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Course Enhancements – The Inspiration

Course Enhancements – The Inspiration

When the famous No. 2 course at Pinehurst reopened a decade ago, its restored holes were visually enthralling. In the years since, other revered Golden Age golf clubs like Baltusrol, Southern Hills Country Club, and the Los Angeles Country Club have made bold investments into the restoration and enhancement of their own championship venues.

At Willowbend, we’re feeling inspired to restore, enhance, and redefine our golf experience.

We’ve made strides over the last several years in elevating the playing conditions on every hole—the Bentgrass greens are rolling fast and true, the fairways are mowed tight and kept firm, ponds have been restored to their original conditions, and the rough is more lush and healthy by the year. We remain committed to enhancing and maintaining these championship conditions, and are continuing to invest in the golf course in the coming years.

While the golden age restorations that inspire us tend to focus on a return to their original form, our goal at Willowbend is to continue the evolution of the course to its fullest potential. In certain cases, this will take the form of restoration to the original form. In others, new mowing patterns, maintenance practices, or aesthetic details will move the course in exciting new directions. In all cases, we are focused on discovering, embracing, and defining the unique identity of the golf course – on making it the most special golf experience it can be.

As we began on this journey, one thing became abundantly clear – while each of our nines have shared characteristics and playing conditions (and we will be sure to keep it that way!), they are each special in their own way, and deserving of an ethos of their own. In the words of Tommy Southworth:

“Based on how they play, Willowbend’s three golf courses have their own identity. The Bend requires precision and strategy—you need to plan one shot ahead. There are numerous opportunities to exploit angles and just as many opportunities to leave yourself in an unenviable position. The Bay requires restraint. The safe play is usually the wise one – golfers must know when to press and when to pay respect. And The Bog requires heroics. There are significant forced carries on six of the nine holes! Rewards require risk and resolve – fortune favors the bold! Based on how they look and feel, they too have their own identity. The Bend is a sanctuary – lush grass, manicured gardens, beautiful stonework, serene ponds, and scenic fountains abound. The Bay is rife with pine barrens, and beautiful views of Shoestring Bay. And The Bog’s rustic vistas are both idyllic and iconic. Each of our nines has a story to tell; we are on a journey to unlock their manifest destiny.”

We got inspiration from courses like Old Sandwich, Mid Pines, Creighton Farms, and more.

Old Sandwich
Mid Pines
Creighton Farms

Course Makeovers Are in the Works

Beginning last season, we’ve been doubling down on the special nature of each nine; work continues this spring and will stretch into future years. As the modifications take shape, Willowbend’s three courses will be as visually distinctive as they are unique to play.

This spring and summer, you’ll discover that The Bend course will be more akin to playing through a botanical garden. With inspiration taken from springtime at Augusta National, The Bend’s teeing grounds, transitional spaces between holes, and the perimeters of playing areas around green complexes and elsewhere will feature more manicured gardens. Longtime members will feel like they’ve returned to Willowbend’s original course during the club’s early years.

Here's a sneak peek at what Bend #1 Tee will look like, click to enlarge. Plans are subject to change.

The Bay course and its towering pines started to take new shape last season, with strikingly manicured pine barrens enhanced by imported, long-needle pine straw, creating a hard edge between the trees and grassed playing areas. We will continue this effort this spring. Like The Bend course improvements, the changes to The Bay are inspired in part by Augusta National. The sharp contrast sets the stage for one of the most special corners of our golf course (Bay 1-4, 9). Holes 5-8 remain special as well, with peaceful views of the course’s namesake Shoestring Bay, and with an elevated clarity of design.

Finished product after we added pine straw to The Bay course.

Classic links courses in Scotland, as well as an evolving US aesthetic, offered guidance to our enhancements of The Bog course, where the addition of fescue grasses—planted mostly in out-of-play areas—is a perfect complement to The Bog’s natural, rustic look. Native grasses are a likely complement to the cranberry bogs that meander through the course, making those bogs as eye-catching as the swaths of fescue swaying in the wind. And last, “brows” of fescue grasses in carefully placed areas around tees, fairways, and greens will help shape each hole in the eye of the golfer.

What's To Come

If you’re eager to learn more about how these changes will impact the golf experience at Willowbend, keep your eyes peeled for the next several installments in this series. Those announcements will highlight additional improvements to the course and golf course amenities and offer insights, opinions, and perspectives from key Willowbend employees, including Matt Klida (Director of Agronomy) and Michael Vidal (Director of Golf and Membership Sales).

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