Golf Course Architecture - Issue 56: April 2019

52 Growing up in Philadelphia there were always discussions and debates regarding golf. Whether it was with friends who caddied at the old classics such as Merion and Aronimink or playing companions at the great public courses like Paxon Hollow or Cobbs Creek, golf was always at the heart of our gatherings. We would dream about playing all 18 holes of the local private clubs (our fences memberships did not allow us to play more than a random few) or discussing changes to our favourites. Looking back on it I’m not sure whether it was true understanding of architecture or through osmosis but there was plenty to learn about architecture, golf and life playing a round at Cobbs Creek. From the dramatic short creek holes to the demanding long holes there was much to see, appreciate and stumble upon throughout the property. Sadly, as time wore on it become less desirable to make trips to Cobbs as the creek holes were literally washing away, the strategy and conditions were being choked out by overgrown vegetation and financial neglect was eating away at the bones of this great design. But little did I know there were others who had the same individual dreams and life experiences at Cobbs. People like Joe Bausch and Mike Cirba; the Friends of Cobbs Creek; Chris Lange and the Maguire Foundation; and the many golfers located throughout the Philadelphia area. Over the past several years these people have worked tirelessly on the hopes that restoring Cobbs Creek will bring it back into discussions of architecture, play and life. I recently heard a quote by Yoko Ono that could not be more appropriate about my experiences with Cobbs Creek from the first time I played the course to where we sit on the verge of making this restoration a reality: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” Dreams becoming reality Architect JimWagner of Hanse Golf Design reveals what the chance to restore Cobbs Creek would mean to him Photos: courtesy of the Bausch Collection at closure until club and council did a deal (to the club’s credit, it has rebounded from this and is now thriving), while Bowring, which like many munis, had been handed over to a management company, suddenly shuttered its doors last year when that management company went bust. Fortunately, the local authority, seeing the value of the course, took it back into public management, and has since launched a major renovation project of the park in which it is contained. But not all have been so lucky. America, in the lead as it usually is in these matters, is seeing an interesting trend develop; the restoration of the historic muni. From coast to coast, the threat to old municipal courses has got local golfers thinking about the memories that were formed there, and wondering what could be done to help them continue to thrive. At Sharp Park in San Francisco, designed by Alister MacKenzie, a number of Macphiles have been working for years with architect Jay Blasi on a restoration project. Blasi reports: “Last year we were able to use a 1931 irrigation map to help us properly identify the original green boundaries. After flagging out about a half dozen greens to review, we settled on two greens, the current tenth and eighteenth, to have the maintenance team start to mow out. The transformation is amazing. The current eighteenth green was 6,042 square feet and is now 9,393 square feet. One of the wonderful things about Sharp Park is that not much work has been done over time, so the original contours are there and when you mow out to the original edges the character jumps out.”