Returning to one of their favorite golf courses, Todd Eckenrode-Origins Golf Design recently completed construction of a large-scale restoration and renovation project at this fabled course.
“Lakeside Golf Club is a significant golf course, with a storied lineage of members and an iconic original designer. This project represents a huge step forward for the club by restoring its character and elevating its best features,” says project architect Todd Eckenrode.
Max Behr, a renowned writer, editor, and player in his day, originally designed Lakeside Golf Club, which opened in 1924. He was also the designer of a select few courses, to which Lakeside was his finest work. Legendary designer Dr. Alister MacKenzie referred to Behr as one of the best American golf architects.
“In Southern California, there are many good golf courses, by far, one of the best of these is Max Behr’s course at Lakeside Golf Club,” wrote Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Lakeside has been so admirably designed and constructed that it compares favorably with any inland course. The interest of the course is entirely due to the undulating character of the land and not due to bunkers, which at many of the holes are non-existent. “Lakeside is one of the world’s greatest golf courses,” said MacKenzie.
The recent project’s focus was on increasing the interest, variety and playability of the course, while restoring elements more in line with its original design. The use of historic aerials and ground photos were also useful tools in understanding green perimeters, bunker locations and their relationship to each other, as well as general width of playing corridors.
Under Eckenrode’s design guidance, green perimeters were restored, recapturing lost hole locations which had resulted from the shrinking of the greens, typically seen on older courses. The original green perimeters could be seen quite obviously in many places on the ground, just buried in long rough. Generally, these expansions feature the most interesting hole locations, either due to contour or proximity to a hazard.
A new green was created on the par 5 #2 hole, as close as possible to its original location, before the great floods in the late 1930’s wiped it out and a re-design had moved it back over 50 yards. The new green for the longer hole #2, plays off a slope leading to the 3rd hole tees, and adjacent to a previously concealed grove of native oak trees. A central “spine” contour in the fairway was lengthened and carried toward the green, to lend interest and strategy to a second-shot layup, and in homage to Behr’s notable fairway contouring throughout the course.
Bunker work was comprehensive, and included removal of many non-original bunkers and restoration of most original bunkers in the post-dunes design. Historic aerials from the 1920’s and 1930’s were most useful in this regard, though the intent was not to be literal in the styling, but more so in locations and their strategic and impactful intent. The bunkers now blend into the natural landforms featured at Lakeside and restore the course more to its highly praised historic model.
Short-cut chipping areas were added adjacent to greens, highlighting the design features and landforms of the green surrounds at the lower turf heights. Paired with the work to the approaches completed prior— allowing the ball to bound in or run away on approach shots— the surrounds are now a striking improvement in the design. The ground game is showcased and there is variety in shot options plus greater playability for golfers of all skill levels.
Several fairways were renovated as well. Originally, the course was largely one height of cut, predominately fairway throughout the dunes areas. As part of the project, portions of select fairways were joined together, creating a more natural flow and organic look. Fairways were widened to increase playability, adding strategic options, and engaging adjacent slopes, illuminating the best features of the land. Through an extensive tree removal program, select trees were replaced with native species, such as Oak and the indigenous California Sycamore.
The fabled #15 Short is a without a doubt a highlight of the project. Up until recent years, there was a large Cedar tree blocking the use of the hole completely, which was removed in the first renovation. This year, Origin’s Golf Design restored the bunkering concept that surrounds the green, expanded the green all the way to the right and left flanks, and into a backstop as well, which was the only safe way to play the hole. The green is close to three times its previous form, and nearly surrounded in hazards. Could a 90-yard hole be the most fun hole on the course? Some members now think so!