Design Innovation: The Legends Nine at Bacon Park
Back in 2013 Richard Mandell Golf Architecture was tasked with restoring the remaining eighteen Donald Ross holes at Bacon Park Golf Course in Savannah, Georgia. At the time, the Ross holes were split among three different nines. Ross routed four original courses on the property in 1925, two of which were constructed. Sometime later, eighteen Ross holes were abandoned. An entirely new third nine was built in the mid-eighties and was split up with the Ross eighteen to create three equal nines.
Once we completed our restoration work (GolfInc. Renovation of the Year – Best in Class 2016), our Client, Mr. O.C. Welch asked us to assist with the nine holes that remained. Together we developed the idea to make this nine a destination of its own for beginning golfers and those looking for a short course experience. The concept included minimizing forced water carries and eliminating every sand bunker on the course.
The primary task was to create nine of the most interesting putting surfaces possible. In other words, I was free to design nine roller-coasters with no worries! Sitting on flat land, each green would have a “base model” plateau green raised far enough above natural grade to avoid flooding. Beyond that, the challenge was to create nine unique putting experiences. When I conceptualize putting surface design, I always recall the way Charles Blair MacDonald would drop pebbles onto a square sandbox, allowing gravity to reveal the highs and lows of future greens.
Full disclosure: I don’t actually have a mini Zen sandbox from The Sharper Image, but I do visualize similarly when it comes to greens design. For the Legends Nine at Bacon Park, I took it to a new level, knowing I wasn’t bound by the need to control green speeds. Although the Legends Nine was planned with beginners and high-handicappers in mind, anyone from age eight to eighty can putt so we made a calculated effort to create fun more than anything else. Balanced by the absence of sand, forced carries, and short distances, the putting surfaces provided a challenging balance.
What no one expected was that the success of the greens on the Legends Nine would also attract low-handicappers. The result is that Bacon Park Golf Course provides not only an authentic Donald Ross restoration championship eighteen, but a third nine that has become an attraction for beginners and experts alike. Following is a description of all nine putting surfaces and a look into my design process for each one.
Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring each of these unique greens on our social media channels. Stay tuned for more!