Bob Richard of Newcourse Golf Inc. in nearby Carthage is overseeing the work, along with course superintendent Dave Bowbliss. Chris Cochran, senior design associate of Nicklaus Golf and the original project manager, has made site visits to monitor the design integrity, while master shaper Jeremy Miller of Nicklaus Design is handling the recountouring and shaping process.
General manager Ken Crow acknowledged that some of the green contours had become an issue with today’s faster green speeds. When the course opened, green speeds average 8.5 feet on the Stimpmeter. Today’s average speed is between 10 and 11 feet, making the severely contoured portions of National original greens nearly unplayable.
“We’re keeping the heart and soul of our green complexes, which is what the course is known for, and using this process to update how they look and play,” said Crow. “There is still going to be some grade, but it probably won’t be as steep and run away from you as much. The character will remain. It’s simply changing the grades of the slope to make it a fairer test of golf.”
From an agronomic standpoint, the greens were holding water, thus affecting the quality of the putting surfaces. Bowbliss has reworked the substructure of the greens to provide better drainage.
“We’re going to each green and digging out potential future problems,” said Bowbliss. “And the A1/A4 bent grass provides better uniformity and a tighter growth habit. This should result in a much better putting surface.”
Cochran said both he and Nicklaus are fond of the greens at National. They played it a few years ago when in Pinehurst for a meeting and agreed that only a few tweaks were needed.
“We’ve made adjustments to make sure the greens will behave properly, and still stay within the strategy and the thoughts Jack had here in 1987 and 1988,” said Cochran. “There’s going to be so much more variety. You’re going to be able to put pins closer to features on the greens, closer to bunkers and closer to elevation changes.
“The membership may say, ‘Some of these greens look a lot softer than what they were,’ and I’m going to argue they are still going to be every bit as challenging because you have so many more pin areas. It’s going to be a lot more fun.”
Noting how much green area had been lost over the years, club owner Kenneth Robinette said, “It really surprised me when I went out and saw where the original greens were and how much the Bermuda grass had encroached and affected the playability. This has always been a great course and it was time we redid the greens to get it back to its original state.”
For information on National Golf Club, visit www.nationalgolfclub.com, or call (800) 471-4339.