Chapter Nine: The Trent Jones Era (Part 2)


218    “construction and care of a new green”  RTJ, Inc., “Olympic Club—Lakeside--Ocean Course: Cost Estimate Revamping Course for Skyline Widening,” 14 Sept. 1954,” in The Olympic Club Files, JP, CUA.

218    “the green could be driven”  Robert Sommers, “From the Golf Journal Archives,” May/June 1985 issue of the USGA Golf Journal

218    “the seventh still wasn’t the strongest hole”  ibid.  Jones had always been fond of short par-4s and his reworking of the 7th at Olympic whetted his attitude for designing even more of them in the future: “A good hole isn’t always a tough hole, at least in terms of length,” observed Jones. “There is nothing wrong with a drive-and-pitch hole. They’re the most overlooked holes in the design of a golf course. And they can be some of the best, really something special, if they are properly designed, if some spice is built into them by the way the hole is configured, the way the hazards are set.”  He felt that the seventh at Olympic was unquestionably one of the very best short par fours that he ever created. “The hole is straightforward except for bunkers and rough guarding the opening to the green,” Jones explained. “It can be driven, but laying up is the wisest choice even for the big hitter. Awaiting him is a tiered green that can befuddle the best putters if they wind up on the wrong tier. The green is the ‘spice’ in this case, and it makes a little hole a giant.”  RTJ, GMC, p. 234.

218    “more punishing than anyone expected” Sommers, “From the Golf Journal Archives,” May/June 1985 issue of the USGA Golf Journal.

219    “make three-footers seem like thirty”  Jenkins, “Olympic Country Club, San Francisco, California,” in Sport Illustrated’s The Best 18 Golf Holes in America (NY: Delacorte Press, 1966), p. 32.  A factor in the future difficulty of Olympic’s putting surfaces for which Jones held no responsibility was the earthquakes that regularly took place in the San Francisco Bay area. With the ground shifting below the surface of the golf course, putting lines could actually change from year to year as new breaks appeared and old ones vanished. And it wasn’t just the putting surfaces that were affected. Back in the 1920s, several holes of the old Lakeside disappeared into the ocean during one big quake. Ibid, p. 32.

219    “requires God to be on your side”  Jones felt that a big mistake was designing a green with slopes that were too severe: “If the player, no matter how skillful, cannot apply his sense of feel to a putt and stop it somewhere near the hole, if the ball basically moves of its own momentum, then the slope is too steep or the hole is placed unfairly. If you just start the ball moving and it rolls off the green, or unfairly far past the hole, then the element of touch has been removed from putting and luck takes over” (RTJ, GMC, pp. 262-263). Readers may recall from Chapter Seven how Jones softened the slope in the back part of the eighteenth green at Augusta National after watching Ben Hogan three-putt from the back plateau in the 1946 Masters.   

219    “hit them from too great a distance”  Sommers, “From the Golf Journal Archives, May/June 1985 issue of the USGA Golf Journal.

220    “attended the ’55 Open”  The ’55 Open would produce one of the most surprising results in the annals of golf. As Dan Jenkins wrote, “Every open has heavy drama, but this one at Olympic was almost too much. It began with the course itself being the star of the show, and no sulking prima donna, either. It was viciously narrow and its rough was thick—“seven-iron rough,” they called it—matted and resistant.”  From the beginning, the scores ranged high. Eighty-two of the 162 players in the field failed to break 80 in the first round; this was worse than even at Oakland Hills. Getting off to a solid start was crucially important in any tournament but especially in the U.S. Open. But holes #2 through #5 at Olympic—a sequence of pars 4-3-4-4 which many experts came to consider “as demanding as any stretch in the world”—got most players off to “a gruesome start and shattered their poise” (Jenkins, “Olympic Country Club, p. 33).  Arnold Palmer carded what was, in his own words, “a miserable 77” (Arnold Palmer with James Dodson, A Golfer’s Life [New York: Ballantine Books, 1999], p. 128).

220    “got this thing by three shots”  I wish to thank San Francisco’s Warner “Butch” Berry for sharing his knowledge of the history of the 1955 U.S. Open and his conversations with Ben Hogan’s caddy for that event, Andy Zitelli. Telephone interview, Berry with author, 13 May 2013.

220    “about to turn topsy-turvy”  RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, p. 30.

221    “beat Hogan by three shots”  For a great narrative of  Fleck’s victory over Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club, read Al Barkow, The Upset: Jack Fleck’s Incredible Victory Over Ben Hogan at the U.S. Open (Chicago Review Press, 2012).

221    “extraordinary level of play”  It is not only unfair but incorrect to say that Jack Fleck did nothing in his golf career besides winning the 1955 Open at Olympic. He won two other PGA events, the 1960 Phoenix Open and the 1961 Bakersfield Open, both in playoffs by the way. At the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills CC in Denver, which Arnold Palmer won, Fleck finished third and truly could have won himself. (For an outstanding book on the 1960 U.S. Open and the extraordinary golf played on the PGA tour in the summer of 1950, read Curt Sampson, The Eternal Summer: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Hogan in 1960, Golf’s Golden Year [Villard, 2000].) Fleck finished seventh in the 1962 PGA Championship, won by Gary Player at Aronomink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. He went on to win two senior PGA events: in 1979 the PGA Seniors Chamnpionship, played at Turnberyy Isle Country Club  in North Miami Beach and the 1995 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (Demaret Division), in which he was paired ironically in a two-man team competition with Tommy Bolt. As discussed in the text of this chapter, Tommy Bolt was the frist- and second-round leader of the ’55 Open at Olympic. Bolt finished in a tie for third with Sam Snead at plus-12 292. Incidentally, for winning the U.S. Open, Fleck pocketed $6,000 in prize money. The entire purse was a little over $23,000, the equivalent of about $250,000 in 2014 dollars. 

