News & Events

Brad Klein’s “Restorationist Manifesto” and Restoring Sharp Park Golf Course

Sep 6, 2015

ASGCA Article - Return on Renovations
Preservationists, golfers, and environmentalists (excluding a handful of fringe eco-litigators) are working cooperatively with the City and County of San Francisco to implement a win-win plan improving both the Sharp Park Golf Course and habitat for the threatened species that live there.  As this work proceeds, we can begin to contemplate a restoration of the historically important and unique Alister MacKenzie masterpiece at Sharp Park.
Among the many considerations in this process are the economic benefits  of restoring a classic course. Rebecca Gibson explores this aspect in an article published by the American Society of Golf Course Architects analyzing The Return on Renovation:
Golf Course Renovation Payback
"While renovations can be challenging, they are often a less risky strategy than doing nothing at all."
Clearly there are economic benefits to restoring a beloved golf course, but some things transcend economic gain. Protecting and restoring a masterpiece, whether it is the Sistine Chapel,  a damaged oil painting, or a unique course designed by the most important golf architect in history, is an obligation imposed on every generation to leave to future generations. 
No one understands this better than Golfweek senior writer Dr. Bradley Klein, recent recipient of the 2015 Golf Course Architects of America Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award. On the occasion of his publication of "Wide Open Fairways" in 2013,  Dr. Klein was interviewed in Golf Club Atlas,  discussed the value of historic golf course restorations,  and singled out Sharp Park as the leading public course candidate in North America for renovation.  Excerpts from Golf Club Atlas September, 2013 interview with Dr Klein
1.  What prompted you to write Wide Open Fairways? . . .  
The real driving force is that I’ve been traveling and taking notes and having thoughts and feelings about golf architecture for fifty years now and so as long as that continues I’ll be writing. . . .  I love golf courses and I love the imagination that landscape inspires and so I thought I’d try my hand at a different approach. “Wide Open Fairways” isn’t about tournament courses and it’s not an account of routing or playing strategy. It’s about the beauty and character of interesting land – the land we’re lucky to be on when we play golf.  
8. What three courses in North America would most benefit from a restoration?
. . . .  I really like it when a course that people thought  was good and thought they knew gets so much better when its goes back to its design roots.... In a strictly public, municipal setting, I’d have to go with Sharp Park Golf Course in California, where despite some re-routing of holes there’s this amazing array of Alister MacKenzie work along marsh edges, dunes and in terms of alternate shot paths that the public would find fascinating. If course managers or the charitable trust there could ever commit the needed funds to implement a master plan, it would be just stunning. Restoration isn’t just a matter of member pride; it’s about public pride and respect, too.
10. You write, ‘Heritage sells.’ Please expand on that concept. . . .
. . . .  The good thing about classical golf course design is that it has increasingly valuable cachet – like antique jewelry, or arts & craft furnishing and houses in the legendary design styles of Green & Green or Frank Lloyd Wright. . . .   In classical design, you’re presenting heritage, craft work, meticulous attention to detail and integrating native land with historically imagined design elements. . .The value there is the uniqueness, the fun and challenge it provides golfers, and the fact that it is readily distinguishable from so many of its more modern competitor facilities in the region. So I think that a good argument for golf course restoration is that it makes business sense in an increasingly competitive golf market.
Klein's Wide Open Fairways belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the meaning, heritage and history of great golf course architecture and design. In particular, his Postscript "Restorationist Manifesto" is a blueprint and call to action to preserve and restore the vision of these masterworks across America:
A Restorationist Manifesto
"... Whenever I'm asked to name my favorite architects, I simply say, "Dead guys." There was something about their panache, their ego, their ability to utilize horse-drawn plows or mule teams and oxen - and no small cadre of immigrant labor - to create shapes that looked like they belonged as part of nature...  
And there was such an abundance of land back in the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture, roughly from 1919 through 1939, that the classic-era designers could pick and choose among multiple sites rather than settle upon a bad piece of land.  Small wonder that names such as Charles Blair Macdonald, Alistair MacKenzie, Seth Raynor, Donald Ross and A. W. Tillinghast are much in vogue these days. Increasingly, they are being recognized and venerated as visionaries worthy of respect, admiration, and meticulous restoration."
Alister MacKenzie's  classic 1932 design of Sharp Park could never be replicated today. It is up to us to preserve and restore that vision.