Rees Jones’ Redesign Of Ibaraki Country Club’s West Course In Japan Reopens To Acclaim
MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Rees Jones, one of the industry’s most respected golf course designers for over 35 years, was on hand at Ibaraki Country Club near Osaka, Japan for the opening day tournament, press conference and reception for members and guests in celebration of the reopening of his redesigned West Course. “The members love it,” Jones stated with a smile.
Last year, Rees Jones was hired by Ibaraki Country Club, a landmark 36-hole facility outside Osaka, to revise its West Course. According to Mr. Hideo Magata, Ibaraki’s captain, the club’s decision to bring in Jones and his team to remodel its championship layout, which opened in 1960, was due to the fact that Rees Jones is “currently one of the industry’s best-known and most reputable golf course architects. He has the proven ability to redesign a course in order to boost its stature and make it well-known around the world. The fact that this is Rees Jones’ first project in Japan played a very important role in our decision-making process. As for his track record, we highly value the fact that Rees Jones is recognized as the ‘Open Doctor’ for his redesign of so many famous courses that have hosted major championships.”
“Our work at Ibaraki was a full-blown renovation,” Jones said. “Now that new strains of bentgrass have been developed that can withstand Japan’s hot, humid summers, we’ve been able to eliminate the dual greens (which many of Japan’s golf courses use to accommodate cool and warm grasses) to create a single target for each hole. With its dramatic 70-foot elevation change, numerous water features and mature pines lining many of the fairways, the site held tremendous promise.”
The makeover at Ibaraki entailed regrading of the course, resulting in new tees, greens and bunkers plus a new irrigation system. Rather than choose one green over another, Jones and his Senior Designer/Vice President, Bryce Swanson, devised new green locations and reworked the entire strategic framework of the layout to keep it current with equipment advances. The blueprint called for prime landing areas for the tee shot, optimal angles to green locations, and new fairway and greenside bunker placements. In addition, yardages were adjusted to create more variety among the holes and also provide a world-class test for the game’s best players from the back tees. The course now features five sets of tees and can play from 5,455 yards up to 7,407 yards (par 72).
Jones, a traditionalist, opted for a neo-classic look at Ibaraki. Soft flowing lines, diversely designed greens and rectangular tees characterize the redesign. With its lengthened and re-strategized holes, the end result is a new layout superimposed on the old course that undoubtedly will rank among Japan’s top championship-caliber venues. It is hoped that Ibaraki’s West Course will be chosen to host a prestigious professional event in the near future. “The golf course has been tweaked and stretched to accommodate the requirements of modern championship play while remaining enjoyable for the membership,” said Jones.
According to Mr. Magata, “Like top tournament courses touched up by Rees Jones in the U.S., the redesigned West Course now demands precise, strategic golf shots by professional competitors. For the members, the revised course provides a test they can enjoy, from the single-digit handicap player to the average golfer based on a Rees Jones creed, ‘The course will be fair to players of all levels.'”
Mr. Magata noted that while the members enjoyed the original course designed by well-known Japanese architect Seichi Inoue over 50 years ago, they’re “extremely pleased” with the restyled West Course. “We now have a classic, strategic design with a single-green format that complies with modern standards,” Mr. Magata said. “The new layout makes great use of the natural rise and fall of the land. There’s a continuous flow of beautiful holes, and each hole is very memorable. The wide approach areas to the greens were designed to cater to every caliber of player. I’m also very pleased with the way Rees and Bryce skillfully incorporated Kamiga Lake into a number of the holes by opening views and by bringing the lake into play on the finishing holes.”