221    “customized it to meet modern championship standards”  “I remodeled Oak Hill quite a lot. I made many changes to the course,” Jones related in an oral history interview to the USGA in 1991 (RTJ to AK, p. 121).  Wanting to add substantial length to some of the holes, Jones built a number of new tees. As he had done particularly at Oakland Hills, another old Ross course, Jones “removed some two dozen short-carry and orientation bunkers in favor of hazards in much longer landing areas,” added 27 new bunkers out in areas that would catch errant drives of the modern professional golfer, build seven new back tees, and left his imprint in one fashion or another on 17 of the 18 holes.  Golf architecture expert and Donald Ross specialist Bradley Klein has called Jones’s remodeling of Oak Hill for the 1955 Open “a typical modernization of the mid-1950s” (Klein, Discovering Donald Ross, p. 291). But in Jones’s view what he did at Oak Hill was take a unique up-to-date look at what Ross’s 30-year-old course had to offer and customize it to meet modern championship standards.  He did not consider what he did at Oak Hill to be any sort of ruinous cookie-cutter approach.

222    “eliminated much of the old ground-game character”  Klein, Discovering Donald Ross, p. 291.  An examination of four holes that Jones remodeled at Oak Hill for the ’56 Open suffices to demonstrate what Trent Jones did to change its character. On the first hole Jones took the bunkers on the left side of the fairway at 210 to 215 yards and “swept them out” farther into the fairway. He also extended the trap at the right front of the green and “flashed” it up into a visible upslope to be seen by the golfer when playing his approach shot. Finally, he placed “pot traps” at the left front and the right rear of the green. (This description of the changes Jones made to the first hole at Oak Hill for the 1956 Open can be found in an article by Bill Pulsifer, “Paydays Ahead for Pros; Still an ‘Old Man’s Game,” Rochester [NY] Times-Union, 28 June 1955, 30.

          At #2 Jones took what had been a 356-yard par-4 nicknamed “The Breather” and extended the tee so that it played far more breath-fully at 401 yards. He eliminated an obsolete cross-bunker at some 150 yards out from the tee, reshaped a right-side fairway bunker by turning it into two smaller bunkers that lay tight to the fairway at 250-260 yards from the tee, added three left-side fairway bunkers that stretched from 255 to 300 yards off the tee, and reshaped the right greenside bunker so as to reduce the front right portion of the green making for tougher pin positions. Overall, Jones’s remodeling turned a rather par-4 with a rather generous fairway into a much longer and tougher par-4 that demanded a more accurate tee shot followed by a mid-iron (rather than a wedge) into a better protected putting surface. 

          At barely 500 yards, the existing par-5 4th needed “teeth” both in terms of length and character. So Jones moved the tee from behind the green of the par-3 3rd to a spot seventy yards back and to the right, nearly even with 3rd tee. From there the golfer faced a formidable 571-yard three-shotter that began with a drive through a narrow chute of trees toward a dogleg to the right. Protecting the inside corner of the dogleg were two of Jones’s irregularly shaped bunkers, with four more bunkers facing the shot on the right-side staggered at distances from some 110 yards all the way to greenside, plus a single bunker to the left of the green. In sum, Jones took a straightforward par-5 that would have been an easy birdie for the pros and transformed it into a highly strategic long-hole that afforded the players an opportunity to bust a big drive over the bunkers at the inside corner and thereby be in great position to reach the green in two or to drive the ball safely out to short or left of the fairway bunkers, hit a safe approach shot, and then go for a birdie by hitting a pitching wedge in close to the pin. But that lay-up second shot was not automatic, because that first on-coming bunker—a rather large one—laid out there menacingly at 110-120 yards, with out-of-bounds further to the right and trees bordering both sides of the fairway. The pros would still make a fair share of birdies, but the revised hole was far more challenging than the old 5th, even producing the occasional double-bogey and higher.    

          Many Oak Hill members felt that their 14th hole was one of the finest on the course.  Known as “Bunker Hill” for the trio of steep-faced bunker that were situated into a sharp upslope in front of a high perched green, the hole Ross laid out the hole in the mid-1920s was designed to play as a devilish little 324-yard par-4 with a generous landing area for the tee shot. But the drive had to be well placed directionally in order to give the golfer the best angle for his approach shot into a small left-to-right tilted green that fell off on all sides. On this occasion Trent Jones did not add length (the hole played at 327 yards for the ’55 Open), for he, too, loved short but exacting par 4s. But he did add a fairway bunker off the left side of the fairway, right at the start of the upslope to the green—a hazard that Ross felt was unnecessary because the essence of the hole lay, not in a tight drive, but in the wedge shot up to the hole. To be fair to Jones, a number of trees had been planted both to the right and left of the fairway long before Jones’s redesign, which were already squeezing the landing area in a way that Ross would not have embraced. Even worse, a small tree was later planted, after Jones’s remodeling, that came to stand right in front of Jones’s bunker—and, even more absurdly, leaned substantially to the left, making the hole’s appearance look even stranger. Why the need for the fairway bunker when the fairway of the hole had already been made tight by the presence of the trees? That is the question that Brad Klein and other critics of the reformed hole have asked. Why wander so from “Ross’s basic genius”?  In Discovering Donald Ross, Klein states that Trent Jones originally wanted to turn the short straightaway par-4 14th into a considerably longer left-to-right dogleg that would play well over 400 yards. Club members loved their 14th hole essentially as it was and “rebuffed” Jones’s idea for the change. Klein, Discovering Donald Ross, p. 257-259.

222    “called Jones work at Oak Hill”  HWW, “Preview: The U.S. Open,” Sports Illustrated (11 June 1956): 31.

