Marin Country Club in Novato, Calif., is in the midst of a course renovation project that includes bunker renovations, new forward tee boxes and the expansion of the club’s short game area. The project is being overseen by San Rafael-based golf course designer Doug Nickels, while renovation work is being performed by contractor Frontier Golf. The project launched in late February and is expected to take approximately 12 weeks to complete.
Marin Country Club’s bunkers were built in 2007, under the direction of the late John Harbottle. The renovation plan calls for the course’s 72 bunkers to be reduced to approximately 50 – cutting 90,000 square feet of sand to 70,000 square feet. Crews will also replace the fabric-lined sub-surfaces of the bunkers with Capillary Concrete which rapidly draws storm water through the sand without washouts or channeling. The new bunkers are expected to last for well over a decade.
“With the new bunkers, we expect the time we spend repairing and maintaining bunkers will dramatically drop,” said Kevin Pryseski, golf course superintendent, Marin Country Club. “This will then free crews to focus on discretionary work that we couldn’t always get to.”
While the original plan only called for bunker renovations, Marin Country Club is taking advantage of having Frontier Golf on property to build new forward tees – playing roughly 4,450 yards. The new tee boxes are in line with the USGA’s “Play it Forward” recommendations and will give members a shorter alternative when playing the course. The club is also expanding and improving its short game practice area for chipping and bunker shots, closely mirroring green complexes seen on the course.
Originally designed by Lawrence Hughes, Marin Country Club first opened in 1957. In 2007, the course underwent a total renovation under the direction of Harbottle, including new greens, a state of the art irrigation system and robust drain lines. In an attempt to create more physical variety on relatively flat terrain, Harbottle fashioned bunkers with dramatic steep faces and bullnose tongues of turf, all held together and framed by tall fescue grass. While beautiful, the bunker faces began to fail after five years.
“Under Harbottle’s design, many fairways had a pair of bunkers on the left and right side, and most of the greens had bunkers left and right that pinched the opening,” said Jay Stuller, vice president, Marin Country Club and journalist who has written about the golf industry and course architecture for decades. “If you were outside the bunker near a green, a flop shot was your only option. We asked Doug Nickels to keep this bunker configuration on several holes, but in the interest of reducing the number of bunkers, crews will be combining bunker pairs and taking out a number of green-side bunkers. If the agronomy team closely mows these areas, players will have the option of putting, pitching, chipping or hitting a flop shot on to the green. When the renovations are complete, we expect the course to have much more design variety, which will make for a better golf experience.”