Raymond Hearn Golf Course Designs continues work at the White Lake Golf Club in Whitehall, Mich., and Francis Byrne Golf Course in West Orange, N.J. has been reopened to the public after an $8.7 million project that included rebuilding all the greens complexes, bunkers, cart paths and tee complexes, removing dead and hazardous trees, and redesigning several holes.
White Lake Golf Club in Whitehall, Mich. continues work on its layout, while Essex County (N.J.) Francis Byrne Golf Course has been reopened to the public.
Renovation and restoration work at the classic White Lake Golf Club, part of a master plan created by Raymond Hearn Golf Course Designs, continues in dramatic fashion.
A new No. 3 hole and dramatic changes to No. 4 will emerge this summer at the club that opened in 1916 and includes an original nine holes designed by the legendary Tom Bendelow.
“We are excited about the designs and work Ray Hearn is doing because they fit perfectly with our goals of attracting new members and restoring the classic features of our course and improving what we feel is a hidden gem,” Don Nellis, a club board member and chairman of the renovation and restoration effort said. “The renovations completed at this point have already been called a remarkable success by our membership and we have great anticipation for this next phase.”
Hearn, based in Holland, Mich., about 50 miles from White Lake, has studied and taught others about classic design and what he terms the Golden Age of Golf Architecture prior to 1930. His company has won multiple restoration and renovation design awards for work across the country in recent years and he said he was enamored with the chance to work with White Lake.
“The work we are doing at White Lake is exciting, and we’re honored to be working on a Bendelow course with such great original design,” he said. “Together with the membership we are unveiling a wonderfully renovated classic course.”
Bendelow, one of the world’s most prolific original golf course architects best known for his classic design at Medinah Country Club in Illinois, designed what is now the back nine in 1916. The front nine and other revisions followed in 1927 by members E.E. Roberts and Al Seckel.
“The original nine on the north side of the road is the Bendelow nine, while the holes on the south side were the addition added by the club members, but all the holes look like they are Bendelow inspired,” Hearn said. “He clearly influenced the entire design and I feel the greatest tribute you can make to a designer is to honor the routing of the course and also honor the original shapes and forms of the greens and bunkers.”
A 1930 aerial photo and other research by Hearn were used in creating the master plan, which includes work on all 18 holes over time, additional yardage and significant tree removal.
“There are some wonderful trees that will remain part of the course, but there were some holes where the growth over time had limited the angles and options for play on holes and created an almost claustrophobic feel in a few places,” Hearn said.
Hearn said work on hole No. 2 last summer, which included shifting the fairway for playability, produced positive feedback from the club. The club recently closed holes 3 and 4 for the season, and Hearn is building an entirely new No. 3, a par 3, and because White Lake is blessed to be located in an area of natural sand, he has added dramatic sand and natural grass waste areas to No. 4.
“We have stayed with the forms of the new greens, expanding them and squaring off corners like we found in the 1930 photo,” Hearn said. “We’re going back to 1920s styles of bunkers and the course will have that golden age look and field. At the same time, the course is still going to be fun and fair from the forward tees for the lesser skilled golfers.”
Nellis said Hearn has helped the club make quality, logical renovation decisions.
“We’ve been able to move forward knowing we are doing the right thing,” he said. “We feel our decisions will have a lasting effect on our golf course as well as our membership for decades into the future.”
Topp Shape Enterprises based in Bellbrook, Ohio, is the construction and shaping team working on the project.
“They are a respected, well-established golf course construction firm and they are doing a tremendous job,” Hearn said. “I’ve been to the project site twice in the last three weeks and their work has been perfect.”
White Lake Country Club is private but has openings for members.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that Essex County Francis Byrne Golf Course in West Orange, N.J. has been reopened to the public after an $8.7 million renovation project, TAPinto reported. The improvements are part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to revitalize the Essex County Parks System and provide the most up-to-date recreation facilities.
“Essex County Francis Byrne Golf Course is known for its historic features and beautiful vistas. The work that was done addresses long-standing issues affecting the course and modernize drainage and irrigation systems so that golfers are provided with championship caliber playing conditions,” DiVincenzo said.
The project included rebuilding all the greens complexes, bunkers, cart paths and tee complexes, removing dead and hazardous trees, redesigning several golf holes and invested in new electric golf carts, TAPinto reported. Improvements that golfers will not notice, but are integral to operations, are new irrigation systems at tees and greens for better and more efficient use of water, new irrigation pumps to enhance efficiency, a new maintenance building to house golf maintenance equipment, new bathrooms, and a new open-air pavilion for golf outings. Work on the open-air pavilion and maintenance building is ongoing. The upgrades to the maintenance area are not visible to the public.
The improvements were funded through the Essex County Capital Budget and with grants from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund and American Rescue Plan, TAPinto reported. Work began in September 2022 and was completed in 10 months.
The completion of renovations at Francis Byrne Golf Course means that work at all three of the County’s public golf courses has been completed within the last six years, TAPinto reported. Hendricks Field Golf Course in Belleville underwent a similar modernization initiative and was reopened in 2021. Weequahic Golf Course in Newark saw its entranceway revamped with a new parking lot and open-air pavilion, renovations to The First Tee Learning Center and redesigned 10th and 11th holes completed in 2017.