222    “played to 6,902 yards for the ’56 Open” Jones continued to conduct his driving tests both at Olympic in 1955 and Oak Hill in 1956. At Olympic, he used the par-5 16th in round one and the par-4 6th in rounds three and four. (This way Jones could be back at the clubhouse to watch the conclusions of those rounds and thus the tournament.) In a written report to the USGA, he summarized the results of his Saturday measurements. In round three the average carry was 215 yards with a 25-yard carry for a total of 241 yards and, in round four, it was 222 yards carry plus an average roll of 24 yards for a total of 246. Jones explained in his report that these yardages were about 15 yards shorter than would have been produced elsewhere besides Olympic where the air was “particularly heavy” being so near the ocean and with “saturated sites of fog” where heavy moisture created lush fairways “not conducive to rolls.” In retrospect, it is interesting to compare the driving data of the two main combatants for the title at Olympic. If anyone thinks Jack Fleck was a short hitter in comparison to Ben Hogan, this data shows otherwise. The tees-shot distances hit by Fleck and Hogan were the following: Round one: Fleck 220 yards carry + 22 yards roll for a total of 242 yards; Hogan 224 yards + 22 yards for a total of 247 yards; Round three: Fleck 217 + 37 for 254; Hogan 228 +31 for 259; Round four: Fleck 227 + 38 for 265 yards; Hogan 233 + 26 for 259 yards. The 265- yard drive that Fleck hit on Saturday afternoon was the longest drive that Jones measured throughout the entire tournament. See RTJ, “United States Open Championship—San Francisco,” n.d [ca. June/July 1955], 4-page typescript followed by 8 pages of statistical data.

          Environmental conditions at Oak Hill in 1956 were much better suited for long driving. The average distance of drives was 262, with the longest drives belonging to the powerful Argentine pro Roberto de Vicenzo, who was belting the ball 280 yards and more . RTJ, GMC, p. 107.

223    “greatest players of the era”  Dr. Cary Middlecoff (1921-1998), a trained dentist, came to be known as “The Golf Doctor” well before Trent Jones came to be known as:”The Open Doctor.” The author of this book has never seen or heard any suggestion that the two nicknames are in any way connected, but one  might speculate that a golf writer, having grown accustomed to Middlecoff’s nickname, may have extrapolated it to what Trent Jones was doing in the 1950s to “doctor” the U.S. Open courses. Middlecoff appeared in a sports documentary “The Golf Doctor” in 1947. A tall player with plenty of power and accuracy, Midddlecoff won 40 PGA Tour events, his first in 1945 and his last in 1961. Along with the 1956 U.S. Open, he won two other majors: the ’49 U.S. Open at Medinah and the ’55 Masters. After retiring from tournament golf in the early 1960s, Middlecoff became one of the early golf TV commentator. In 1960 he published a well-received illustrated golf instruction book Cary Middlecoff’s Master Guide to Golf (NY: Prentice-Hall). A biography of Middlecoff would make a nice addition to golf literature.  

223    “cut came at 149, or plus-7”  The 51 players who played the 36 holes of “Open Saturday” shot 48 of their 102 rounds with scores of 76 or higher. Rosburg, who had opened with 68, finished with rounds of 79 and 81; so, too, did up-and-coming star Tony Lema.  The great Bobby Jones once said, “No one ever wins the U.S. Open. Everyone else loses it.” That was certainly the case at the ’55 Open. Middlecoff began the final round with a two-stroke lead but bogeys on the 16th and 17th put his victory in jeopardy. After hitting his drive on #18 into the left rough and leaving his approach shot short of the green again in the rough, he squeezed in a four-foot putt for par. “The Golf Doctor” won, but his final holes, which one reporter called “golf’s longest hour,” were a genuine ordeal. Hogan stumbled, too, down the stretch, missing a 28-inch par putt on the 71st hole that, if made, would have tied him for the title. Ted Kroll, a highly respected player from upstate New York who had joined the PGA Tour in 1949 after earning three Purple Hearts for being wounded four times in the Second World War, suffered the worst collapse. After shooting rounds of 72, 70, and 70, the 36-year-old Kroll was just one shot off Middlecoff’s lead beginning the final round. Kroll stayed right with Middlecoff until his short iron missed the green on the innocent-looking 133-yard par-3 15th and he made bogey. The next hole was Kroll’s undoing. Hooking his tee ball into a spruce tree, he “tried to hack it out, took five strokes to reach the green and two putts to hole out” for a triple-bogey seven.  (Sommers, The U.S. Open, pp. 180-181.) Another bogey for Kroll at the monster par-four 17th continued his “train wreck.”  He ended up shooting a final round 73, dropping him into a tie for fourth place with 26-year-old Australian Peter Thomson and ’54 Baltusrol champion Ed Furgol. (Ted Kroll, after his distinguished service with the U.S. Army in World War II, took a job as assistant professional at Philmont Country Club in Huntingdon Valley, PA. The PGA Tour career that he began in 1949 lasted 34 years abd earned him eight victories. In 1956, the year of the Oak Hill U.S. Open, Kroll won three times and topped the money list with earnings of $72,836. Besides playing his way out of a chance to win the 1955 U.S. Open title, that same year  he lost the final of the PGA Championship, then played as match play, to Jack Burke, Jr., 3 and 2. Two years earlier, in 1954, Kroll became only the third player in PGA Tour history to shoot a 60, shooting nines of 30-30 in the Texas Open at Breckenridge Park Golf Course in Dallas. [Al Brosch had shot 60 in 1951 and Bill Nary did it in 1952.] On three occasions, Kroll played on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, in 1953, 1955, and 1957, winning three matches and losing just one.

