Connect with us

News

The future’s restoration: Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh

Published

on

The Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh is known for its Seth Raynor golf course. With Raynor’s guiding hand, the layout crafted onto this meadow in the eponymous section of the Burgh stands unique among the region’s golf courses. While nearby Oakmont can lay claim to being the only Henry Fownes golf course design, Fox Chapel can stake its own claim as Raynor’s best. That is heady company, given the likes of Camargo in Cincinnati, Blue Mound in Wisconsin, and Fishers Island in the waters between New York and Connecticut.

Over the course of the year 2020, Tom Marzolf of Fazio Design lived and worked these fairways, helping course superintendent Jason Hurwitz and a build team rediscover and recreate what Raynor laid down. By rediscover, the assemblage confirmed original putting surface sizes, fairway corridors, and bunker placements. Some of the latter had been lost, and many of the former had shrunk just a bit. By recreate, the bevy dreamed how Raynor and Banks would have placed bunkers and tees in an era of increased technological influence. What they turned out to the membership in the spring of 2021, was a restored and renewed Fox Chapel, one that brags of Raynor’s brilliance and sets the stage for the next 50 years.

Seth Raynor built the course in the early 1920s. Unlike other courses, we had evidence of what it looked like immediately after it was built, including great photos from 1925 when it opened, as well as aerial photos from the ‘30s and more. We could see changes that happened over time.

“[A.W.] Tillinghast was on property in the ‘30s, as part of the work he did for the PGA of America during The Depression, and evidently there was an attempt to remove some of Raynor’s design. You can see in aerials taken in 1938 Raynor features being eliminated and “Winged Foot-type” fingers going into Raynor’s hard-edged bunkers. Other geometric forms were rounded out, even mowing lines changed. For example, on the par-4, dogleg-right 13th hole, Tilly sharpened the dogleg and moved the green to the right, eliminating a classic Raynor double-plateau surface. The 16th hole was a “Bottle”; then the Bottle design was gone and Winged Foot-type bunkers were added.”

“Were some of the bolder features too hard to play? We don’t know, but we felt our job was to make members aware of the changes.” – Tom Marzolf, Fazio Design

Seth Raynor was the right-hand man of Charles Blair Macdonald, the blustery father of American golf. Raynor was contracted to build a nine-hole course at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, and it was there that he met one of the school’s employees, Charles Banks. Banks had served as both English instructor and development officer at the prep school and became enthralled with Raynor’s approach to design. After the school’s course opened in 1924, Banks abandoned his career at Hotchkiss and joined forces with Raynor. Banks would earn the nickname “Steam Shovel,” for purportedly losing a steam shovel in a bog at the Whippoorwill course in New York. When Raynor passed in 1926, two years after their meeting, Banks finished a number of Raynor’s courses.

For those not in the know, Macdonald and Raynor were purveyors of the “template” school of golf course architecture. During travels to Scotland and England, Macdonald had identified holes that he considered to be the finest examples of strategic golf course architecture. They bore names like Redan, Road, Biarritz, Punch Bowl, Hog’s Back, Eden, Maiden, and others. Many of these holes are found, in one form or fashion, at Fox Chapel. In fact, it is something of a scavenger hunt among template fans to determine which course or club has the finest, the most unique, the most authentic mimeo of the original. Macdonald’s magnum opus, the National Golf Links of America, sits in the Hamptons of Long Island, and is a treasure trove of templates.

In addition to the aforementioned, it should be noted that Raynor was a civil engineer, a man remarkably inclined toward geometry. As Mr. Marzolf notes, the following is a fine assessment of what the restoration committee set out to achieve

“Geometry, bisecting lines of play, straight mowing lines, bands of the fairway that go right up to a geometrically shaped bunker and then turn. The use of template holes, like his mentor C.B. Macdonald, repeating the size of bunkers. We’re trying to make this the strictest adhering to Raynor principles possible. It is not an interpretation, it’s truly putting Raynor back on the ground.”

Over the intervening decades, the Fox Chapel Club hosted a number of elite events but fell a bit of a victim to the architectural flavors of the different times. Trees grew up and green surfaces shrunk. Deep rough became a method of protecting par, rather than the firm and fast conditions championed by Raynor and other, golden-age architects. In 2014, the club retained the Fazio design firm to develop a master plan for the golf course. Tom Marzolf was charged with leading a return to Raynor principles. Over the next seven years, the club and the Fazio firm moved in the direction of restoring as much of Seth Raynor’s design to the grounds but kept an eye on the future.

