I played with golf-architecture royalty. Here’s what it was like

Throughout my week on the U.S. Girls’s Open, I acquired the prospect to play with well-known course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. This is what it was like.

Getty Photographs / Zephyr Melton

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Women’s Open introduced me to the West Coast, however when an invitation to play San Francisco Golf Membership got here throughout my desk, I made a decision to make a fast detour 100 miles north. SFGC invitations don’t come round typically, so while you get the prospect, you’re taking it.

Nevertheless it wasn’t simply the attract of taking part in SFGC that dragged me away from Pebble Beach throughout a significant week, it was additionally who’d be internet hosting me: Robert Trent Jones Jr.

The Jones household title is one in every of royalty within the golf course design world. Jones’ father, Robert Trent Jones Sr., was a mid-century architect that labored on tasks starting from Spyglass to Congressional; his brother, Rees, adopted in his father’s footsteps and have become often known as “The Open Physician” for his work with the USGA making ready U.S. Open programs. Jones Jr. additionally acquired into the household enterprise. He’s designed programs everywhere in the world, together with his most well-known work, Chambers Bay, internet hosting a U.S. Open in 2015.

After Jones emerges from his sedan on this chilly San Francisco summer season day, he grabs his cane and waddles to the trunk. He shuffles by an array of junk and pulls his golf bag from the mess.

“Did you watch the Senior Open final week?” he asks. “That course [SentryWorld] is one in every of mine.”

He then pulls out the blueprints from SentryWorld and implores me to examine them. To my untrained eye, it appears to be like like a golf course. To Jones, it’s far more. Golf programs aren’t simply well-manicured grass and rugged hazards. For him, golf programs are artwork.

Jones, 83, isn’t as spry as he as soon as was, so he opts to take a golf cart for our tour. There aren’t any cart paths at SFGC, so he drives as near the tee field as he can get.

“I’m not taking part in any recreation in the present day,” Jones says. ” I’m simply going to hit some pictures.”

As we make our method down the first fairway, Jones instantly jumps into an evidence of the bunkering on this A.W. Tillinghast basic. He tells me the technical names for each function, and what goal they serve. After a couple of minutes, he stops himself.

“Simply inform me should you’re not on this stuff,” he says. “I may speak about all of it day.”

My structure data is severely missing, so I used to be pleased to soak all of it up. Once I inform him this, the floodgates actually open. For the following a number of hours, I get a crash course in all issues course design.

Jones tells me about reefs and waves and the way they affect course design. He explains why Seth Raynor programs look totally different than Tillinghast ones. He bemoans the trendy pattern of tree elimination and yearns for extra corridors for golfers to play by.

“All these members need to have the ability to see their complete course from the patio after they’re having drinks,” Jones says. “However final time I checked, you don’t play golf from the patio.”

SFGC could be one of many highest-rated programs within the U.S., however that doesn’t imply Jones thinks it’s good — removed from it, in truth. The down-and-back routing of lots of the again 9 holes — which he likens to sausage hyperlinks on a platter — attracts his criticism, and the cadence of par on the closing stretch wants some reimagining.

After we attain the quick par-3 twelfth gap, our caddie calls it a “nice little gap.” Jones shortly corrects him.

“It’s a superb gap,” he says. “Not an incredible one.”

robert trent jones junior portraits

Robert Trent Jones Jr. is here to defend his body of work (and his family’s legacy)


Josh Sens

The bunkers are too massive for the inexperienced dimension, he explains. In case you are within the flawed spot within the sand, you could have little probability of protecting your ball on the inexperienced — even for the most effective gamers. That is the final time our caddie feedback on track design for the day.

Jones is a member of the R&A, Pine Valley and SFGC, however he explains that his membership on the latter was conditional. He’s not allowed to do any work on the course or make any ideas on the way it needs to be modified.

“I’ve loads of opinions,” he says. “I simply don’t inform anybody out right here about them.”

Late within the spherical, I ask him when he knew he needed to be a golf course architect. He appears to be like at me and laughs.

“Each golfer desires to be a golf course architect,” he says.

As we end our spherical, Jones insists I be a part of him within the clubhouse for lunch. I clarify that I have to get again to Pebble Seashore as quickly as doable, however he won’t let me go away with out exhibiting me all of the historical past the membership has to supply.

As soon as we’re seated, he passes me a self-published assortment of poetry he’s written over time. His eyes beam with pleasure as I learn a number of passages. He’s written an op-ed concerning the state of golf that he’s contemplating submitting for publication. He asks for my suggestions.

“What’s your objective with this?” I ask.

“I simply need to use my voice to talk up,” he says. “And possibly it should encourage others to do the identical.”

If there’s one factor Jones is aware of (aside from golf programs), it’s the best way to communicate up.

Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for the place he spends his days running a blog, producing and modifying. Previous to becoming a member of the workforce at GOLF, he attended the College of Texas adopted by stops with the Texas Golf Affiliation, Crew USA, the Inexperienced Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all issues instruction and covers newbie and girls’s golf. He could be reached at

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Printed : 2023-07-06 22:00:12

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