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When it comes to respecting the methods, ideals, and intentions of the architects of the Golden Age, you’d be hard pressed to find two greater champions than Geoff Shackelford and Gil Hanse.  In 2007, the Los Angeles Country Club retained Hanse to renovate and restore the course based on the 1920′s era redesign by “The Captain”, George C. Thomas, Jr.  Hanse retained Shackelford to lend historical insight to the project.  By 2010, the project was complete and every newly remade hole had a story attached to it.  The tale below was excerpted from the 2010 Commemorative Edition publication in which Shackelford chronicles the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of a worthy project.  I suspect Mr. Thomas would have been happy to see his final work of art restored to the form he intended.

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When the North Course project commenced on February 1, 2010, one of the more exciting challenges was the opportunity to return the sixth hole to its original green site. Little did we know the process would turn into an archaeological dig! First, a little background.

 Every great course in the world features at least one par-4 under 350 yards allowing for multiple playing options. Designed with an eye toward risk and reward, these devilish little two-shotters accomplish one very simple axiom, as so eloquently written by George Thomas in Golf Architecture In America.

“The strategy of golf is the thing which gives the short accurate player a chance with a longer hitter who cannot control his direction or distance.”

With that in mind, it was decided to rebuild the sixth green in its original location until it was eliminated in the late 1960’s, six feet below and to the left of the hole’s most recent rendition. (A well-intentioned attempt at restoring Thomas’ original green and bunker design, but in a location better suited for the difficult growing conditions.) However, with the elimination of non-native trees and shrubbery, leaving only the glorious oak trees as the focal point, turf growing conditions should improve and the green could now be returned to its original position.

Little did we know it was sitting there all along.

Golf course construction contractor Geoff Porteus’ team featured many talented men, none more essential to the project’s success than Adelino Vierra. He is masterful on the excavating machine used for many purposes, including soil removal on the sixth green site. Armed with just a few photos, we set about situating the sixth green in its original location.

Upon deconstructing the existing sixth’s USGA green mix and substructure, Porteus and Vierra began the process of shifting soil from the proposed new sixth green site up the hillside. As they were removing the soil, these veterans of golf construction began to notice subtle shifts in soil color and texture changes. There were the topsoils and clays first noticed and separated, then bright white sand emerged. Careful digging by Adelino found more and more sand until it was obvious based on old photographs that we had stumbled on the old sixth hole’s back bunker, fully intact with 1960’s era sand! This was soon followed by the discovery of an odd gray and moist soil layer that must have been the old putting surface, soon followed by more careful digging that revealed the fronting bunker. Before we knew it, the old sixth green emerged. Few golf course contractors would have been able to detect such subtle differences and as architects we were tremendously grateful for the detail-rich approach by Hawkshaw since it left us with no question about what Thomas and Bell had constructed. They literally unearthed the original sixth green.

Once the green’s outline was determined, we went about the process of analyzing the few old photographs in our possession while studying video of the early 1960’s challenge match involving Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Phil Rodgers. We learned a few things about the green contours along with other elements related to the dimensions and contours of the 3,732 square foot green. Prior to construction, other decisions had been made to restore the original fairway dimensions to the hole in order to provide as many options as possible.

The result, we believe, will be a hole that gives “the short accurate player a chance with a longer hitter who cannot control his direction or distance.”

Your playing options are many and varied, we believe.

•  A very simple straight away play down the fairway will leave a difficult second shot to most hole locations. Drives can go 275 yards before reaching trouble. The further down the fairway, the better the angle to approach the green, much as the player who lays up far left at Riviera’s tenth receives an optimum angle. But this goes against most golfing instincts as you are seemingly taking a longer route to the hole when a more tempting shorter route exists. Which is precisely why we believe the sixth will be so much fun to play.

 • Players with a little more distance in their game–after making sure the green is clear–can take a straight crack at the putting surface. This shortens the hole to about 300 yards but also brings a world of trouble into play. A small apron of fairway may allow for drives to roll onto the green, but they must be struck very accurately as contouring will deflect the slightly imprecise shot. Also, those driving the green will want to make sure to have scouted out the hole location from the fifth fairway as some flagstick positions may reward a layup tee shot more than others.

It remains to be seen how various hole locations will play, but we believe those on the far left and center of the green sandwiched between hazard and backslope will be best approached from the main landing area, while those on the right side of the green will be most susceptible to those driving the green or players laying up well down the main fairway.

We believe these options will yield many birdies and also plenty of big scores to careless players. Furthermore, the sixth hole’s place as an option-filled, risk-reward hole, in between a very long par-4 and testing par-3, restores the ebb-and-flow to Captain Thomas’ wonderful front nine vision. Coupled with the more difficult second hole as a par-4 and the shorter, more perilous par-5 eighth, the front features three holes with risk-reward elements that give both short and long hitters reward for skillful play. In other words, the North features more strategy. Which, as Captain Thomas so famously wrote, “is the soul of the game.”

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Download Link –> NorthCourse_Commemorative_Edition [2.6mb]

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