OLD WARSON COUNTRY CLUB
Course Name: Old Warson Country Club
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, 12 miles due west of downtown
Year of RTJ Original Design: 1955
Major Redesigns: In November 1958, it became apparent to the club members that one of the “long walks” between #13 green and #14 tee needed a slight adjustment to be more user-friendly. Trent Jones was approached with some suggestions that he ultimately approved. Jones removed the 314-yard dogleg right #14 hole and re-shaped the terrific 15th hole—a demanding par 3—into an even better par-4 (this is the “Favorite Hole” mentioned below). Needing to replace the lost par-3, the present 17th was added. This had the added benefit of reducing the walk between the 17th green (#16 today) and the 18th tee. Besides the course changes mentioned above, there was also a significant renovation in 1994 when all the greens were brought up to USGA specifications. It was a 9-month project led by the Hale Irwin Design Group with the construction performed by Wadsworth Golf Course Construction. A major effort was extended to retain the original contours of Trent Jones’s greens during this process. In 2007, all the bunkers were renovated, with the intent to get back to the original designs from the 1950s. This was successfully completed by the green superintendent, Tim Roethler, and his staff.
Owner/Developer: W. Alfred Hayes and James E. Rarick, prominent St. Louis residents and area businessmen, purchased the land for the golf course in late 1952 for $200,000 in the name of the Algonquin Chemical Company, Dubuque, Iowa. The new club’s first organizational meeting was held at the St. Louis Racquet Club. Founding members numbered 38, all of them prominent St. Louis citizens. At its first meeting in January 1953, the board of what was to become Old Warson Golf Club determined to have a golf course that would merit national recognition. With little debate, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., was chosen both to design the golf course and supervise its construction. Hayes and Rarick advanced additional funds so work could start immediately. A man named Oscar Bowman was hired as the club’s first greenskeeper. Bowman worked with Jones and his crew on the construction of the course. The layout was opened for play on April 15, 1954. E. J. “Dutch” Harrison, a former Ryder Cup player and a Vardon Trophy winner, served as Old Warson’s first club professional.
Membership: From its inception, Old Warson has been an elite family-oriented private club. So many people wished to join the club when it opened that the board chose to limit the membership to 300 members.
Number of Holes: 18Par: 35-36=71 (men), 36-37=73 (women)
Length—Back Tees: 3,410 front nine, 3,705 back nine, 7,115 total
Length—Middle Tees: 3,118 front nine, 3,456 back nine, 6,574 total
Length—Forward Tees: 2,858 front nine, 3,212 back nine, 6,070 total
Course Description: An undulating, tree-lined, bunker-filled layout with a number of doglegs (turning in each direction) plus a great combination of short and long holes.
No. 8—455 yard par 4. The number-one handicap hole, #8 is not only a long par-4 it is a dogleg right with a large bunker on the inside of the dogleg, and it is uphill from tee to green. The green is one of the largest on the course and has a great deal of slope front to back and left to right.
No. 14—336 yard par 4. This is a short Cape-type hole whose tee shot from an elevated back tee requires a 200-yard carry across a big lake to a very narrow landing area. Water down the left side and bunkers flanking both sides of the fairway test the nerves of even the best golfers. A well-placed tee shot will leave a short approach shot but one that must avoid three bunkers to find a long, sloping and narrow green. The hole has a lovely sloping fairway with tall trees flanking the right side of the fairway. It also has a magnificent waterfall at the back left of the green that was constructed in 2008. The green has as much slope as any on the course; it may be easy to reach in regulation but it poses definite putting problems.
Par 3 Lengths: 192 yards (4th), 170 yards (8th), 188 yards (13th), 207 yards (17th)
Par 5 Lengths: 521 yards (6th), 554 yards (12th), 605 yards (16th)
Longest Par 4: 447 yards (8th)
Shortest Par 4: 336 yards (14th)
Average Par 4 Length: 375 yards (back tee)
Chief Hazards: Today there are 69 bunkers on the course whereas there were 57 when the course opened in 1955. Water comes into play on holes #5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. There was a creek to the right of #1 fairway on the original layout that later became a small lake. It was removed in 1975 a few years after the Ryder Cup.
Major Championships and Title Winners: 1971 Ryder Cup (U.S. victory, 18½ to 13½; Jay Hebert, U.S. captain)2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur (Jennifer Song)Other Championships:1999 U.S. Mid-Amateur (Danny Green)
Tournament Qualifying Site: U.S. Open (1978, 1994, 2004, 2013), U.S. Mid-Amateur (1985), U.S. Senior Open (1990), U.S. Junior Amateur (1993), U.S. Open (1994, 2004), USGA Senior Amateur (1996) and USGA Senior Women’s Amateur (2006).
Course Record: For the original course opened in 1955, the amateur course record is 68 shot by Phil Rodgers in the 1957 Western Amateur. Dutch Harrison, the first club pro at Old Warson, shot 66 in June 1955. For the renovated course, the competitive course record is 65 shot by Frank Keller in 1958 U.S. Open qualifying (Keller was an assistant pro at Westborough CC in St. Louis). Additionally, former Old Warson head golf professionals Don Clarkson and Garth Bayer shot 65 from the white tees, in 1974 and 2003, respectively. Amongst club members, Jack Berkely shot 65 from the Blue tees in 1971 and the same score from the White tees in 1966 and 1978.
Course Rankings: 5th Best Course in Missouri (Golf Digest)
Anecdote: Al Hayes, one of the two visionary founders of Old Warson, died in 1980. His ashes were spread over the lake in front of #13 green. Not long after Hayes’s death, green superintendent Roger Null was sitting in his house (located no more than 400 yards from the #13th green) one evening as a terrific storm complete with lightning and thunder was raging outside. Suddenly a dog appeared at his door, scratching at the glass in an effort to get his attention. As Roger opened the door, the dog ran into the house and jumped on the sofa, acting like he had been there before and knew exactly where he was going. Roger took a liking to the dog and named him “Bunkers.” When Roger re-told the story, some members suggested that perhaps it was Al Hayes reincarnated with the ability to once again roam the grounds to keep an eye on things! Almost immediately, Bunkers became a part of the grounds crew and for years was Roger Null’s constant companion as he rode throughout the grounds in his cart.Expert Comment: “A fine example of Trent Jones’s work at the peak of his career: still plenty long for Open qualifying (in fact, it’s probably one of the toughest local qualifying sites in the country), and featuring very large, undulating greens, and bunkers that sprawl with a flourish…. Most of the holes on the back nine qualify in the ‘memorable’ category, and the front side is certainly no pushover.” Tom Doak, The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, p. 175.