Bill Amick, as befits a recent winner of the American Society of Golf Course Architects’ Distinguished Service Award, wasted no time in responding to my post about 45th-ranked Hillcrest at Heartland GC.
You can’t know what a relief it is for me to read your latest blog with assuring evidence that the The Earlier Donald’s #9 green is being at least semi-restored at Hillcrest. I want to repeat what I’ve said to others about that course being truly outstanding. The way Ross utilized the rolling contours for great holes always made it a pleasure for me to visit. He seemed somewhat of a Picasso in that dirt.
But my closing question about Amick’s 1984 renovation work — How about it, Bill? Do you still have the blueprints? — left the Florida-based architect at a loss.
Certainly, I still have the plans for all the greens I redid there, just as I have all the course drawings I’ve ever prepared. They are safely in rolls in correctly-labeled slots. My only problem is that I have trouble remembering where the cabinets of those drawings are located. But that is no surprise, since after long flights from overseas I can hardly recall the city and house I live in.
I asked about Amick’s blueprints in the context of Hillcrest’s par-4 fifth hole, which I have come to admire for its understated difficulty and purity of form. But it was actually the par-3 fourteenth that made me want to rummage through his rolled-up construction drawings. That’s because my childhood memories of Hillcrest don’t include a water hazard.* Today’s Hillcrest, of course, has this very attractive water hole with reeds guarding the left side and a stone wall serving as a decorative bulkhead.
*My memories of some Hillcrest summers don’t even include water. Drought and a lack of fairway irrigation left some fairways as firm as sidewalks. I hit my first 300-yard drive when I was 12.
Amick didn’t need his drawings to confirm my memory of a waterless par 3.
Yes, I am to blame for the pond fronting and siding #14 green. But not the stone wall. I didn’t want to risk giving the great Ross indigestion, even in his grave.
Amick’s fourteenth, even with the mischievous masonry, is markedly superior to the original Ross par 3. Positioned as it was, well downhill from the clubhouse, Ross’s hole turned into a lake during downpours and was susceptible to erosion. Amick fixed that without changing the essential character of the hole. I’m sure Ross, after a hearty dinner in his grave, would approve.**
** “Within a couple of hours after fourteen was reopened from construction,” Amick recalled, “a member holed his tee shot there. Now that’s what I call proof of true reward over risk.”
Amick concluded with a plea to “please keep us sports fans informed about the new/old #9 green at Heartland GC. That should be another stone in the wall of progress for a great course.”
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Ian Poulter won the WGC HSBC Champions on the 51st-ranked Olazabal Course at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China. The course is actually a Schmidt-Curley design, but the developers named it for the Spanish golfer because it’s fun to hear the Chinese pronounce “Olazabal.”