          The next U.S. Open at Oak Hill would come in the tumultuous summer of 1968, just days after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Club officials brought Jones back to Rochester for a touch-up. Years later Jones would claim, “I remodeled the East Course hole-by-hole for the ‘68 Open.” (RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, p. 54. ) But his renovation for 1968 was fairly minor compared to the comprehensive revamping in 1956. He added 44 yards of length to the par-3 15th, “The Plateau.”  (Ross’s original length was 125 yards.) The biggest change for 1968 was a brand new par-3 6th hole, an in-house design (“masterminded” by the club’s head pro, Jack Lumpkin) that Jones did not like at all but went along with because club officials were adamant that something needed to be done to ease pedestrian traffic (both spectator and player) between the par-4 5th and the existing par-3 6th. (As Jones predicted, the new hole proved to be no challenge and was later created all over again by the Fazios, George and his nephew Tom, when they were brought in for another major overhaul of the East Course following the ’68 Open. In building the new par three, unfortunately, the Fazios also needed to rebuild the par-4 fifth, a beautiful hole that most members loved and many hated to see changed in any way. (Golf architect Tom Doak, who would later be brought in by Oak Hill to restore some of its original Ross-like character, has been strongly critical of the Fazio redesign. In his 1996 book Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, Doak wrote “Oak Hill East is consistently ranked among the top 50 best courses in the world . . . . But I wouldn’t rank the course that highly, since a lot of the appeal of the course was its honest, singular character, and the Fazio holes (George and Tom) are so different. It’s hard to believe that anybody would tear up one of the best holes in the country (the old par-4 5th East) in order to make a redesign scheme work, but it was done here.” Ironically, Oak Hill West, because it was judged to be the weak sister to the East layout, has been mostly left alone with “relatively little tampering down through the years,” keeping it “a more authentic Ross design.” Confidential Guide, p. 91. Bradley Klein agrees with Doak, saying “Interestingly, the West Course, which has never been subjected to such ambitious architectural intervention, retains much of its original charm, particularly its greens.” Rediscovering Donald Ross, p. 294.)

          Why did Oak Hill think it needed to alter its layout yet again after the 1968 U.S. Open?  Because the ‘68 championship was won by a then unknown, short, pudgy young Mexican-American with a flat golf swing (and a flatter wallet) who had ripped up their hallowed golf course with rounds of 69, 68, 69, and 69—four straight sub-par rounds. Winless to this point in his career, Lee Trevino achieved what had never been done in the entire history of the championship: finish all four rounds of an Open under 70. All told, the field shot 28 sub-par rounds; every player who finished in the top 14 had one, 19 of the top 21 did. In the final round an obscure 27-year-old pro from Des Moines, Iowa, with an ironic name for a skilled golfer, Steve Spray, made mincemeat of the layout, shooting 65. (Spray tied for fifth with Don Bies at four-over 284. Jack Nicklaus placed second at 279 with a low round of 66; Bert Yancey took third at 281 with rounds of 67 and 68; and Bobby Nichols grabbed third at 282 with rounds of 68 and 69.) The membership of venerable Oak Hill did not care for such low scores, many of them record-breaking. Nor did the USGA want to bring a national championship back to Oak Hill if it could not be toughened up, and Joe Dey plainly told club officials so. Oak Hill concluded it was time not only to bring in the bulldozers; it was time to try a different designer than Robert Trent Jones.

          The “sprucing up” of the East Course by the Fazios, as Trent Jones called it, was more than sufficient to bring back the Open. (RTJ, GMC, p. 67.)  In 1976 the Open was again played at Oak Hill, followed by the 1980 PGA, 1984 U.S. Senior Open, 1989 U.S. Open, 1995 Ryder Cup, 1998 U.S. Amateur, plus three more PGAs, in 2003, 2008, and 2013. Regrettably, however, in the opinion of Ross scholar Bradley Klein and many Ross purists, all of the “[s]ubstantial architectural modifications” to the East Course done over the years—from Trent Jones to the Fazios and beyond (Geoffrey Cornish, Brian Silva, and Tom Doak each oversaw subsequent “restorations” trying to get the East Course back closer to the Ross original)—“never fit right and still don’t.” The revisions “simply did not complement the original design and feel of the course.” In his book Discovering Donald Ross, Klein opined that the remodeling by the Fazios was even more ruinous than what Trent Jones had done, because at least Jones “had the freedom to rework the entire course in a [new] guise.” The work carried out by the Fazios, “if more limited,” was also “more jarring” (Klein, Discovering Donald Ross, p. 292, 294).

          But these controversies over the “design coherence” of Oak Hill’s East Course were all to take place in the future, and Trent Jones would care little about them. In his golden years, he would just be happy that Oak Hill was “one of the most talked about courses in the world” (RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, p. 34). And back in 1956, the international publicity that Jones got for once again redesigning the Open course was one more solid booster rocket fueling the meteoric rise of his highly rofitable practice. (Symbolic of his reaching a pinnacle was his election, in 1956, to membership in The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.  RTJ to Brigadier E. Brickman, D.S.O, Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, 12 Apr. 1956, in Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Files, JP, CUA.) Anyway, compared to the criticism that Oakland Hills had been battered with five years earlier, Oak Hill provoked almost little controversy. Players and sportswriters who earlier had complained about the unfairly arduous character of Jones’s redesigns now occasionally praised him or teasingly called him an “ogre” who “traps the pros” (Bill Bruns, “The Ogre Who Traps the Pros,” Life 7 June 1968 (64): 123-124). What had happened in the history of golf course architecture was a classic case of “the unexpected becoming the expected” or as writer and Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson would put it even more poetically, “Yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why.” In sum, the golfing world by 1956 was coming to expect exactly the type of championship golf course that just a few years earlier was considered abnormal, radical, and unfair.

          As someone originally trained as a historian of science, I cannot refrain from referring to the classic book by Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, published in 1962 and read since by virtually everyone interested in how a scientific community actually works. What Kuhn argued in his book was for an episodic model of scientific change in which periods of conceptual continuity, called “normal science,” were interrupted by periods of “revolutionary science.” During revolutions, the discovery of “anomalies” in the old “paradigm” of, say, how nature works,  leads to a whole new paradigm that changes the rules of the game as well as the “map” directing new research as well as new questions of old data, and that moves beyond the “puzzle-solving” of normal science. What was happening in the 1950s because of Trent Jones was a new paradigm for American championship golf courses design. Thus, even though there were predecessors for many of the design ideas that Jones fostered, his discovery of “anomalies” in the old paradigm of championship golf led him to create a new model—a radical discontinuity from what had existed before. Kuhn makes clear that all revolutions are strongly resisted initially, until they become the “normal science” and become the established view. Then the process starts all over again, though a strong enough paradigm (as was the case with the Ptoiemaic-Atristotelian worldview that Kuhn studied most carefully) can persist for hundreds if not thousands of years. Another metaphor by which to understand what Trent Jones did with his U.S. Open redesigns of the 1950s was to trigger a “sea-change” in how championship layouts were designed.

