Todd Eckenrode – Origins Golf Design recently completed construction on a major golf course restoration and renovation project at Diablo Country Club. This iconic Northern California golf course is located in San Francisco’s East Bay region area, at the foot of the historic Mt. Diablo. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with the dramatic improvements that have evolved in this massive renovation and restoration project “ said golf course architect Todd Eckenrode, ASGCA.
Diablo Country Club’s course routing is a testament to the legendary gentlemen who designed this uniquely historic course. In 1915, 23-year-old two-time California Amateur Champion Jack Neville designed his first golf course, creating the original nine holes at Diablo. Building on this success, Neville’s second design was none other than the original Pebble Beach Golf Links.
In 1920, course designer William Watson, one of California’s most successful and prolific golf course architects in this Golden Age of golf course design, created the second nine at Diablo, crafting most of Neville’s original holes into this new 18-hole course. Watson’s next assignments were designing The Olympic Club and Harding Park, both in nearby San Francisco. By the end of the forthcoming 2020 season, 12 major championships will have been played on courses originally designed by these two legendary architects, including the upcoming PGA Championship. Diablo Country Club is the only golf course in the world to showcase the designs of both Neville and Watson.
Diablo’s renovation project has seen a comprehensive update of every feature. This includes fully renovated new greens and green surrounds, both resurfaced to the latest improved bentgrass. The greens were restored toward their original dimensions with the surrounds now having a seamless connectivity with options for the short-game. All other turf was converted to drought-tolerant bermudagrass. Overall maintained turf acreage has been reduced by more than 35 acres, restored to drought-tolerant fescue, native grasses along with the California Oak understory returned to its natural state. All bunkers were recreated, many restored to their original locations. All tees have been built to a more natural shape and contour, as originally designed. The backbone to all of these improvements, however, is a new irrigation system. This state-of-the-art system will yield significant efficiencies in water use and aid in providing the ultimate in golf course conditioning.
Yet, the original masterful routing has remained as it always has been, so members today can experience playing this historic gem in the way it was intended, over a century ago. The Origins’ team of Todd Eckenrode and Andy Frank have spent countless hours in the field during construction, directing every critical feature to honor and maintain the essence of this quintessential course which reflects back to the Golden Era of Golf Course Design.
“The Club’s leadership has been outstanding, providing ourselves and the construction team great freedom in the process, which will lead ultimately to the utmost possible design and finished golf course for the members to enjoy for decades to come.”, says Todd Eckenrode. “I can’t say enough about course superintendent Ryan Nicholson and his team’s efforts and talent as well, as they have contributed tirelessly in the construction, and grow-in periods with fantastic results.” Ryan and his consulting agronomy team, also made the decision to build the greens to the variable depth method of USGA construction, and the results are outstanding.
“This project has given us a wonderful opportunity to provide Diablo Country Club with the infrastructure and agronomic conditions that will position the golf course well into the future. Converting to hybrid Bermuda grasses in the fairways and roughs, reducing the overall irrigated acreage with oak mulch beds and native grass plantings, as well as upgrading to a state-of-the-art irrigation system, will allow us to significantly reduce water consumption while providing more consistent playing surfaces.”, says Ryan Nicholson.
The construction team consisted of general contractor Landscapes Unlimited, irrigation contractor Foremost Construction, and a talented team of shapers including Matt Flint and Brett Hochstein, with Joe Hancock, Scott Clem and Matt Smallwood lending a hand as well.