A few years ago, Todd Eckenrode was chosen to renovate the Quail Lodge and Golf Club course originally designed by renowned architect Robert Muir Graves. He faced a simple, but complex question: How does a person go about altering, at the same time preserving, the work created by a legend?
Graves had designed many of his 75-plus courses in the western part of the United States — including Quail Lodge in Carmel, Calif. — and was well known in golf architect circles, having served as president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects in 1974-75.
In being tasked with updating Graves’ exquisite work, Eckenrode, principal and co-founder of Todd Eckenrode – Origins Golf Design, also had to work with a piece of property that had been barely touched since its opening in 1964, almost 50 years earlier.
Using Pasatiempo Golf Club, an Alister MacKenzie masterpiece in Northern California, as his inspiration, Eckenrode relied on MacKenzie’s design philosophy throughout much of his work.
“It was a property that had really good bones, but it really needed a rejuvenation, if you will, or some life put back into it,” Eckenrode said. “There was an end of life cycle kind of period for the course with regard to irrigation and drainage and all those sort of things, which was kind of the impetus for the project.
> Fun Meter: Quail Lodge and Golf Club
“So, we took the opportunity to really take a fresh look at the golf course, not necessarily just restore it to what it was in [in 1964 when it opened], but really give it a new look based on the style of design that we like. The concept was to keep the greens as is, because there was a lot of good quality about the greens, both in contour and in turf quality and how well they putted.”
With the greens being among the best conditioned in the state and in no need of updating, Eckenrode focused more on the surrounding area of each green and refined the approach from 40 yards in.
Eckenrode also made changes to mounding and bunkering — not only the location, but to the look and style. In doing so, Eckenrode made the course much more playable for the resort’s guests, many of whom own double-digit handicaps.
“There's really nothing more difficult for a high handicap golfer than bunkering that is front left, front right,” Eckenrode said. “That's where they're going to end up all the time. So really worked on opening up one side of the golf hole and providing them a way to play the ball on the ground through that angle, or to bail out to that side and then have a simple pitch up to the green. That was a way to improve playability.”
By creating nuanced shortcuts, Eckenrode was providing options how to play from just off the greens.
“You can putt it, you can chip and run it,” he said. “You can still pull out the wedge, you can do whatever you want, whatever suits your game. It's just more interesting golf.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Where To Golf Next.