223    “not just one of Maxwell’s best”  RTJ, GMC, p. 63.

223    “three best holes on the course”  ibid.

224    “Maxwell Rolls”  On the life of Perry Duke Maxwell (1879-1952), see Christopher Clouser. The Midwest Associate: The Life and Work of Perry Duke Maxwell (Trafford Publishing, 2006). On Prairie Dunes, Maxwell’s gem of a course in Hutchinson, Kansas, see Mal Elliott, Perry Maxwell’s Prairie Dunes (NY: Wiley, 2002).

224    “some called brazen”  Flaherty, The U.S. Open, p. 150.

224    “in this case, white sand”  Jones felt that the type and amount of sand in a bunker was critical: “Sand should be spread at a depth of four to six inches above the sub-grade. The consistency should be reasonably firm or the ball will bury, creating a near-impossible shot even for the better players and certainly an impossible one for the higher handicappers.” In his memoirs, Jones specifically pointed at the 1977 U.S. Open at Southern Hills. Traditionally, the club had used a white powdery sand, but for the ’77 Open “too much sand was dumped into the bunkers at too late a date.” In Jones’s view, there was too much sand in the bunkers, anyway, and the new sand “never had time to settle and pack.” The result was that “in some bunkers the ball would bury out of sight.” Perhaps part of the reason for Jones’s critical observations about the bunker sand for the ’77 Open was that the club had invited George Fazio, not himself, to renovate the course for the championship. But Jones’s larger point was general, not personal: “I believe that sand traps should be hazards, but that was carrying things too far.” For his designs Jones preferred a coarser, white sand because it provided a firmer surface and drained better.” RTJ, GMC, p. 139.

224    “out of character with the green complexes”  Surprising to Jones when he first came to Tulsa was how heavily timbered and undulating the countryside was in eastern Oklahoma. The back nine at Southern Hills was endowed with gently rolling hills, but the entire layout was beautifully lined with oak, pecan, and elm, a scattered forest of splendid trees that truly was more than sufficient for an excellent parkland golf course but which, unfortunately, had been augmented by a tree-planting binge conducted by the club earlier in the decade. Large overhanging trees closed in on so many fairways that Jones left many of the corridors bunker-less; however, he did place new bunkers in a few spots where some felt they really were not needed, such as at the corner of the swinging dogleg-left 465-yard par-4 12th, a wonderful hole whose approach was strongly reminiscent of the par-5 13th hole at Augusta National.  Trent would later comment on the brilliance of the 12th at Southern Hills: “Long par-4s can rely on their length alone to test the golfer, but the great holes provide other examinations as well.” The hole “sweeps grandly around a bunker on the left side of the driving area, turning left and down to a green protected by a stream that runs in front and then all along the right side. The view for the second shot is spectacular and frightening all at the same time.” Hogan called it ‘the greatest par-4 12th in the U.S.”  Amazingly, the golfer, after finishing #12,  immediately faced an even longer par-4 (converted par-5), whose view into the green, given the two  ponds in front of it, was impressive and intimidating. Jones would later remark that the 12th and 13th holes together—all 934 yards of them (today the play to a total of 995)—were the best two consecutive par-4s in America. (RTJ, GMC, p. 235.) Besides great length, the holes presented the danger of water hazards on the approach shots into both greens, the kind of threat to a golfer’s mental equilibrium that Jones loved. As he would assert about water hazards, “Water in its many forms comes into play on many the world’s greatest holes…. Water is my favorite hazard, for several reasons. It is the most penal hazard, and it is certainly the most dramatic hazard. It adds beauty and it often is useful in the maintenance of the course…. I’ve found that water holes, because of their beauty and challenge, are the most popular among the majority of golfers. They get excited about water. It is a hazard that is immediately recognizable, and it appeals to them, even if in a perverse way. They are intimidated by it, but they are fascinated by it” (RTJ, GMC, p. 214, 215.)

          The only criticism I have ever heard of the 12th at Southern Hills Country Club comes from Tom Doak and it is a minor one: “The par-4 12th [at Southern Hill] is one of the most difficult two-shotters in America . . . and yet it is far from a classic hole, since the stream crossing in front of the green is invisible from the landing area for the poorer player.” Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, p. 183.

225    “height of three-sixteenths of an inch”  For comparison, for the U.S. Open held at Congressional Country Club in June 2011, the USGA specified that greens be cut to a height of 0.10 inches, almost twice as short as what had been specified for Southern Hills in 1958 and what would be the standard for national championships for many years thereafter. Three-sixteenths of an inch, the height that the USGA specified for the 1958 Open at Southern Hills, is equivalent on the Stimpmeter to eight feet six inches, which is very far (fast) by today’s standards. Invented by American golfer Edward Stimpson in 1935 and redesigned in 1976 by the USGA’s technical director Frank Thomas, the Stimpmeter became the standard device used to measure the speed of a putting green. It remains a very low-tech device, essentially just a small, metal ramp held by hand down at a specific angle to a flat part of a putting green. The “stimp” reading is how far the ball rolls (in feet) along the putting surface after it has been released and made its way down the rampway. The farther the ball rolls, the faster the greens.

225    “will not shoot lower than 283”  Jones quoted in HWW, “The U.S. Open: Golf’s Toughest Tournament,” Sports Illustrated (9 June 1958): 41.  As with Oak Hill, the next time the Open was held at Southern Hills, in 1977, the course refurbishing was done by George and Tom Fazio. Only two players broke even-par 280 for the week: Hubert Green, the champion, at 278 and Louis Graham at 279. Trent Jones attended the championship as he had been doing for four decades. Just like everybody else Trent had no idea that Hubert Green was playing the final round knowing that an anonymous caller to the Oklahoma City FBI office had said that three men were on their way to Tulsa to kill him, with no explanation whatsoever of motive. When he learned that Green, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, had decided to keep playing without interruption after being told about the threat to his life, Trent was struck with wonder about the young man’s courage and told him so the first time he had the chance. Trent was less of an admirer of the Fazios’ redesign. He kept that mostly to himself.

