45 Baylands M unicipal golf courses, since they first began to emerge around the turn of the twentieth century, have been among the most important tools for spreading the game of golf to new (and especially non-wealthy) audiences. It is, therefore, a little ironic, even peculiar, to think of a municipal course in one of the richest areas on earth, but the Palo Alto Municipal has played an important role in the golfing scene of the San Francisco Bay Area since it opened in 1956. William P Bell, who built such beautiful bunkers for George Thomas at Riviera and elsewhere, began the layout, working with his son William F Bell. After his father died in 1953, Bell Jr completed the work and the original course opened in 1956. The Palo Alto layout occupies low-lying land close to the San Francisco Bay, separated only from the water by the runway of the Palo Alto airport, and by a small area of foreshore. It’s the sort of land that is of little use for anything but golf – reminiscent, in that, of the linksland of Scotland where the game began. Several years ago, the City of Palo Alto hired Arizona-based architect Forrest Richardson to oversee a comprehensive rebuild of the muni course, with the goals of improving both playability and sustainability, and also to allow for the expansion of the neighbouring San Francisquito Creek, to boost flood protection. The redesigned course features 55 acres of native Baylands vegetation and wetlands areas, a 40 per cent reduction of managed turf areas, a 35 per cent reduction of potable water use, an additional 10.5 acres added to the Baylands Athletic Center for future recreational use, and 7.4 acres of land converted into in-stream marshland terrace habitat within an expanded San Francisquito Creek for increased flood protection. The course, in its previous form, was populated by a significant number of non- native trees, mostly eucalypts. Richardson oversaw the removal of these – and their replacement with 300 new native trees on the course, as well as the protection of 500 naturally-occurring oak saplings in the nearby Pearson Arastradero Preserve. The site was recontoured using a substantial quantity of inert fill (see box) to raise the level of the playing corridors, and to give more movement to the land. Rather like a links, in fact! Now, we shouldn’t push this analogy too far. Notwithstanding the course’s new name, Baylands Golf Links, it isn’t (a links that is). The par-three fourth hole at the redesigned Baylands Golf Links in Palo Alto, California Photo: Dave Sansom, courtesy of Forrest Richardson & Assoc.