and how they play,” Bonner said. “What they’re finding is, you’re not always hitting the ball over obstacles like a bunker in front of a green. The ground game that is something Ross is noted for and certainly something we saw on TV over the weekend, where they’re hitting the ball and trying to get it to run onto the green without running over the back. We’ve brought that part of the game to the course. That had disappeared when it was modernized.”
Asked for his favorite hole, Bonner struggled to name just one.
“As we were going through the project, we’d come to one hole and I’d say, ‘oh, man, that’s a signature hole.’ Then we’d get the to the next one and it was ‘that’s a signature hole,’ “ he said. “Our seventh hole, is an outstanding view looking up all the way toward the green. That hole is actually named ‘restoration’ because of all the work that required.
“In terms of the amount of changes to it, No. 10, a short par 4. The green has been increased in size by 30 or 40 percent, but when you’re standing on the fairway now, it looks like the green is half the size it used to be from the bunkering that Ross had there. Visually, it looks totally different than what you were used to.
“We wanted the course to be more enjoyable and more playable, and at the same time resemble what was on the ground in 1926.”
• Kirk Stauffer (Pine Acres CC), Alex Weir (Kahkwa Club) and Eric Mabee (Oak Hill) will represent the Western New York section of the PGA at the PGA Professional National Championship at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club and Grande Dunes Resort Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The tournament begins Sunday and goes through next Wednesday.
Stauffer, Weir and Mabee qualified for the field through their finishes at last year’s WNYPGA Professional Championship at Whispering Woods GC in Erie, Pa. Stauffer shot a two-day total of 7-under 137 to win.
The top 20 finishers in the PGA Professional National Championship qualify for the 2014 PGA Championship, which will be held at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., in early August.
• Raeanne Argy-Tyler, owner of Niagara Falls Coach Lines, has been named general chairperson of the 2014 Porter Cup Golf Tournament. Donna Tomkins, Travel Coordinator at Sevenson, will serve as vice chairperson.
The 56th Porter Cup will be held from July 22-26 at Niagara Falls Country Club.
Argy-Tyler has served as the tournament’s transportation chair the last 10 years.
“It’s an honor to serve as general chair for this prestigious event,” she said in a press release. “It gives local fans the opportunity to watch the best amateur golfers in the world compete at a very high level.”
• Three players who competed in last week’s second Women’s Porter Cup at NFCC, including 16-year-old champion Brooke Henderson, are in the field this week at Pinehurst No. 2 for the Women’s U.S. Open. Henderson will be joined by Jessica Porvasnik and Hannah Pietila. They finished sixth and ninth, respectively, at the Women’s Porter Cup.
• Local golf news of note is welcome at the email address below.