          Clearly by the late 1950s Jones had become the master of U.S. Open redesigns. The only golf courses that he had not been asked to remodel for the national championship between 1951 and 1958 were Northwood Club for the ’52 Open, Oakmont Country Club for the ’53 Open, and Inverness Club for the ’57 Open. In each case there was a strong local rationale as to why Jones was not brought in to do the redesign.

          In the case of the Northwood Club, the course was quite new. Part of Dallas’s golf boom following war’s end, the club opened for play in 1948. In no time at all Northwood established itself as a big time player in Texas golf. Thinking big as ambitious Texans say they like to do, club officials decided to go after the U.S. Open, feeling their impressive new facility in North Dallas had a shot at getting the championship given that the USGA wanted to bring it back to the Southwest, the first and only time the event ever having been contested there being at Colonial Club in Fort Worth in 1941. Surprisingly to many, Northwood made it happen, and with it delivered a major coup for Texas golf. Before the event was to be played in June 1952, however, the club understood that its course, though it played long enough—over 6,700 yards—would need some refinements. Bringing back William Diddle, the original designer, to do the work was an option, but the Indianapolis-based architect was busy working on courses in Montana, Kansas, and his native Hoosier state. Northwood members then resolved to hire a native Texan,  Ralph Plummer, whose outstanding redesigns of River Crest Country Club and Dallas Country Club (both Tom Bendelow originals) in 1946-47 had made great impressions on golfers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. [NOTE: On Northwood Golf Club as the 1952 U.S. Open Site, see Bill Nichols, :Dallas’ only U.S. Open made a major impression on four golfers,” SportsDay DFW, 14 June 2012, accessed on 15 May 2013 at, The four golfers mentioned in the title of the article are Don January, Bill Trombley, Herb Durham, and Dow Finsterwald. Only one of these four Texas golfers made the cut at the 1952 Open; that was Bil Trombley, whose 296 score left him in a tie for 19th. The tournament champion was Julius Boros, with a four round score of 281. Ben Hogan finished third at 286. He shot 69-69 the first two days, tying what was then the 36-hole Open record. His last two rounds in the high heat and humidity of Dallas were 74-74. For a short narrative history of this tournament, see Sommers, The U.S. Open, pp. 162-163.] 

          An even stronger preference for experienced local talent explains Oakmont’s lack of interest in bringing in Jones to modify its course for the ’53 Open. Fifty years earlier, in 1903, a wealthy Pittsburgh industrialist and accomplished golfer, Henry Clay Fownes (1856-1935) formed the Oakmont Country Club and with his 25-year-old son William Clarke Fownes, Jr. (1878-1950) laid out the club’s original golf course in rolling countryside just northeast of Pittsburgh. In the coming decades Oakmont’s golf course turned into one of the nation’s finest—and certainly one of its most difficult. And always the responsibility for improving the course fell to men directly attached to Oakmont: first to Fownes, Jr., who for many years served as chairman of the greens committee at Oakmont, and to Emil “Dutch” Loeffler (1894-1948), the club’s long-standing greenskeeper. Together the duo, over many years, created “an increasingly fearsome course,” one featuring nearly 200 bunkers (plus a special wide-toothed rake invented by Dutch Loeffler that formed furrows in the bunkers) and raised, table-top greens which were lightning fast thanks to Loeffler’s fine care and maintenance. (C&W, AoG, p. 266.) The golf course grew to be so difficult that when the U.S. Open was played there in 1935, only one player in the field, Sam Parks, Jr., broke 300, or eighteen over par, and that was just by one stroke. None of Park’s rounds were better than 73, or two-over. There was only one subpar round the entire tournament, a 70 in the third round by Henry Picard. When it was announced that Oakmont would hold the 1953 Open (thereby celebrating the 50th anniversary of the club), no one, including any USGA official, thought the course needed to be made harder. Oakmont’s bite was softened by the removal of 60 of the bunkers. The only other major modification for ’53 Open was a reconstruction of the 8th green, a project carried out by Arthur Jack Snyder (1917-2005), an apprentice to Loeffler (and another native Pennsylvanian) who would replace the legendary greenskeeper when he died in 1948. (Loeffler was an original member of the GCSAA, serving as its national treasurer in 1929. In 1962 Jack Snyder would serve as president of the ASGCA. )

          On the 1953 U.S. Open at Oakmont, see Sommers, The U.S. Open, pp. 164-166, and Flaherty, The U.S. Open, pp. 131-133. Ben Hogan shot a one-under par 283 highlighted by an opening round 67. No one came close to his score. Snead, in second, finished six strokes behind; Lloyd Mangrum, in third, finished nine strokes behind.It was Hogan’s fourth and, as it turned out, final Open title.

