Renovations at Meadowlands CC Continue

There are two ways to renovate a golf course at a private club. The first involves completely closing the course and performing the work over a 12- to 18-month period. During that down time, the members must depend on the hospitality of neighboring clubs to allow them to play golf.

The other path involves gradually making the renovations. This way may take a lot longer but, if done properly, play is minimally affected on the home course. This is the path chosen by Meadowlands Country Club in Blue Bell, Pa., which once chose the first option with mixed results.

In 1995, Meadowlands' entire course was closed and rebuilt over a period of 12 months. At that time, a decision was made to not rebuild 11 of the original 1950-vintage greens because of their classic contouring. Unfortunately, 21st century agronomic diseases made the greens prone to fungi-related problems. In 2000, three additional new greens were built, leaving with eight old holes, each of which boasted excellent designs but were hampered by outdated clay-based, disease-prone putting surfaces.

This year, with the addition of two newly built greens - giving the course 20 greens, two entirely new green complexes were installed on holes 4 and 18. Members continued to play through the construction period on an 18-hole golf course that provided enjoyment and challenge.

"I was instructed to do the renovations in such a way that we could keep the golf course open," said Len Ehrlich, green chairman at Meadowlands. "That's not always the easiest path, but it's the one that keeps the members happiest."

Headed by architect Rick Jacobsen, the design team was brought in to reshape the greens and bring the bunker complexes into unison with others on the course. Jacobsen designed two other courses in the Philadelphia area - Makefield Highlands in Bucks County and Bear Trap Dunes at the Delaware Shore. He's also designed courses all over the world, including recent work in China. Total Turf of Chalfont, Pa. is doing the construction.

"We researched both of these companies thoroughly and felt they were best equipped to do what we wanted, the way we wanted things done," added Ehrlich. "We have a definitive master plan and we are determined to stick to it."

Superintendent Jim Lynagh has seen the entire process evolve and understands the impact. "Sure, some of the renovations target playability, adding more challenge to some holes, improving the aesthetics and other things," he said. "But the constant throughout every bit of renovation we have done is that the agronomic condition of the course is improved.

"Whether it involves tree removal, which is one of the most important parts, or aerification techniques or drainage, it results in better conditioning. This has been such a long process but every little baby step brings us closer and closer to our final goal and that is to have an exceptional and healthy golf course."

The rest of the plan includes renovation of three more holes without interruption of play next year. The final three holes will be renovated in 2009. By having 20 full greens complexes, the course can be rerouted during construction to allow continued play on 18 holes.