Many bunkers were simply no longer in play, thanks to the gains of technology over the years. Some bunkers were moved farther down the fairway, keeping the Raynor essence but allowing the holes to challenge the top players of today and tomorrow. Greens were restored to their original sizes, and lost features were recaptured. The greatest (but not the last) reclamation took place on the 16th hole. In 2005, when this writer visited the club for a high school tournament, the antipenultimate hole was known as Raynor’s Prize Dogleg, although there was little leg to the dog. Marzolf and the club determined that this was Raynor’s Bottle hole, and worked diligently to restore that trace to the hole.

With new equipment, we needed to modernize the course, to address the effects of new clubs and balls. We had to have a course that fits the yardage that the best players hit the ball. So, we took Raynor’s concepts and moved them.

“For example, originally bunkers were 185 to 225 yards off the tee: In many cases, we eliminated those bunkers and added new ones in the 285- to 325-yard range from the back tees and on the same side of the fairway. Deleting old bunkers also meant smoothing the grades where they used to be, eliminating any evidence, and reworking all the fairway lines. Building new bunkers meant locating and staking them out, projecting them into the fairways, and making them the focal points that control club selection off the tee.” – Tom Marzolf

One might have expected that 2019-2020 would have been lost to the pandemic, but that was not the case. Mr. Marzolf moved to Pittsburgh to supervise the final steps in the restoration of Raynor’s western Pennsylvania gem. Under the guidance of superintendent Jason Hurwitz, the reclamation was complete. In June of 2021, the Fox Chapel Golf Club revealed its wonderful golf course to the public.

What about our “but not the last” notation, two paragraphs above? It turns out that the 13th hole, which extends to the southernmost point of the property, was once the site of a remarkable, double plateau green. It remains the sole feature to not be returned to the fabled layout. It’s on the minds of more than one member and fan, and it would be a spectacular addition to an already challenging hole. We can dream, can’t we?

FOOTNOTE: It is suggested by membership that Banks did work with Raynor at Fox Chapel. Two bunkers in particular bear his style: the bunker that guards the front right portion of the 15th green and another on the eighth hole. The relationship of the bunker floors to the green heights intimate the work of a man who would impart his own technique to the digging of sand pits. It’s impossible to move from speculation to fact, so we’ll leave it at that. Banks would continue Raynor’s work after his passing, but would ultimately succumb to ill health himself, dying at age 49 in 1931.

—————————

For more on Seth Raynor, read this piece by Raynor Society executive director Anthony Pioppi.

For more on Charles Henry Banks, read this excellent piece by Anthony Pioppi.

Photos courtesy of this writer.

Your Reaction?
  • 26
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW1
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Steve Hjortness

    Jul 28, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    Great article. I love to read about the history of golf and the people involved with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

News

Morning 9: Gold medal hopes shift to Japan’s women | Harris English’s turnaround | Should caddies get medals?