          Finally, the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, chose an option rather than Jones to update its golf course—a Donald Ross original from 1920—for the ’57 Open. Inverness had been modified for an Open once before, in 1931 when A. W. Tillinghast modified some of the course’s greenside bunkering.  It wasn’t that Jones did not want be the one to remodel Inverness; he discussed his ideas for redesign with club officials on more than one occasion. But in the end the decision went to rival architect named Dick Wilson. As a young man, Wilson, in 1925, had worked on a crew for Howard C. Toomey (died 1933) and William S. Flynn (1890-1945) when they were revising Merion’s East Course. In 1931 Wilson had also helped Flynn build Shinnecock Hills on Long Island. After the war, working from an office in south Florida, Wilson built the well-regarded West Palm Beach Country Club and made modifications to Ross’s classic Seminole Golf Club in North Palm Beach. As impressive as these credentials were, it was likely the golf course work that Wilson was doing in western Ohio during the mid-1950s was what convinced Inverness to give him its Open redesign. The 36 holes (North and South courses) that Wilson built in Dayton for the NCR Corporation had just opened to very favorable reviews. Plaudits were also being given to Wilson for his remodeling of the bordering Moraine Country Club in Dayton, a marvelous layout from the late 1920s done by Scotsman Alexander “Nipper” Campbell (1879-1942) after Campbell came to Dayton at the request of former Ohio governor and unsuccessful U.S. presidential candidate, James Cox (who Campbell had taught to play golf). Thus, along with his own impressive credentials, which in many ways rivaled Trent Jones’s, Dick Wilson’s strong connection to golf in western Ohio helped him land the Inverness job.  As to the extent of Wilson’s remodeling of Inverness, the scale of his changes were roughly equivalent to what Trent Jones had been doing from Oakland Hills onward, and generally to the same effect. According to Bradley Klein, “Dick Wilson altered or created 28 bunkers, in the process flashing them up somewhat and making them more conspicuous, if less well integrated into the green fill pads, than they were under Ross’s plan”(Klein, Discovering Donald Ross, p. 291.) As Jones would also do, Wilson added some new back tees. Regrettably, very heavy rains on the first day of the tournament washed out a number of them. Plagued by bad storms, hard rain and high winds, followed by temperatures in the 90s, the 1957 Open at Inverness Club was won by Dick Mayer, defeating defending champion Cary Middlecoff in an 18-hole playoff. For the four rounds, both men had shot a 282 score, which was two-over-par on the par-70, 6,919-yard golf course. A curious tale associated with this playoff was how Mayer responded to Middlecoff’s painfully slow play, for which he was notorious. Whenever Middlecoff began to loiter over a shot, Mayer would simply take a seat on a fold-out camping stool that he brought with him. Mayer’s stoic disdain for Middlecoff’s slow play should have won more fans for him than it did. That same year Mayer won the $50,000 first prize at George S, May’s World Championship, which went a long way to making him the tour’s leading money for the yeat, at $65, 835. He also played on the American Ryder Cup team in 1957. Mayer won a total of  seven times on the PGA Tour, including his Open.

          In the purely business sense of securing golf course contracts, Dick Wilson stood as the main rival to Trent Jones in the 1950s and 1960s. But in terms of basic philosophy and style of golf course architecture, Wilson was himself an active counterpart to the new paradigm of modern golf design that Trent Jones had been championing. “Dick Wilson created many wonderful courses,” Jones would say in later years upon looking back at his competitor’s body of work. Wilson almost always gave his greens plateaus, as Jones did, and he often set them on a diagonal to the approach shot thereby offering a variety of hole locations; this, too, Jones did. Wilson also used the land to its best advantage: the best holes that Wilson built, according to Jones, “seemed to have been there forever,” There was “no greater accolade,” in Trent’s view, than building a golf course that seemed one with its setting (RTJ, GMC, p. 65). Jones admired a number of Wilson’s designs, especially Long Island’s Meadow Brook Club (1955) and Deepdale Country Club (1956) courses; Bay Hill (1961) in Orlando (later to be redone by Arnold Palmer); the Doral Blue Course (1962) in Miami (bought by Donald Trump in 2012 to be redesigned by Gil Hanse); Cog Hill No. 4 outside of Chicago (1964, which Jones called “one of the best public courses in the world” and a layout that his son Rees would revamp significantly in 2010); La Costa outside of San Diego (1964); and the JDM Country Club courses in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (1964). The absolute best Wilson course, however, in Jones’s judgment was Pine Tree in Boynton Beach, Florida (1962). Trent called it Wilson’s pièce de résistance and “one of the great courses ever built on flat land” (ibid). Dick Wilson died in 1965 at age 61, but the rapid growth in the size of his staff which was needed to keep up with all his new business mirrored the expansion of Robert Trent Jones, Inc., in the late 1950s and 1960s. (“Robert Trent Jones, Inc.” received its legal certificate of incorporation on October 17, 1958.) After his death, Wilson’s top assistants—Joe Lee, Robert Von Hagge, Ward Northrup, and Frank Batto—went on to successful careers of their own. In that sense, Trent Jones kept competing with Wilson long after his rival’s death. 

226    “William B. MacDonald in Bal Harbour, Florida”  William B. MacDonald, Jr., was another on the long list of wealthy and influential men with whom Trent Jones became acquainted over the years of his long career through his work in golf course design. Bill MacDonald, or “Mr. Mac” as he was called, was president and director of the William B. MacDonald, Jr. Corporation, who gross assets by the late 1950s were estimated to be $52 million. Among his company’s wholly owned subsidiaries were the Housing Investment Corporation of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the island’s largest mortgage company; the Silmac Corporation, which held 45% of the stock in Miami’s Tropical Park racetrack; and MacDonald Farms, a racehorse stud farm near Del-ray, Florida. He also owned baseball’s Tampa Bay Tarpons of the Class D Florida State League. In 1964 MacDonald was the promoter of the heavyweight championship fight between Cassius Clay (soon to be known as Mohammed Ali) and Sonny Liston. On MacDonald, see Gilbert Rogan, “The Many Faces of Mr. Mac,” 17 Feb. 1964, SI Vault, accessed 16 May 2013 at

