Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lee Janzen talks design

Lee Janzen is a throw back, at least when it comes to golf course design; he favors the likes of Seth Raynor. A neophyte golf course architect with just one project under his belt, he methods are reminiscent of designers like Raynor.

“I’m old school. I do it in the dirt,” he said. “A hundred years from now when they’ll looking for drawings and they’ll be none.”

So far Janzen’s only project has been a reworking of nine of the 27 holes at University Club at Cobblestone Park in Blythwood, S.C., a P.B. Dye layout.

Along the way, he turned an uncomfortable par-4 that doglegged around homes, into a long par-3, also reworking the two holes that followed.

Janzen said he designed the changes in the field, giving instructions to a shaper as they went. Another company installed the drainage. The Cobblestone website says Janzen will be adding nine more holes, although no date for construction has been set.

Janzen said he picked up the design bug in 1993 while spending hours with architect/swing coach, Rick Smith, during the building of his highly acclaimed Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich.

Janzen has eight Tour titles but is best known for twice winning the U.S. Open, with both victories coming on heralded classic designs. In 1993 he won on Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course and in 1998 took the title at the Olympic Club Lake Course. Surprisingly, Janzen is critical of the way the USGA prepared that course.

He said the deep rough served to negate the penalizing characteristics of the heavily sloping design. Janzen would have preferred wider fairways that would have allowed wayward shots to roll off into the trees rather than stop in the rough. Janzen is optimistic that the way the USGA is setting up the U.S. Open venues since Mike Davis took over as senior director of rules and competitions. At Bethpage’s Black Course, for instance, the primary cut of rough was mowed lower than in years past, allowing for recovery shots besides just wedging out back to the fairway.

On Tour, Janzen lists Pebble Beach, Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club and TPC River Highlands as his favorites. “It has that old style feel,” he said, while lamenting the fact that Westchester Country Club West Course is no longer hosting an event.

Janzen said his overall favorite layouts are Chicago Golf Club, Fishers Island and Mountain Lake, all Seth Raynor designs. There’s also two Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore creations he touts, Old Sandwich Golf Club in Massachusetts and Sugar Loaf Golf and Town Club in Florida. Janzen’s a fan of the Steve Smyers-designed Wolf Run Golf Club in Indiana. The two have known each other since Smyers, an accomplished amateur player, defeated Janzen in a junior tournament when the two were teenagers.

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