The Championship course at the public Tanglewood Park Golf facility in Clemmons, North Carolina, reopened in October following a five-month renovation project master-planned by Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course Architects, and implemented by golf course architect Richard Mandell.
The plan prepared by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and his chief design officer Bruce Charlton for the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department called for refinements to all bunkers and tees, tree management, and resurfacing the greens with new turf.
“Tanglewood is an original Robert Trent Jones golf course built back in 1958. He did his US Open Doctor thing for the 1974 US PGA Championship, which Lee Trevino won,” said Mandell.
“The course had 186,000 square feet of bunkers and it was all red clay that hadn’t been touched in a long time,” said Mandell. “The county brought in RTJ II and Bruce Charlton to do a master plan and then they brought us in to implement that plan.”
Jones started the master plan process and Mandell joined at the end to finalise it with Charlton. Mandell took over the detailed design work from there and with the approval of Charlton, did more than just implement the plan. He also made weekly site visits, sometimes twice a week.
“We actually worked on some revisions from the big picture with Bruce,” said Mandell. “I walked the course with the members and staff and chose to restore the golf course to the 1974 design as opposed to 1960. Bruce was on board with that idea, so the challenge was how to restore a golf course prepared for the greatest golfers in the world – for the PGA Championship – yet is mostly played by regular golfers.
“We strayed from pure restoration in order to accomplish that and primarily it came in straddling a few bunkers over the front of the green to allow for run-up shots a little bit more. On a few holes, we took a few back bunkers out. The defining characteristic of the green complexes for Jones and the PGA Championship was ‘target golf’ and for the pros the challenge was to hit over front bunkers and keep the ball on the green or it would roll in to the back bunkers – that is not good for regular golfers. I think there were originally 99 bunkers, now there are about 77. From that point it is restoration, I had an aerial photograph from 1974 and we overlaid it and went from there.
“The bunkers are high, flash sand bunkers and very dramatic. We would build the mound first and as in many places we cut the bunker line straight up into the mound for those dramatic faces. It is a very large-scale golf course, particularly with the bunkering. Even though we reduced the bunkering a lot, it still is the highlight of the golf course.
“The par-five eighth hole is a big, wide par five and in the second landing area there is a huge sand bunker – roughly 30 yards by 30 yards – it’s got lots of fingers, capes and bays.”
The greens were expanded back to the original 1974 design and regrassed with Champion bermuda.
Construction started on the front nine in May 2018 and moved on to the back nine in June. Wadsworth Golf Construction Company, led by Matt Lohmann, handled construction work and bunkers were lined with the Better Billy Bunker system. The architects and constructors worked alongside golf course superintendent Lee Barefoot and consultant Steve Johnson of Brown Golf Management.
“I give the officials in the Forsyth County government a big standing ovation for realising the tremendous asset that the Championship course at Tanglewood Park represents to their County Parks System,” said Bruce Charlton. “Our intent was to update the course in keeping with the Robert Trent Jones, Sr.’s design philosophies while polishing this gem to meet the demands of today’s game. It has been a pleasure implementing our visions in collaboration with Richard Mandell, an ASGCA member based in Pinehurst.”
Michael Wilcox, Tanglewood Park’s director of golf, said: “The updated playability, strategy and picturesque vistas will create a unique and memorable golf experience. Once the newly grassed areas are fully established, the Championship course will once again be one of the premier public courses in the US. A new chapter at Tanglewood has begun.”