Knollwood Country Club members and their guests will face a rejuvenated golf course when they return to the venerable Elmsford club next spring. A major restoration of the course under the direction of Ontario-based architect Ian Andrew began this fall and promises to present players with some new and interesting challenges.
“It’s a great golf course but some of the details were lost over the years,” according to Andrew, who adds that the goal of the restoration is to adapt the design concepts of Seth Raynor and Charles Banks to the modern game played by Knollwood members. The architect had access to Raynor’s original plans and sketches as well as Bank’s construction notes. In addition, the club’s archives yielded an aerial photograph taken in the middle of the construction project in 1926. Raynor designed the course to replace an existing one on the property. He died before it was completed and Banks finished the project.
Bunkers are the center of the current restoration, with both location and style changes undertaken to sharpen their challenge to par. On the fourteenth hole, for example, a fairway bunker at the far corner of the sharp dogleg was removed while one on the inside was added to adjust the line of play away from road and discourage long hitters from trying to drive the green. The twelfth green was rebuilt completely to make the back of it more receptive to the approach shot and to improve drainage on the green complex.
Adjusting to the modern game doesn’t simply mean making the course longer, according to superintendent Matt Neaus. “Maintenance practices are new, too,” he says. “We now have the equipment to manage things like high grass faces in bunkers.” That allows for flat-bottomed bunkers surrounded by sloping grass walls like Raynor originally built. Many players will find them a bit more hazardous since balls that hit the grass face may stay there rather than roll back to the bottom as on flash-faced bunkers.
Head professional Bob Miller is excited about the renovation. “It’s going to change the playability of many holes,” he says. “I expect the tenth hole, now the #8 handicap, to become #4 because it’s going to play much harder, especially from the new back tee.” The new tee will add about 35 yards to a drive intended to reach the top of the hill. New fairway bunkers were added on the right side as well, which doesn’t bode well for slicers.
The renovation project actually began in 2010 when the club renovated the sixteenth hole, a daunting par three. The green was resurfaced to correct some drainage issues and additional bunkers were carved around it. Neaus says, “That may now be the hardest shot on the golf course.”
Tree removal, which is common in such restorations, has already opened sight lines on the course as well as improving turf conditions through better air flow and sun exposure. As longtime member Bill Losapio pointed out from the tenth tee, “You can now see play on five holes from here. It’s a great vista.”