Few cathedrals of sport change as a lot as golf programs. They are subjected not solely to nature but additionally to possession and the designers they rent to alter the course.
There is a century of historical past within the Wentworth Club’s West Course, which opened in Surrey, England, in 1922. This week will probably be residence to the BMW PGA Championship, however not all of the course initially formed by Harry S. Colt, one of golf structure’s most revered names, stays. Since 2005, the course has undergone a number of redesigns by Ernie Els Design.
“It can be argued that Colt is the best and most influential architect of all time,” mentioned Andy Johnson of the Fried Egg, a golf structure website.
Yet some golfers mentioned Wentworth was not one of Colt’s gems. Colt’s roster contains the New Course on the Sunningdale Golf Club in England, Swinley Forest Golf Club in England and the Eden Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.
Colt’s abilities as an architect have been in what is named the routing — or sequence of holes — in his programs. He was in a position to place holes over the terrain that took benefit of the topography’s pure drama, however he additionally used hazards that “created alternate lines of play,” Johnson mentioned.
“You could go over the bunkers and have a more direct path to the hole or you could go around them, making it harder to score because it pushed out your angle of attack.”
Colt’s achievement as an architect was in his potential to make inland programs as attention-grabbing because the seaside hyperlinks programs the place the sport was invented.
The mixing of hazards right into a course’s pure surroundings helped create a vitality and curiosity in such programs that, in some methods, didn’t beforehand exist.
What makes Wentworth particular is nostalgia. It is the location of the European Tour’s headquarters and has hosted the Ryder Cup and was residence to the World Match Play Championship
Yet for all of Wentworth’s historical past, together with constructing a bunker for the British authorities if it needed to flee London throughout World War II, as a golf course it doesn’t rank among the many world’s most coveted locations.
The course underwent a serious renovation in 2009, however the end result was not fashionable and gamers savaged the modifications. Greg Letsche of Ernie Els Design mentioned, “We definitely had a lot of sleepless nights on it,” and in 2017 Els and his staff have been introduced in to redo their redo.
Ernie Els on the 2019 BMW PGA Championship on the Wentworth Club. Credit…Paul Ellis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Working alongside the European Tour, Els went again into the course and softened the modifications, and Letsche mentioned the course now offered a stern however honest check of golf.
“Colt was very good at his initial routing,” he mentioned, “and his balance of par 3s and 4s and 5s speak to his understanding of strategy.”
Letsche mentioned that Colt tried laborious to make sure a range of distances for every of these varieties of holes and that he and Els studied outdated pictures of the course to make sure that they have been in a position to restore the course to its authentic imaginative and prescient whereas additionally modernizing it.
One of the challenges for Els and Letsche was to renovate a course that would problem the world’s finest gamers and never be intimidating to the membership’s members.
“You have to have the balance,” Letsche mentioned. “You need strategic values for the professional, but then you have to have make it fun and playable, with different angles into the green, so that the aging baby boomer and beginners can feed the ball into the green.”
In essence, Letsche mentioned, a designer should construct two programs — one for event golf and one for everybody else. He mentioned the professionals could be examined this week on a course that’s meant to play as Colt supposed.