Marin CC & Harbottle Collaborate on $5.6 Million Renovation

By: Jay Stuller

Marin Country Club, located just north of San Francisco, will begin a $5.6 million golf course renovation in early May under the direction of Tacoma, Wash.-based Architect John Harbottle. The project will include a new irrigation system; drainage upgrades; the reconstruction of all 18 greens, all bunkers and tees, the practice putting green; and a re-grassing of the entire course. From start to finish, the renovation of the 50-year-old course is projected to take nine months.

"We are absolutely delighted with John's ideas, both in terms of reconstructing the course's underlying infrastructure and with the aesthetic changes that will be most obvious to members," says Peter Hansen, Marin's general manager.

Nestled in a small valley blessed by one of the most temperate microclimates in Northern California, Marin is not a terribly long course by today's standards, said Harbottle. "Still, it's a sporty course with rolling topography, mature oak trees and a winding creek that creates the variety that holds a golfer's interest throughout a round. Our plan is to upgrade the course infrastructure and features with modern technology, but we don't want it to have a modern feel. Rather, we want to take the course back in time, giving it a 'Golden Age' character, which will be especially apparent in our bunker work."

With the selective removal of non-native species of trees and the pruning of brush that has grown up along sections of the course's waterway, "the creek will become a more visual and integral part of the course strategy," adds Harbottle.

That Marin's 515 members voted 66 percent in favor of the proposal is testament to the quality of Harbottle's work and the persuasive points made by course superintendent Kevin Pryseski. Indeed, the club opened a new $15 million clubhouse and tennis court complex just two years ago. Several in the club asked whether the project could be spread out over time to minimize disruption to play and break up the nearly $13,000 cost to each regular proprietary member.

With prior experience in both construction and renovation projects, Hansen and Pryseski explained the merits of bundling the work, and particularly how it would improve the quality and consistency of the project and eliminate the costly re-work that invariably accompanies a staged project. They also explained to the membership that capital project costs are rising annually by 10 to 15 percent. And, in a region where water use is drawing an increasingly critical eye from government officials, they noted that the project will enable Marin to reduce its water use by almost 30 percent, which takes the club much closer to self-sufficiency.

"The members appeared highly interested when we explained that the greens would have a Sub-Air system, which enables us to drain the surface during rainstorms and in reverse, inject air into the green during hot conditions," notes Pryseski. "We'll have more - and more interesting - pin positions than in the past, and we won't need to spend 100 hours repairing bunkers after every downpour. The crew will be able to focus on maintaining a first-rate course, instead of spending all too much time on intensive care issues."

The irrigation and course renovation will be handled by Landscapes Unlimited, one of the preeminent firms in the business. Based in Lincoln, Neb., the firm will start work on Marin immediately after the completion of its work on Torrey Pines in La Jolla, host of the 2008 U.S. Open. Greenshield Systems of Mount Vernon, Wash., has been contracted for the drainage work.

Jay Stuller<.B> is a San Francisco area author and journalist. His work has appeared in Smithsonian, Audubon, Reader's Digest, Senior Golfer, Travel & Leisure, Outside and dozens of other national publications.