Gil Hanse Restores Courses to Their Glory

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Gil Hanse is an acclaimed golf course architect who worked with the L.P.G.A. Hall of Famer Amy Alcott to build the Olympic course for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

This week, his restoration of Winged Foot Golf Club's West Course will make its international debut as host of the 2020 United States Open. He completed the work in 2017, following the first restoration of the club's East Course in 2014. (Both are ranked in the Top 100 courses in the world according to Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.)

Winged Foot & # 39; s West Course is a famously brutal course on the US Open rotation. But Hanse has instituted a series of restorations to host major events. The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, will host the US Open in 2022 and the Los Angeles Country Club in 2023. He has also worked on courses previously in the championship rotation, such as the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Baltusrol. Golf Club in Springfield, NJ, where Jack Nicklaus won the Open in 1967 and 1980.

A previous generation featured architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. known as the "Open Doctor" for his work in preparing some of these same courses for the US Open. When asked if he would like the new & # 39; Open Doctor & # 39; is, Hanse laughed, calling his business partner Jim Wagner, and in the case of Winged Foot, the club's overseer, Steve Rabideau.

Hanse would better use the & # 39; Open Therapist & # 39; can be called. . "He doesn't remake a course, but exposes how architects like AW Tillinghast, the designer of Winged Foot, wanted to challenge golfers. Hanse does extensive research and then brings back those original features, making adjustments to the length of the modern game.

The following interview has been edited and summarized.

How did the Wingfoot Restorations happen?

Due to a change in superintendents and a change in leadership at the club , we had the chance to come in and talk about how both courses should be handled. It was pure restoration. We got hired. We have a master plan for all 36 holes. The East Course came first. A some of the shine had come off. We were hopeful that we would do both.

Was the East Course a tryout for the West?

I don't know if it was a tryout. I think what happened was when they saw the changes to the East, they realized they couldn't leave the West there untouched when the East was restored to that level, not only architecturally but all the infrastructure as well.

] Did you feel extra pressure working on such a famous golf course?

Not really. I don't want to sound arrogant about it. We understand responsibility, and what we really focus on is research. When we're convinced it's the right thing to do, we'll do it. If you know that you are hosting a championship, you have to decide the correct length. That is different from a pure restoration on a course that is ultimately for the members.

How do you balance the needs of the members with the needs of the tour professionals?

Much of it is the placement of tees and bunkers. At Winged Foot, we've reopened the front of the greens, which helps the member who can bounce and doesn't affect the pros. But when you show up at Winged Foot, you expect it to be difficult. Nobody wants it to be easy.

Has the recovery process changed in the past two decades?

To some extent. There is recognition for these great architects. What has also changed is technology. Twenty years ago we had never attempted to rebuild all the greens at Winged Foot or Baltusrol. Now we have the technology to map them and a high degree of certainty that if we pull up the green it will go back the same way.

Do these restoration projects make you think about who could ever restore your courses?

If karma is real – and the fact that we've been so meticulous in restoring the work of these golden age wave architects – then hopefully someone will take a similar approach with our courses.

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