May 16, 2012 - Indianwood Golf Course has the history, has the prestige and in preparation for the 2012 U.S. Senior Open, it now has the looks.
Craig Bubka takes a swing off the newly moved gold level tees as the Old Course sprawls out behind him. The lack of trees and rolling hills allow golfers to see nearly the entire course at once. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
While the course was always maintained, recent large projects have made the course United States Golf Association (USGA) - and television - ready.
"A couple years ago we started with the fairways on holes two and nine after they requested we tweak them just a bit," said Indianwood Golf Pro Dave Zink. "We made it so it now has a better chance to lie flat after the tee shot where before it rolled into the rough almost every time. We reshaped some of the holes, made the bunkers deeper and better placed and just modernized the fairway."
The bunkers in particular seemed the biggest change. They were moved further away from the tee to better represent where the pros would land after their tee shots. Older trees were removed to open up sweeping vistas where the entirety of Indianwood's Old Course can be seen at once. Zink called the old course beautiful and said part of this aesthetic is the maintaining and planting of fescue - a type of grass.
"With the green fairways, the brown flowing fescue and the heather the old course will look gorgeous on the television," he said.
Keith Aldridge, part of the Aldridge family that owns the country club, said they put a substantial amount of money into the course and believed the course will be ready for the USGA tournament. He added working with the USGA was fantastic, calling it a "first class experience."
"It's been a learning experience but they're great to work with," said Aldridge. "They want the success as much as we do."
Other areas of renovation include a deeper driving range with new tees and brand new target greens, a new short game area with a bigger green and new bunkers to better simulate the old course, a patched up parking lot, flowers and a re-carpeted club house. Zink said a nice thing about the changes is that the members get to benefit as well.
"Our golf course is pretty unique - you don't see many like this in the states," said Zink. "Mosty you have the parkland type of course with a lot of trees and water but we have almost none of that. Our course is more flowing up and down with fescue and heather interspersed."
The USGA agrees with this sentiment. USGA Manager of Rules and Competition Matt Sawicki called the course a "hidden gem."
"I remember the first time I went to visit it and it reminded me of courses you'd see on the eastern end of Long Island (New York,)" said Sawicki. "It's not a long golf course but you have to be strategic. It has green complexes and tremendous bunkering so you have to be in the right spot and the right level to attack the green. If the wind reeks havoc the players will definitely have their hands full.
"Still, I think they will be pleasantly surprised when they get here."
Sawicki added the changes were not asked for but discussed with committees to make sure the changes provided long term improvements. He also called the event very family oriented and noted kids aged 17 and younger could get in for free.
"The Aldridge family is good to work with and they have a lot of history in the state and the municipality," said Sawicki. "This is a community event and without the buy-in from the community we could not proceed. The players are very approachable, there's a real opportunity to see the game and it should inspire a lot of kids to take up the game. We really want to show that this is a family event and we hope to give everyone a good show."
The event now has commitments from players such as Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Banard Langer, Loren Roberts, John Cook, Corey Pavin, Tom Kite and more. Zink said all are players that were great on the junior level and now dominate the senior play. He also noted nearly every player listed has at least one major championship win.
Indianwood is still looking for volunteers and tickets are still available. The grandstands and tents will be erected next month.