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Many clubs nationwide are involved in the development or execution of master plans in order to improve their facilities. The objectives of such plans are to enhance playability, improve strategy and to assist the golf course superintendent in maintaining the golf course.  At Brookside Golf and Country Club, a primary objective of the master plan is to both restore and enhance the strategic intent and aesthetic character that were such an integral component of courses built in the same era – the Golden Age of golf course design - as Brookside. The Club has amassed an interesting collection of vintage aerial photographs that have been most helpful in guiding the master planning process.


One remarkable characteristic of the work of the early architects is its timelessness. Courses seventy, eighty or more years old designed by the talented “Golden Age” architects remain wonderful test of golf while still being manageable and enjoyable for the less skilled golfers. A key reason for this is their understanding the importance of angles in course design and their appreciation of their impact on shot values.


Many find the concept of shot values to be a difficult one to define and, sadly, even more difficult to put into practice. Interestingly enough, golf’s “Grand Old Man”, Walter Travis, wonderfully described this concept after visiting Pinehurst at the turn of the 20th century:

“You have to place, not bang, anywhere down the course. Best of all, each hole has a special shot of its own; a perfect first, making a comparatively easy second, a poor first, a hard second - a distinct value given to a particular shot on each hole. There is always an alternative; a hard shot followed by an easy, or an easy followed by a hard. If you elect to accept the risk involved and make the hard shot - the really difficult one - the second shot is comparatively simple; but if you are a little weak kneed and decide to take the easier shot first, you will assuredly be up against something difficult on your second”.

A quick study of the vintage photographs of Brookside Golf and Country Club would lead one to think that Travis was describing the original course there rather than one of the early courses at Pinehurst. The Master Plan for Brookside Golf and Country Club will strengthen existing shot values and put back into place strategic characteristics and aesthetic effects that have been lost over the years, while developing playing surfaces that permit improved season-long playing conditions. The resulting course will be far more recognizable as being originally designed and constructed during the era of the Golden Age of golf course design.

There are two methods for preparing Master Plans for established clubs. These are:
a)     The golf architect studies the course and presents the plan “fait accompli”, without significant involvement or reference to those who best know the course. This school of thought feels it is the duty of the architect to do just that.

b)     The second method attaches vital importance to the knowledge of those intimately associated with the layout. Ideas are generated during visits to the course, meetings with the Committee and through a series of preliminary plans.

In the opinion of the golf architect, the second method is vastly superior to the first because it embraces the thoughts of those who know the course intimately and can add detail to what is shown by and suggested on vintage photography. At the same time, because it involves the experience and expertise of the golf architect with the thoughts and ideas of the group, it is unlikely that the plan could be sterile.

At Brookside Golf and Country Club, the second method has been particularly enjoyable and appropriate because of the dedication to the Brookside membership displayed by the Master Planning Committee and their commitment to restore a more vintage character and feel to their golf course. This group fully understands that there is no good reason why Brookside Golf and Country Club’s course should merely be ‘just another layout” in the world of golf

Upon completion, many clubs enter their Master Plans into their by-laws and no future course changes are allowed except in accordance with the plan. This avoids what has been aptly termed “the musical chairs” type of planning whereby a chairman puts in a feature one year and his successor eliminates it the next - a procedure that is always exorbitantly costly in terms of money and player interference.

The items contained in this plan can be broken down into a number of concepts. While a few items fall outside of these categories, most are contained within the following:

GENERAL CONCEPTS

GREENS - This plan calls for the continued restoration of greens to their more original sizes and shapes. A good job has been done to date “mowing out” greens to achieve this goal and further work can be carried out in this regard on the large majority of greens.

The current 3rd green is unique among the collection of greens at Brookside due to the more contemporary design character that it exhibits. Designed and constructed in the “low green-high surrounds” manner championed in the 1960’s, this green appears out of place when compared to the more vintage “high green-low surrounds” character of the more original greens at Brookside.

The Master Plan includes two alternatives in the case of the 3rd green, with the goal of developing a green and surrounds more in keeping with the “Brookside” style. One alternative would remove the excess fill material placed around the green during its reconstruction and greenside bunkers would then reconstructed at a lower elevation into the tie down slopes of the green, while the other would re design and reconstruct in its entirety the green and its surrounds in a style sympathetic to Brookside’s overall character.  

The Master Plan also includes changes to the existing 14th green that would result in this green relating far better to the natural topography that exists to the left side of the green and approach. The angle of alignment on the green would be changed to more closely relate to the dominant landform along the left side of the golf hole. This change would allow for alternate routes of play for those who choose to take the risk on their tee shot or those who prefer to “bail-out” on this par three tee shot.
 
TEES - This plan calls for work on teeing areas with the eventual goal being the development of a full set of tees built to contemporary standards and turfed to the most appropriate turf. This renovation will create more level playing surfaces that will allow the tees to better withstand heavy levels of play. The multiple tee concept will figure prominently in this work as this concept allows tees to be set more comfortably into their surrounds while maximizing both the variety of play and aesthetic impacts.  During this work, tee placements will be carefully studied to allow for more interesting and enjoyable play for all calibers of golfers. Distance variety and tee orientations are key components of such improvements.
 
BUNKERS - This plan includes bunker re-construction work that is the result of an analysis of bunker locations as detailed on vintage photos and an appreciation of bunker placement patterns practiced by the vintage architects during the Golden Age of golf course design. While a good deal of the bunker work involves re-construction and restoration of existing features, original bunkers that have been removed or changed   over time will be restored/put back into play. Many of the bunkers to be restored are excellent examples of the Golden Age Architects’ use of “random bunkering”.
 
