Rees Jones

Rees JonesIs it possible that one of America’s most prolific golf course architects, from golf’s first-family of design, with his name connected to many of the most tantalizing tracks around the world, is also one of the most under-appreciated designers of our time? Known as much for his work as “The Open Doctor”, modernizing classic championship courses originally designed by Donald Ross (Pinehurst #2), A.W. Tillinghast (Bethpage Black, Baltusrol), his father Robert Trent Jones (Congressional, Hazeltine) and many others, some might find themselves having to think for a moment when asked to name a Rees Jones original (even though four of Golf Digest’s Top 100 are his).

Rees Jones courseBut tell anyone who truly loves the game that you just played a Rees Jones course and they’ll likely match your smile and add a tinge of envy. For the Jones philosophy of courses with lasting value, that are, in his words, “fair, challenging, continually interesting to play and visually exciting” make his designs “must-play” venues wherever you find them.

And you’re likely to find Rees Jones’ work just about anywhere, certainly anywhere there’s a Golfer’s Guide. Besides his work at Pinehurst and Baltusrol for the U.S. Open and PGA this year, he’s involved in a massive restoration of famed Medinah for next year’s PGA Championship. His own design, The Tournament Course at the Redstone Golf Club, will be the permanent site of the Shell Houston Open beginning in 2006. Jones brought former PGA champion David Toms in as a consultant on that project and said Toms helped him make the course more attractive to TOUR players, not harder mind you, but more interesting.

Tournament Course at the Redstone Golf ClubJones is also in the process of opening new courses in such diverse locations as Daniel Island, SC; Grand Niagara, ON; Cape Cod, MA; Jackson Hole, WY; Madrid, Spain; and a new course for Georgia Tech in Atlanta at Echelon.

What distinguishes Jones’ designs are not so much the “bells and whistles” some other architects have developed as their signatures (though his Top 100 Cascata south of Las Vegas does feature a 418-foot waterfall and flows through the clubhouse, becoming a quiet stream by the time it winds its way through his award-winning layout), Jones takes what the landscape gives him and shapes more classic lines.

Rees Jones course As a young golfer playing the traditional Scottish-style courses (he says he was “awestruck” the first time he played St. Andrews), Jones developed an appreciation for the history of the great traditional layouts, which helps him keep his restoration projects true to the original architectural theories, but also adds a certain spice to his own original designs.

More than railroad ties or doglegs over water, playability is the signature of Rees Jones’ projects. The Country Club in Brookline, Pinehurst and Bethpage Black are examples of Jones’ ability to “dial-up” a course for a major tournament, but once the tourney was over, could be easily “dialed-back” for regular play.

Bear Creek Golf ClubWith new equipment changing the distance everyone can now hit the ball, Jones is beginning to re-do his own originals, with renovated bunkering and added length on courses like the Atlantic Golf Club on Long Island and Bear Creek Golf Club, his first Hilton Head Island project 25 years ago.

Jones strives to have his courses be just as challenging for the top pros as they are for us rank amateurs. His personal test of any of his course’s success is simple. Do you want to play it againtomorrow?

 

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