Published

on

By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
August 3, 2021
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. Welcome to another day of the Olympic golf ball header image.
1. Now the Japanese women eye the gold medal
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“Last week, Nasa Hataoka played a nine-hole practice round with Hideki Matsuyama at Kasumigaseki Country Club. The round included the predictable small talk along with a few shared bits of course information, but what wasn’t discussed was the unique pressure the members of Team Japan face this week.”
  • “While there’s a great deal of pride among the Japanese players to compete in an Olympics at home there’s also heightened expectations, particularly for Matsuyama, who was poised to complete a dream season following his victory in April at the Masters with a medal-winning performance in Tokyo.”
  • “…He mentioned that because he couldn’t win the medal on the guys’ side, he sent me a good luck message on the girls’ side,” Mone Inami said.”
2. What’s more valuable to an American female golfer: a major victory or a gold medal?
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“This week in Tokyo, three of the four players representing Team USA are major winners, with World No. 1 Nelly Korda claiming her first in June at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Lexi Thompson and Danielle Kang have one major title apiece. Jessica Korda still awaits her first.”
  • “I would’ve loved to have been able to compete for a gold medal,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, who won seven majors. “You can win majors, a lot of people have majors, but very few people have gold medals. To have one of those, it’s something really special. That’s something that you can pass onto your kids and your grandkids. I think it’s an amazing thing.”
  • “Inbee Park, another seven-time major winner, has said on numerous occasions that her notoriety in South Korea went to another level after she won gold in 2016. When Park was vying for her fourth major in a row in 2013, former LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said the TV rating in South Korea was about an 8, which is similar to when Tiger Woods won the Masters in 2019. When Park won the Olympics in 2016, the TV rating in South Korea was a whopping 27.1.”
3. Feeling the pressure…sort of
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“Jessica and Nelly Korda were at Kasumigaseki Country Club preparing for this week’s women’s competition as Schauffele was grinding out a par at the final hole to claim the gold medal. It was Schauffele’s moment, but the pressure was felt by everyone on Team USA.”
  • “My Whoop [fitness strap] registered an activity during his last hole,” Jessica Korda laughed. “I think we’re really feeling it for him, it was just so clutch coming down the stretch and that last hole and with the putt and everything, that it’s bigger than us and golf.”
  • “Jessica Korda lives in South Florida and often practices with PGA Tour players, including Justin Thomas who finished tied for 22nd in Japan and had plenty of Olympic insight to offer.”
Surprised to see a quarterly print publication advertised in a daily email newsletter? Don’t be.
The idea behind the Morning 9 is a roundup of the day’s most significant storylines presented in an easy-to-digest format. The Golfer’s Journal occupies the other end of the spectrum: long-form, photo rich essays from some of the best writers in golf discussing all elements of this beautiful, maddening game.
More a collection of essays than a magazine. More a coffee table book of first-rate photos than a glossy, ad-filled monthly — GJ is a must-have for true lovers of golf.
GolfWRX may earn a commission of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
4. Park pursues another gold
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“I mean, 2016 was far more pressure-filled than I’ve ever felt in my life. I don’t know if I could do that again,” Park laughed on Monday at Kasumigaseki Country Club. “If I felt it once again this year, I don’t think I would be able to play.”
  • “For all that she has accomplished in the game, it was her performance in The Games that Inbee Park is most proud of.”
  • “That’s not to say Park isn’t looking forward to this week. In fact, she made a return trip a priority following her victory in 2016 and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which postponed the Olympics one year, she landed an intensely contested spot on the South Korean team.”
5. Hero World Challenge returns
Golf Channel digital team…”The Hero World Challenge will return after a year’s absence because of the global pandemic.”
  • “The event, hosted by Tiger Woods, will have an increased field of 20 players. It is scheduled to be contested Dec. 2-5 in Albany, Bahamas, and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC Sports.”
  • “While Tiger Woods tweeted out the information on his personal account, he did not say if he would be able to compete. Woods, who was in a single car crash in Feb., was spotted last week on crutches, putting weight on his surgically repaired right leg.”
6. An alternate was one of the great stories at the USWO
Max Schreiber with a very cool tale…”Dana Ebster made the most of her time at this year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open as the tournament’s first alternate, and she’ll be able to do it again after a T-10 finish got her into next year’s tournament.”
  • “Ebster, whose only LPGA start came at the 2000 U.S. Women’s Open, got a chance to play at Brooklawn Country Club after current NBC Sports and Golf Channel commentator Kay Cockerill withdrew from the major to cover Olympic golf in Tokyo, Japan.”
  • “…Ebster, 51, runs the junior academy and is a shop assistant at Turlock Golf and Country Club in Turlock, California. The club raised the money to send her to Connecticut, where she said she was on cloud nine with her son, Chris, on her bag.”
7. Harris English’s turnaround
Sean Martin PGATour.com…“How did English turn his career around? By returning to the swing that helped him have so much success earlier in his career. English started working with swing coach Justin Parsons in the spring of 2019.”
  • “He just kind of brought me back from getting lost in this whirlwind of different swings and different mechanics and swing positions,” English said. “He simplified it so much that I can know what I’m doing. (Golf) is actually a game now. I’m not worried about how my swing looks.”
  • “Below, Parsons explains how English unlocked his old swing and returned to the game’s elite:”
  • “It’s difficult to hit your target if you’re not aimed at it. Parsons described English’s alignment as “erratic” in their first session together. “I asked Harris to hit an 8-iron to five or six different targets and it was clear that he did not aim at the changing targets in the same way,” Parsons said. “As we discussed his desire to be a more consistent ball-striker, we agreed that without the process and execution of good alignment being in place, the golf swing was never going to be consistent.”
Seriously — check out the spread above. Subscribe to the Golfer’s Journal (or give it as a gift to the golf aficionados in your life!).
8. Should caddies get medals? 
9. Women’s Olympic competition tee times
Check out who’s teeing off when, via Golf Channel.
GolfWRX | PO Box 2765Dearborn, MI 48123
Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