These random bunkers play a great role in creating a course “fabric” and are classic to great vintage design. These early century bunker patterns allow for the framing and identification of landing areas. Improved aesthetics and strategy result from such random bunkering. Placement of fairway bunkers will help to invigorate existing shot values and introduce new shot values.
 
A refined form of contour mowing will result on holes thus treated with fairways curving their way around features while the fairways retain a consistent width. This refined contour mowing is in contrast to the contour mowing patterns that severely constrict fairway widths in the landing areas of the longest drivers - a concept that is doomed to failure as one player’s first landing area is another’s second ..... or third! Fairway acreage on the course will actually be increased in order to provide alternate and more interesting routes of play for all categories of golfers.
 
TREE MANAGEMENT – As has been the case on the majority of vintage golf courses, tree planting programs that have not been well thought out over the decades have resulted in these courses being dramatically over planted. Golf holes that formerly allowed for alternate routes of play down wide corridors of play now exhibit a more claustrophobic manner of play – a single “alternative” down the middle of overly narrow corridors. Additionally, these tree planting programs have concentrated on the planting of soft wooded and weaker tree species that are not normally found in a region’s natural landscape in which they are placed.
 
At Brookside, additionally, the planting or unfettered growth of trees have combined to disguise dramatic golf holes that feature captivating alternatives of play. Two holes that stand out in this regard are the current 12th and 17th. Both of these holes feature dramatic “hard edges” that are fully hidden by tree growth.
 
On the 12th hole, a sharply defined drop off to an existing water feature would be exposed and this would highlight a uniquely inspiring “bite-off” drive for those who feel their game is up to the challenge while still allowing plenty of bail out room for those content to take the longer route to the green.
 
On the 17th hole, the “fade” nature of the exposed hard edge on #12 would be balanced by a hard edge that runs down the left side of this hole and is currently disguised in its setting of trees to the left of the current fairway.
 
While these two golf holes represent the most striking potential improvements resulting from tree removal, there are certainly improvements that can be made throughout the golf course in terms of re establishing more original alternate routes of play, improving agronomic conditions so far as light duration, light intensity and air movement are concerned, opening up views from hole to hole and across the property and allowing the specimen trees that remain to more fully develop to their most impressive effect.
 
Discussions of potential tree removal can often bring on concerns that a course will be made “too easy” to play. Oakmont in Pennsylvania is as renowned as any course for its tree removal program and few have suggested the course has been rendered into one too simple to play.
 
In my work, whether it is Annandale in Pasadena, California, or Brookside in Canton, Ohio, among many, significant tree removal programs have brought on concerns about resulting course difficulty but membership handicaps have never shown this to come to pass, suggesting that the concerns are more emotional than factual. 
 
11TH HOLE – At some point in the history of the Club, the original 11th hole was “abandoned” in terms of daily play and replaced with an uphill par three – the current 16th. This plan suggests two alternatives so far as the 11th hole is concerned.
 
One would find the original 11th hole restored to play with the current 16th retained as the “extra” golf hole. This change would be in keeping with the effort to highlight the original design character of the golf course.
 
The second alternative would take advantage of the spectacular natural setting that is found in the wooded area to the left of the existing 10th green. The existing topography in the wooded area, and the natural stream, could allow the development of as dramatic a par three as is found in the world of inland golf.
 
SHORT GAME PRACTICE AREA – The club is certainly fortunate to have the large area that is adjacent to the clubhouse and bounded by the entrance road and the existing 13th and 18th holes. This plan suggests a short game practice area that takes better advantage of this space, developing a small green for bunker play and a much larger green, centrally located, that could be used for short game practice by any number of players at the same time.
 
DRAINAGE – A number of areas on the golf course are troubled by drainage patterns and areas where old piping that no longer functions efficiently. A budget allotment for drainage work is included in the Master Plan. Drainage problem areas are not noted on this Plan should be considered an integral component of the Plan should the Master Plan Committee agree that they require attention.
 
RESOLUTION

Based upon the work to date carried out on the part of the Master Plan Committee, the golf architect recommends that a resolution be presented to the membership somewhat as follows:
 
“Resolved that there will be no major changes on the Brookside Golf and Country Club golf course other than those contained in the Master Plan unless approval is first obtained from the Board of Governors”.
 
The golf course architect wishes to express his appreciation to the Brookside Golf and Country Club Master Plan Committee for their desire to restore and renovate the golf course in a manner that highlights its more original vintage character. Their appreciation of the wider corridors of play and more random set bunkers that played a key role in the interest and alternatives of play as found on Golden Age courses and the impact of these courses on the history of course design is admirable. The contributions and enthusiasm of the Committee to this end will assure that Brookside Golf and Country Club takes the appropriate steps to assume its proper standing as a wonderful example of the vintage style of design that makes the Golden Age courses so desirable so many decades after they were developed..  
 
When completed, this plan will result in a course that is a model to be followed by other clubs that have the good sense to return to their more original design legacy. The restored and renovated Brookside Golf and Country Club will surely lay claim to one of the fine vintage examples within the collection of courses fortunate enough to have been designed during the Golden Age of golf course design.  
 
Congratulations on taking a step so important to the future of Brookside Golf and Country Club.
 
Respectfully submitted,
Brian Silva
Golf Course Architect