Rees Jones Redesigns Ibaraki Country Club’s West Course
MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Rees Jones, one of the industry’s most respected golf course designers for over 35 years, is making inroads in Asia, the world’s fastest-growing golf market. With a classical approach and an eye for timeless, traditional designs, his U.S.-based design company is in demand both for its original creations and remodeling expertise.
This is especially true in Japan, where many of golf courses were built years ago with two greens per hole. This was done to accommodate cool and warm season grasses to match the extreme seasonal climate patterns in the region. Recent agronomic advances have eliminated the need for dual targets, opening the door for renovation work throughout Japan.
Last year, Rees Jones was hired by Ibaraki Country Club, a landmark 36-hole facility located near Osaka, to revise its West Course. The club’s decision to bring in Jones and his team to remodel its championship layout, which opened in 1960, marked an exciting development in the evolution of the design firm.
“Our work at Ibaraki will be 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 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 itself holds tremendous promise.” Course construction began in January, with an expected reopening date slated for fall 2011.
The makeover at Ibaraki will entail regrading of the course, resulting in new tees, greens and bunkers plus a new updated irrigation system. Rather than choose one green over another, Jones and his Senior Designer and Project Architect, Bryce Swanson have devised new green locations and reworked the entire strategic framework of the layout to keep it current with equipment advances. The blueprint indicates prime landing areas for the tee shot, optimal angles to green locations, and new fairway and greenside bunker placements. In addition, yardages have been 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, which now stretch to 7, 350 yards (par 72).
Jones, a traditionalist, has 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 will be 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. Hideo Magata, Ibaraki’s captain, “Like top tournament courses touched up by Rees Jones in the U.S., we are looking forward to a redesigned West Course that will demand precise, strategic golf shots by professional competitors. For the members, the revised course will provide 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.'”
Asked what was behind the club’s decision to hire Jones to remodel Ibaraki’s West Course, Magata said Rees Jones was chosen because he 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.”
What will Ibaraki’s members most enjoy about the revamped West Course when it reopens this summer? “While the members enjoyed the original course designed by well-known Japanese architect Seichi Inouye some 50 years ago, they’re really looking forward to a classic design that complies with modern standards and entails switching from a two-green complex to a single-green format,” Magata said. “We believe the restyled West Course will increase each member’s eagerness to play and compete based on the beautiful, strategic layout Rees Jones has created for us. The new layout makes great use of the natural rise and fall of the land, and also skillfully incorporates the site’s many water features into the design.”