226    “modified recent layouts”  Remodeling has always raised an ethical conundrum of sorts for golf designers. The original designer has typically wanted control of modifications, if at all possible, especially if those modifications are being driven not by dissatisfaction with the design but by other forces, such as expanding a clubhouse, repairing storm damage, or dealing with encroaching property uses. Over the entirety of its history, the American Association of Golf Course Architects has struggled with a code of conduct regulating the issues related to remodeling. The only constraint that the ASGCSA has put forth rests in the answer to the question: Was the previous designer paid for his work? If he was, then everything is considered carte blanche, a free-for-all. Unquestionably, the history of golf course architecture in America has experienced a multitude of instances that clearly show that the golf design business has been conducted in a cut-throat arena, but that just makes it the same as nearly all other for-profit business situations. It may be that those golf course historians and architectural aficionados who criticize subsequent designers for altering the original sanctity of their favorite golf courses fail to acknowledge the dog-eat-dog realities of being a golf architect, during any historical period, classic or modern. There is no indication in the records of Robert Trent Jones, Sr., that he was very concerned about remodeling other designer’s golf courses. His remodeling jobs of the late 1950s included (apart from his U.S. Open course redesigns) the following—1956: Dellwood Country Club (revised, William F. Mitchell) in New City, NY; and Elkridge Club (Bendelow) in Baltimore, MD; 1958: Garden City Country Club (Emmet) in NY; Green Spring Valley Hunt Club (unknown)in Garrison, MD; and Westmoreland Country Club (Wilson) in Export, PA; 1959: The Country Club of Birmingham (West Course, Ross) in AL; Century Country Club (Alison & Colt)in White Plains, NY; Firestone Country Club (South Course, Way) in Akron, OH; Montclair Golf Club (Ross) in NJ; Moon Brook Country Club (Park, Jr.) in Jamestown, NY; Country Club of Orlando (Ross) in FL; Ridgewood Country Club (Emmet) in Danbury, CT; The Country Club of Rochester (Ross) in NY; and Tavistock Country Club (Findlay) in Haddonfield, NJ; 1960: Arcola Country Club (Barker) in Paramus, NJ; Bartlett Country Club (Stanley Thompson) in Olean, NY; Broadmoor Golf Club (East and West Courses, Ross) in Colorado Springs, CO; Colonial Country Club (Bredemus, later revised by Perry Maxwell and then Wilson) in Fort Worth, TX; Huntington Country Club (Emmet) in Huntington, NY; Innis Arden Golf Club (J. Kennedy Tod) in Old Greenwich, CT; The Country Club of New Canaan (Park Jr.) in CT; New York Hospital Golf Course (unknown) in White Plains, NY; and North Hempstead Country Club (Tillinghast) in Port Washington, NY.  

226    “fifty-nine jobs in the six-year period”  The work took Jones to 21 different states, 15 east of the Mississippi: New York, 8 projects; Florida, 5 projects; Maryland, 4 projects; New Jersey, 3 projects; North Carolina, 2 projects; and Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri, 1 project each. West of the Mississippi Jones traveled to Texas (2 projects) as well as to Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Colorado (1 project each.) In comparison, Jones’s main business rival, Dick Wilson, built twelve new 18-hole golf courses, three 9-hole golf courses, and one 45-hole complex, for a total of 288 holes—110 fewer than Jones completed during this period. Wilson’s thirteen remodeling projects took him to six different states. The bulk of his work was in his home state of Florida. He completed four projects in New York, three in Pennsylvania and Ohio, two in Georgia and Ohio, and one in New Jersey. West of the Mississippi he completed one project each in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, and California. Wilson’s company was more adventurous overseas than was Jones’s, building golf courses in the Bahamas, Cuba, and Venezuela, plus doing remodeling work on courses in Australia and Mexico; it also built a 45-hole complex for Royal Montreal Golf Club in Canada. As we shall see in Chapter Eleven, Jones’s company was itself on the verge of a major move into foreign markets, beginning in the late 1950s with major projects in the Bahamas and another in Puerto Rico. 

226    “designed by Donald Ross in 1918”  Klein, Discovering Donald Ross, pp. 139-40.

227    “rarefied mountain atmosphere”  Jones played the Ross course with Lewis “Bud” Maytag, the 28-year-old grandson of the founder of the Maytag Company, the appliance manufacturer based in Newton, Iowa, best known for its washing machines. (Readers should now add Bud Maytag to the long list of wealthy and notable people that Trent Jones came to know as clients and friends. Young Bud Maytag shunned the family business for a career in flying. In the late 1940s he became an airline pilot, started an air-refueling business, by the late 1950s owned Denver-based Frontier Airlines, and by 1961 held the majority share in National Airlines. Besides becoming rich, Bud Maytag was a skilled amateur golfer who had won several Iowa state titles before meeting Trent Jones. Jones also met Bud’s father, Fredrick Maytag II, who had taken over as the Maytag president after the death of his own father. Glenn Fowler, “Lewis Maytag, Airline Official, Dies at 64,” NYT, 25 Sept. 1960, accessed on 18 May 2013 at “I remember that the walk up to the sixth tee just puffed Bud and I out,” Jones would recall many years later. “I guess people don’t walk so much anymore,” said Trent, “but you have to remember [as an architect] not to make any long, steep climbs [for your golfers] in the rarefied mountain atmosphere.” It was a lesson he should have remembered from his similar experience many years earlier with Thomas Watson while developing the IBM course on a hilly piece of ground. RTJ, GMC, p. 177.

227    “could hit from different perspectives”  RTJ to AK, p. 114.

227    “the engineering design for the golf course’s irrigation”  Ron A. Scarbrough, Colonel, USAF, Chief, Engineering Div., Air Force Academy Construction, to RTJ, 20 Vesey St., New York 7, NY, 2 Oct. 1957, U.S. Air Force Academy Files, JP, CUA.

228    “U.S. Men’s Amateur (1967)”  For an analysis of the Broadmoor East Coast on the eve of the 1967 U.S. Amateur, see Hunter H. Durning, Special to the Christian Science Monitor, “Amateur Golf: Par-chasers ‘mountaineering’ in rugged Colorado Rockies,” The Christian Science Monitor (29 Aug. 1967): 177. The championship was won in 1967 by 23-year-old Oklahoman Bob Dickson, who won the British Amateur that same summer. Dickson went on to win six PGA Tour events and won even on the Senior OGA Tour.

228    “as part of the Yale University team”  Although the University of Houston won each time at The Broadmoor, over the entire history of the NCAA Men’s Championship, Yale has won the most titles: 13. None of those titles was won after 1943.

228    “The East and West Courses”  For a history of The Broadmoor resort, see Elene Bertozzi, Broadmoor Memories: The History of The Broadmoor (The Broadmoor Hotel, 1993).

228    “William Rees Jones, passed away”  Trent discussed the death of his father in a letter that he wrote to Jimmy D’Angelo, head pro at The Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, dated 13 Sept. 1960, copy in The Dunes Club Files, JP, CUA.

229    “ultimate test of a mountain course”  RTJ, GMC, pp. 177-78.

229    “they chase you if you run”  ibid., p. 153.