Golf Architect Rees Jones led a recent walkthrough of
the redesigned South Course, at Alameda,
California’s Chuck Corica Golf Complex. At a
reception that followed, someone asked the famed
architect if he had
a favorite among his many designs.
“As tough as this business is,”
Jones quipped, “my favorite is the next
The joke drew laughs, but also painted a stark
picture of the realities facing a business where you
hear about more closures than openings.
But the news isn’t all bad.
Take for instance golf design and operations
firm Greenway Golf. The company
was selected three years ago to take over the golf
operations for Alameda, an island town abutting the
San Francisco Bay. (Alameda residents once relied
on a ferry to take them to San Francisco, before
construction of the Bay Bridge)
Rees Jones (left)
with George Kelley
foreground) and Jane Sullwold
click photo above to view gallery
At the crux of Greenway’s proposal was
rebuilding the courses, starting with a par-3 layout
known as the “Mif Albright” and the popular Lucius
Bateman practice range, where an artificial grass
fairway was replaced with a drought-tolerant variety
the real thing. (I couldn't believe how much better it
looks -- there's a lot to be said for hitting to a real
golf landscape.) With both of those projects
complete, and the South Course starting to take
shape, residents are seeing the big picture, and
looking forward to opening day, sometime in the fall
heard in talking to employees and
“regulars” were positive comments.
One of those touring the course, Jane Sullwold,
seemed especially pleased with the progress, and
an amazing amount about the project. It's no
surprise given that she was the head of the Alameda
Golf Commission who helped carry the ball over the
goal line as the decision to go with Greenway's
plan was being considered.
Architect Rees Jones was all smiles as he led a
front nine tour along with George Kelley, Marc
Logan, and Ken Campbell of Greenway Golf. Jones
long ago stepped out of his father's (legendary
course designer Robert Trent Jones) shoes and has
developed a reputation not only as a designer, but
Doctor" for being selected by the USGA to
bring classic courses to U.S. Open standards. And
while many of those designs are exclusive clubs, one
of them -- Bethpage Black on Long Island -- is as
"everyman" as they get. At 74 years old,
Jones is spry and, as George Kelley noted, a team
who listens to, and even implements, the ideas of
those working with him on the project. In Kelley's
case, at least two of those ideas are bunkers. When
pointed out spots he thought a bunker made sense,
Jones agreed and designed them into the layout.
"If you get in them," said Jones,
"it's your fault, not ours."
You've got to love the perspective a golf
Which reminds me to tell you about the
playability of the golf course. It's always a bit
difficult to see the beauty while looking over acres
and acres of dirt from afar, but things started to
come into focus as we took the walk. The
green complexes look amazing, with varied shapes
slopes, but without being too severe. And the
well, don't blame
Jones or Kelley, but bring your best sand wedge.
the course many times before in the Alameda
Commuters tournament helped me gain a
perspective on the renovation, and I can tell you that
Alameda South is undergoing a transformation from
a fairly nondescript layout to a modern links design
that's going to make Alameda the best golf zip code
the East Bay. Like
Harding Park across the bay, or Torrey Pines in San
Diego, Alameda South is sure to rise to the top of
the best "courses you can play" lists pretty
quickly. And not just because Rees Jones' name is on
On opening day, the scorecard of the new layout
will look a lot like that of the old South Course, with
subtle changes such as
combining the first and second holes into a par-5
opener, retiring the old par-3 second hole. This
help with the flow of play and eliminate the par-
start both nines shared in the past.
But as for the visual aspects, and the
playability, it's going to be nothing like the old
the investment is at the engineering level. For
drainage (25 miles of
pipe worth) and irrigation systems, plus 6-7”
of sand capping on each fairway will assure that the
course is playable following even the heaviest of
rains. In keeping to their name "Greenway" even the
artificial turf from the driving range
has been recycled, in the form of bunker liners.
Drought-tolerant strains of Bermuda
grass on the fairways will reduce the amount of
water required. Closely-mown areas around the
and "run-up" ramps will make it fun for even those
don't launch 300 yard drives and 200 yard 7 irons.
Kelley loves a short par-4, and there are
on the South Course that have him beaming,
"It's easy to design a great long hole," he said. "But
really hard to design a great short one. I think this is
one we'll all be really proud of."
In their heyday, the courses at the Chuck Corica
Golf complex were second in California (behind
Pines) in number of rounds played. Alameda
and Parks Commission Co-Chair Bill Delaney
up perfectly in an email he sent me after the event.
"During my tenure, it was frustrating to see the
courses begin to deteriorate and to watch the decline
tee times. It was obvious that the City of Alameda
not have the expertise to manage a golf complex.
We have been fortunate to have Greenway take on
responsibilities of managing the complex. I'm
forward to what it will be in a few years!"
To view a photo gallery, click here.
For more information on the renovation, visit www.alamedagolf.com.