Course designer Rees Jones was in Charlotte last week to visit his redesign work at Carmel Country Club's South Course.
He worked with club officials who asked Jones to reroute portions of the layout, which allowed the creation of several new holes. Jones built a layout that can stretch to 7,500 yards but has multiple tees for players of all levels. He left the front of most greens open to allow shots to be run into the putting surfaces and the removal and pruning of hundreds of trees has given the course a dramatic new look.
Jones took a few minutes to answer questions related to his work.
What do you like best about your work at Carmel South?
RJ: We made it more playable for every caliber of player. That's the hardest thing to accomplish, to accommodate everybody, but I think that's what I'm most proud of.
Do trends go in and out of style in course design and what's the trend now?
RJ: When I first started out, I used to build elevated greens. Then at Ocean Forest and here we started building the greens flush with the fairways. Here we've plated all the approaches with sand so you can bounce the ball in. We have shot options.
Right now we're sort of back to the future. We're going into the sculptured bunkers from the pre-Depression days. For a while, we were building pot bunkers then we were building oval bunkers like Donald Ross and now we're really going back to the aesthetics, more Tillinghast and MacKenzie. We're going back but forward at the same time because we have to build the courses a little bit longer.
How difficult is the design environment right now given the economy?
RJ: I's like almost any industry now. During the boom, a lot of people came into a lot of businesses. Now there's less work in probably any industry. The young architects that were really getting a grip in the industry and were doing quite well are going to have a harder time because there just isn't much work. You basically have to go to China. I just finished one in Osaka, Japan. We're going to do one in Korea and the Bahamas.
Your work has been criticized by Phil Mickelson and others. That comes with the territory of being a designer, but does it bother you?
RJ: It bothers me when it gets personal. I expect it as far as the game or the golf course because not every golf course suits every player. It's supposed to be the golf course against the golfer until the final round when it really becomes the golfers against one another.
On a roll: On a national level, The First Tee initiative has approximately 750 locations and has reached nearly 5 million youngsters, including several hundred at the new Charlotte facility adjacent to Dr. Charlie Sifford golf course at Revolution Park.
That's just the start, according to First Tee chief executive officer Joe Barrow, who attended a Charlotte First Tee fund-raising event recently.
A new phase of the initiative has begun with the goal of doubling the number of facilities and reaching an additional 10 million youngsters by 2017.
Part of the impact is being made through school programs where the First Tee's core values are introduced along with teaching the game. Barrow said the program is being used in 4,200 elementary schools including 23 in the Charlotte area.
"What's driving us is the level of impact we're having on young people," Barrow said. "If you take our success and think about what's going in America right now - and I'll define that as one in four young people do not graduate from high school; 1.1 milllion did not graduate from high school in 2010. In North Carolina, 42 percent of young people did not graduate from high school.
"We really feel if we can reach more young people with our program we can influence their direction in life and their ability to finish high school in a proper way."
The First Tee uses golf to introduce life skills, including honesty, integrity and respect, to young people.
"It's very gratifying. It's all about our core value of perseverance," Barrow said.
"In Charlotte you have a group of individuals who are dedicated to the First Tee. They see the level of impact this is having on young people and they're committed to it."
Chip shots: Roberta Bowman of Charlotte has been added to the LPGA's board of directors. Bowman, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer for Duke Energy, has taken an active role in women's golf for many years, working with U.S. Women's Opens at Pine Needlesas well as other projects.
The Golf Club at Ballantyne recently raised more than $15,000 to benefit the Folds of Honor Foundation. It was part of the Patriot Golf Day initiative and the funds will provide post-secondary educational scholarships for children and spouses of military servicemen and women who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty.