Rees Jones Shows Off New South Course Design
Renowned golf course architect Rees Jones was in Alameda on Tuesday, Nov. 10, to show the new Jack Clark (South) Course he designed to members of the City Council, the Park & Recreation Department and the Golf Commission.
This was no ordinary show. Jones has designed a new course unlike any in the Bay Area. He describes the course as a minimist design more like you would find in Australia, where you can play the ball to the hole by air or ground.
The redesign and full remodel of the Jack Clark Course follows much of the former layout but a few holes were changed. For example, the old first hole changes from a shorter par 4 into a par 5 that slightly doglegs right and finishes close to the old second green, so even with the routing staying the same, the course will have a totally different feel.
Exactly how Alameda and Greenway managed to land Jones for this job remains something of a mystery. He is probably the most famous living golf course architect in the world today, and could pick and choose his jobs freely. Currently he has over 30 projects on his plate.
But he took this job with good purpose. Yes, he is known worldwide as the “Open Doctor,” the man that the United States Golf Association hires to renovate courses they have selected for the US Open. But he has a clear commitment to public golf.
Jones clarified his commitment to the Alameda project in many television interviews through the past year. In all those interviews, he made a point to bring up his Alameda project, and why it is so important. He feels that public golf has been neglected through the years, yet public golf courses are the lifeblood of golf. Far more golfers play municipal courses than any other, and these golfers deserve far better than they have received. And he is out to prove that it can be done. Alameda and the Chuck Corica Golf Complex will be his statement in that regard.
The front nine has been laid out with his redesign — bunkers are in place and the greens are as they will be. But no grass has been planted yet.
“You’ll find that the bunkers are green and the greens are white,” Jones said. “There is no sand in the bunkers yet, no grass on the greens. Just the base of the design.”
He explained that more than 47,000 truckloads of dirt had been brought in to cover the course, cap the old garbage dump on which the course lies, and improve irrigation. The course is approximately 10 to 15 feet higher than the original course.
As we strolled through the first nine holes, many of us began to lose our bearings. And this was a strange experience. None of the new holes resembled in any way the holes that were there for such a long time, and we had to pick out landmarks like the road or some trees we recognized to orient ourselves to where we were.
This was nothing like the course we had played for years and years, and it was hard to remember, or see, the old holes we played. They’re gone. This is a brand new course, with the same routing.
It is remarkable what a true artist can do to an old course. From every tee, the hole was framed perfectly by trees, bunkers and what will be fairways with slopes. There was clear definition to the tee shot that was required. The old course had none of this definition.
As we got nearer to the green it was easy to see bail-out areas short of the green, a place to lay up if necessary. Yet the greens had strategic bunkers that required some diligence to avoid.
“There are 14 pin-able places on each green,” Jones remarked. “Hit your shot right at the pin, and you’ll be fine. But miss that line just a bit, and you could find your ball in some gunk.”
These greens are essentially MacKenzie greens, just like on the new par-3 Mif Albright Course. The man responsible for the grass and the greens on our new course is the same man who designed the Mif —Marc Logan.
“Marc is America’s best agronomist,” Jones said. “The grass on our new course will be drought-tolerant and sturdy. The grass is also perfect for the recycled water used to irrigate the course.”
When the preview was done, we were invited into the restaurant for some excellent food. The question and answer session that followed clarified anything that was left out in the presentation.
The back nine has not been shaped yet. The course is scheduled to open in 2016, the date depending on how much rain we receive this winter.
Most of us were stunned, in amazement of what he has achieved. The new Jack Clark Course at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex could become a destination course for any true golfer.
Those of us who knew the past could almost see Chuck Corica, the town barber who became mayor, and Jack Clark, the sports editor of the Alameda Times-Star, the two Alamedans I think are the most responsible for saving the South Course, smiling in the background.