The improvement plan, which started in April, will remodel every bunker on the course, with an end result of 30-plus bunkers covering 29,000 sq. ft. Certain holes are closed each day while work takes place. A big change will involve replacing one bunker on the 10th hole with five smaller ones. “We’re not trying to make this course more difficult,” says Tyler Deaver, the club’s head professional. “We’re trying to make it more playable.”
Johnson City (Tenn.) Country Club is going back to its roots.
A major capital improvement project is underway at the club and one of the main goals is to bring the course as close to its original design as possible, Johnson City Press reported. The club opened in 1913 as a nine-hole course and a few years later, more holes were designed by famed golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast.
The project includes remodeling every bunker on the course, making them smaller and more defined, Johnson City Press. The surface in each bunker will eventually be flat with sod walls surrounding the sand. Other features are being added and tweaked. Several trees have been removed, either to improve the quality of the turf below or to make holes more playable.
“It’s big project,” said Tyler Deaver, the club’s head professional. “There is a lot of inconvenience at the moment and our membership has been great about it. They’re excited. I think people kind of know what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to make this course more difficult, we’re trying to make it more playable.”
Asking Deaver which of the renovated holes is his favorite is like asking a parent which is his favorite child, Johnson City Press reported.
“I love this golf course,” he said. “I’ve always loved it. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to take the job. It’s just really exciting. Plus I’m a huge architecture nerd, so getting the course back to what it probably was like back then, that just gets me excited. It’s awesome to see.”
The project began in April and members have had to make sacrifices, Johnson City Press reported. Certain holes are closed each day while work is being done.
“I’m fortunate to be here and I’m fortunate to be at a club that is not only able to do this, but also wanting to do this,” Deaver said. “I’m blessed.”
When the project is done, there will be 32 bunkers — maybe a couple more — that cover 29,000 square feet, Johnson City Press reported. Before the project started, the course’s bunkers covered 65,000 square feet.
Among the big changes is at the 10th hole, where one large bunker right of the green will be replaced by five smaller ones, Johnson City Press reported.
“Those five bunkers, you’ll be able to see them from the tee box,” Deaver said. “It’s going to look really, really good. Five bunkers in a cluster like that is something Tillie did quite a bit. You look at a lot of his famous golf courses — Baltusrol, Bethpage Black — he did a lot of that.”
The fifth hole features some dramatic changes as well, Johnson City Press reported. In addition to some tree work and pot bunkers being added left of the fairway, the area around the green has been reshaped with the bunkers undergoing drastic changes.
Among the notable trees removed — some were dying or dead — were ones near the greens on the first, second and fourth holes. Some areas of tall native grasses will be added. The tall fescue can be a golfer’s worst nightmare, but that won’t be the case here.
“We’ll go in and thin it out,” Deaver said. “We want it to be wispy and playable. We don’t want it to be so thick that it can’t be played out of.”
Some new teeing areas are being added on a couple of holes, but Deaver told the Johnson City Press it wasn’t an attempt to lengthen what is considered a short course by today’s standards.
“Our goal is not to make this golf course longer,” he said. “We’re adding necessary tee boxes so we can move back and forth when we want to do it in a tournament. Eventually we want to go back in and add some shorter tee boxes, some junior tees and senior tees.”
The work is expected to stop for a while this summer as the club holds its Member-Guest Tournament and the annual Tillinghast Invitational, which has been moved from June to August, Johnson City Press reported.
“We’re excited about this,” Deaver said. “It’s an ongoing process, but it is going to be really good. We’re trying to make it more playable for our members and I think that we’re doing that.”