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Doak Designs New Greens, Tees at Country Club of Detroit


Fresh from his latest triumph, the acclaimed Old MacDonald course recently opened at Oregon's Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, architect Tom Doak, is busy with his latest project - rebuilding all greens and tees at the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe, Mich.

Unlike previous cosmetic renovations at the historic 98-year-old club, Doak's assignment was to uproot all 18 greens and tees and recreate them from the bottom up.

"We had an agronomy issue with our greens, and that was our number one issue we had to solve," said Mark Petzing, the club's general manager. "The more we looked at it and researched it we came to the decision to core out our greens and redo them. There was no other practical alternative."

Doak, who lives in Traverse City, Mich., is an authority on classic old golf courses and was a natural choice for the club membership. "We have an old Colt & Alison course and Doak understands period specific architecture and we wanted to make sure when we did this that we bring it up to today's standards but put it back so it looks and feels like a historic course," Petzing said. "He is a greens master and we know that we are going to have 18 unique greens when it's all said and done. They are going to be enjoyable, balanced and fun, all at the same time."

Doak said the new greens will be his interpretation of the style of the originals. He is not redoing bunkers except on a few holes where bunkers were either repetitive or had no strategic value. "Usually when I get into these clubs I'm trying to make them look like old greens but in this case we don't have perfect information to make it look like the old greens even if we wanted to," he said.

To impart his vision and keep the client happy - and in this case possibly several hundred club members - is the major challenge. "The difference between this work and building your own golf course, when you build your own golf course you build anything you like and you just have to find 300 or 400 people that like it," Doak said. "Here you've already got the 400 people (members) and if you change it totally a lot of them aren't going to like it."

While the main assignment is remaking greens and tees, Doak is redesigning and rebuilding the 17th hole, a 472-yard par 5 which will grow by 50 yards. The green had been reworked in previous renovations. "It was a really short par 5 that you could reach with a six iron and they built the green up in the air and it fell off the back so it would be hard to hold. Completely out of character with the rest of the course and it was all because of the length," he said.

"The 18th tee was just to the left of the old green. We decided to move the green back to the right and move the 18th tee about 25 yards to the left. We kept the 18th about the same length but we gained about 50 yards for the 17th and now we're putting in a green that hopefully will be more in character with the other greens."

Women members will also benefit from the project. Doak is redoing the women's tees and is adding new ones that should make the layout much friendlier to players. At 5,500 yards par 72, the women were playing the equivalent of a 7,000 yard course from the old tees.

Some 200 of several thousand trees will also be removed. The club is also allowing the turf on the fairways to die off during the summer months and new turf will be seeded with the greens and tees in September. Petzing said if the weather cooperates the course should be ready for play next June.

Doak and his Renaissance Golf Design team are arguably among the most sought after architects across the globe. His top-rated Michigan designs include Black Forest in Gaylord and Lost Dunes in Bridgman. His original creation at Bandon Dunes Resort, Pacific Dunes, is one of the highest rated courses in America and is ranked among the most significant courses built in the last century. Among the 29 courses he has created are award-winning layouts in New Zealand, Australia, and Mexico. Visit www.renaissancegolf.com.