Jerry Pate knows golf. He's got eight wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1976 U.S. Open, and he's an accomplished course designer. Throughout the season, he'll be stopping by Devil Ball to offer an inside-the-ropes look at the week's upcoming course. Today: TPC at River Highlands, site of this weekend's Travelers Championship.
The TPC of Connecticut opened for the then Greater Hartford Open in 1984, after tournament officials determined the need for a new venue in 1980. Pete Dye created the TPC of Connecticut on the site of the old Edgewood Country Club, an old 1928 design on the hills above the Connecticut River.
Pete created a design where one half of the course was created in the style of a "Deane Beman" tournament course while the other half remained in the style of the former course. Pete's course hosted the tournament for only six years, but remembering the course, it actually made quite a statement about the modern game and what it was doing to the game's storied venues. The course was disjointed, awkward, and crowded...in fact the sixteenth hole actually played over the start of the seventeenth fairway. This was not the fault of Pete but at the time of the renovation, it was the Tours only option.
After the 1990 event, Bobby Weed was commissioned to redo the course again. Fortunately for Bobby, fifty additional acres were purchased and he was given enough room to create the new design Pete wanted. He created seven new holes on a bluff overlooking the river and in an abandoned quarry. Bobby also brought over 80 bunkers into play and created undulating greens many of which are slightly crowned.
The finish is dramatic. It starts with the drivable par four fifteenth, where scores from 2 to 6 are common. The tricky par three sixteenth with a forced carry over water and challenging winds follows. The daunting seventeenth requires a very accurate drive between bunkers left and water right. The green sits around the corner of the lake where any missed hit shot finds a watery grave. The eighteenth is a long par four up the hill to an amphitheatre green. 40,000 fans can watch from that vantage point...I am sure that this year's event will provide them all a thrilling finish.
Jerry Pate has been designing golf courses for more than 30 years. His portfolio of work includes Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi, site of the 1999 United States Women's Open; Trump National Golf Club Colts Neck (formerly known as Shadow Isle) in New Jersey; Kiva Dunes on the Alabama Gulf Coast; and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in California. See more of his work at www.jerrypategolfdesign.com.