News

Tokyo Olympics men’s golf DraftKings picks

Published

on

60 golfers will be making the trip to Tokyo this week for the men’s Olympic golf competition. Kasumigaseki Country Club sits 35 miles outside of Tokyo and plays as a par 71, tipping out to 7,447 yards on the scorecard.

The Charles Allison design features bent-grass greens and zoysia fairways, and it received a total facelift from famed architect Tom Fazio in 2016. From all of the course flyovers and information we have at our disposal, Kasumigaseki features similar elements to other Fazio designs/redesigns such as Firestone Country Club, Quail Hollow, and Shadow Creek.

On-ground reports have mentioned that the course is playing on the softer side, which conjures memories of how Augusta National played for the November Masters.

Premier ball-strikers, specifically those with expertise with their long irons and wedges, and those comfortable navigating large and undulating greens seem to be the safest bets.

You can check out my betting tips and selections here. Let’s dig into the DraftKings slate!

2021 Tokyo Olympics men’s golf DraftKings picks

$10,000 range 

Xander Schauffele, $10,700 (Projected ownership: 13.3%)

Xander Schauffele is often the highest-owned golfer on the DraftKings slate, but it appears that fantasy managers feel more comfortable paying up for Collin Morikawa or Justin Thomas this week. I’ll side with Schauffele, the number one bent-grass putter in this field, who has won and finished runner-up the WGC-HSBC Championship in China, finished runner-up at Shadow Creek, and has an unbelievable track record at Augusta National and East Lake, one of the only courses on Tour that features zoysia fairways.

$9,000 range 

Shane Lowry, $9,600 (Projected ownership: 10.6%)

I’ve already shared my love for Lowry in my betting tips article, yet the idea that he is coming in at only 10.6 perccent projected ownership makes him an intriguing DraftKings option as well. Sandwiched in between Viktor Hovland and Paul Casey, fantasy managers are passing on the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone winner at Firestone, and I can’t quite understand why. Lowry is currently playing some of the best golf of his career. The Irish representative has gained over 1.3 strokes on approach in every measured start since March.

$8,000 range 

Cameron Smith, $8,900 (Projected ownership: 14.7%)

Cameron Smith is a player who just missed the cut for my betting card, yet I will gladly take the plunge in DraftKings. The Australian finished 11th at Shadow Creek, fourth at Sherwood, and runner-up at the November Masters. While Smith is by no means low-owned, Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Sungjae Im, and Corey Conners all project to garner more ownership than the recent Zurich Classic winner. I’ll side with Smith, a top-five bunker player and birdie maker in this field.

$7,000 range 

Sebastian Munoz, $7,700 (Projected ownership: 14.9%)

I’ll take the plunge with Sebastian Munoz this week, who has recorded an eighth-place finish on zoysia fairways at East Lake, a ninth-place finish at Shadow Creek, and a 14th-place finish at the November Masters. The former Sanderson Farms Championship winner has been awesome on bent-grass greens, with recent finishes of third at Colonial and fourth at TPC Deere Run.

$6,000 range 

Sepp Straka, $6,400 (Projected ownership: 14.9%)

This is where things get tricky. I almost wrote up Henrik Norlander, but 21 percent projected ownership is a tough pill to swallow. I will gladly pivot to Sepp Straka, who is by no means flying under the radar, but is essentially the same player as Norlander at $400 dollars cheaper and less ownership. The University of Georgia product is coming off a start where he gained 4.2 strokes on approach at the 3M Open. That’s good enough for me at this price point, as this is a barren range.

Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

Continue Reading

News

Tokyo Olympics men’s golf betting tips and selections

Published

on

59 golfers will be making the trek to Tokyo this week for the men’s Olympic golf competition. This will be the fourth golf event in the history of the Olympics. It was played in Paris in 1900, St. Louis in 1904, and then after a 112-year hiatus, Olympic golf returned in 2016, as Justin Rose took home the gold medal in Rio. The Olympics will be a four-day stroke play event with no cut, similar to many World Golf Championships and shorter field events that make up the Asian swing of the PGA Tour.

While there is no hard data from professional competition on the host course, Kasumigaseki Country Club, we can responsibly draw comparisons to other courses that host professional tournaments. Kasumigaseki is a Charles Allison design with bent-grass greens and zoysia fairways. Famed architect Tom Fazio gave the course a total facelift in 2016, and from all of the course flyovers and information we have at our disposal, it features similar elements to other Fazio designs/re-designs such as Firestone Country Club, Quail Hollow, and Shadow Creek.

Playing as a par 71 and tipping out to 7,447 yards on the scorecard, length off the tee will certainly help here. Along with distance, I am primarily looking for players with experience navigating large and undulating greens, as well as elite long iron snipers and those who are capable of going low in benign scoring conditions.

Let’s dig into my outright selections!

Olympics men’s golf betting picks

Viktor Hovland (12-1, FanDuel Sportsbook)

The Norwegian sensation rated out as the number one player in my model this week due to his elite long iron play, length off the tee, expertise with his wedges, and ability to make birdies in bunches. Over his last 36 rounds, Hovland ranks inside the top-10 in strokes gained approach, strokes gained off the tee, proximity from 200 yards plus, proximity from 125-150 yards, and birdies or better gained.

With a 12th-place finish at Shadow Creek in the fall, and a third-place finish at Quail Hollow this spring, the two-time PGA Tour winner should be right at home on another tree-lined Tom Fazio course featuring large and undulating bent-grass greens.

Patrick Reed (16-1, DraftKings Sportsbook)

While concerns about Patrick Reed’s recent travel schedule are certainly valid, I’ve found reason to believe that the Olympics has his upmost attention. Reed is only in the field this week as a result of Bryson DeChambeau’s withdrawal due to a positive COVID-19 test, and despite learning this while in the midst of competing in the 3M Open, Reed jumped at the opportunity to represent his country.

The man deemed “Captain America” for his Ryder Cup heroics, has also experienced some incredible success on bent-grass greens, and tops this entire field in three-putt avoidance. While Augusta National is far from a perfect comp to Kasumigaseki, Reed always plays well at the Masters, and he is coming off a 14th-place finish at Sherwood in October and a sixth-place finish at Quail Hollow in April. I expect the nine-time PGA Tour winner to certainly be a factor come Sunday afternoon in Tokyo.

Shane Lowry (22-1, DraftKings Sportsbook)

After an understandable hangover from his life-changing 2019 Open Championship win at Royal Portrush, Shane Lowry is back to playing some incredible golf this season. The Irishman has made the cut in every major this year, and recorded top-15 finishes at The Players, PGA Championship, Memorial, and most recently, The Open Championship in his title defense. One through-line we can draw from Lowry’s historical results is that he always plays his best golf on the biggest stage.

Lowry is a bankable selection in stronger-field events because of his elite approach play. The five-time worldwide winner has gained over 1.3 strokes on approach in every measured start since March. With a win already under his belt at the Fazio re-designed Firestone, I expect Lowry to add a gold medal to his already impressive resume.

Abraham Ancer (25-1, DraftKings SportsBook)

Ancer is a player who I rarely bet as he has still yet to record his first PGA Tour victory. With that being said, this feels like a logical breakthrough spot for the University of Oklahoma product.

Ancer has already finished runner-up at Quail Hollow this year, and I love the idea of a soft Augusta as a comp course for Kasumigaseki, where Ancer contended as well. More recently, Ancer has also recorded top-10 finishes at the Valspar, Travelers, and PGA Championship. His ball striking remains elite, and he is one of the better putters in the field as well, ranking sixth in strokes gained putting and third in three-putt avoidance over his last 36 rounds. Bent-grass has also historically been his best surface. I firmly believe that Ancer will be in the mix this weekend in Tokyo.

Your Reaction?
  • 11
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW1
  • LOL3
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP2
  • OB0
  • SHANK3

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending