Gil Hanse Restores Courses to Their Glory


Gil Hanse is an acclaimed golf-course architect, who teamed with the L.P.G.A. Hall of Famer Amy Alcott to construct the Olympic course for the Rio de Janeiro video games in 2016.

This week his restoration of Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course will get its worldwide debut as host of the 2020 United States Open. He accomplished the work in 2017, after first restoring the membership’s East Course in 2014. (Both are ranked within the Top 100 programs on this planet in line with Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.)

Winged Foot’s West Course is a famously brutal course on the U.S. Open rotation. But Hanse has a roster of restorations set to host main occasions. The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., will host the U.S. Open in 2022 and the Los Angeles Country Club in 2023. He has additionally labored on programs that beforehand have been within the championship rotation, like Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., and Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., the place Jack Nicklaus gained the Open in 1967 and 1980.

In a earlier technology, the architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. was referred to as the “Open Doctor” for his work making ready a few of these identical programs for the U.S. Open. When requested if he’s the brand new “Open Doctor,” Hanse laughed and credited his enterprise companion Jim Wagner, and in Winged Foot’s case, the membership’s superintendent, Steve Rabideau.

Hanse might extra aptly be referred to as the “Open Therapist.” He doesn’t remake a course, however reveals how architects like A.W. Tillinghast, the designer of Winged Foot, needed to problem golfers. Hanse does in depth analysis after which brings these authentic options again, making changes to suit the size of the fashionable sport.

The following interview has been edited and condensed.

Credit…Scott Halleran/Getty Images

How did the Winged Foot restorations occur?

Through a change in superintendents and a change in management on the membership, we had a chance to return in and discuss how each programs ought to be handled. It was a pure restoration. We have been employed. We put collectively a grasp plan for all 36 holes. The East Course got here first. Some of the luster had come off it. We have been hopeful we’d do each.

Was the East Course a tryout for the West?

I don’t know if it was a tryout. I feel what occurred was once they noticed the modifications to the East, they realized they couldn’t have the West sitting there untouched when the East had been restored to that stage, not solely architecturally but in addition all of the infrastructure.

Did you are feeling added strain working at such a well-known golf course?

Not actually. I don’t wish to sound cavalier about it. We perceive the duty, and actually what we concentrate on is the analysis. If we’re satisfied that’s the correct factor to do, we do it. When you’re internet hosting a championship, it’s a must to resolve what the right size is. That’s totally different than a pure restoration at a course that’s in the end for the members.

How do you steadiness the wants of the members with the wants of the tour professionals?

Loads of it’s positioning of tees and bunkers. At Winged Foot, we’ve reopened the entrance of the greens, which helps the member who has the power to bounce it up and doesn’t have an effect on the professionals. But whenever you present up at Winged Foot, you count on it to be arduous. No one is searching for it to be straightforward.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Has the restoration course of modified prior to now 20 years?

To a sure diploma. There’s a recognition of those nice architects. What’s additionally modified is the expertise. Twenty years in the past, we’d by no means have tried to rebuild all of the greens at Winged Foot or Baltusrol. Now we now have the expertise to map them and a excessive diploma of certainty that if we pull up the inexperienced it’s going to return the identical means.

Do these restoration tasks make you consider who may restore your programs some day?

If karma is an actual factor — and the truth that we’ve been so meticulous in restoring the work of those golden age golf architects — then hopefully somebody will take an identical tack with our programs.