Review: Peacock Gap Golf Club review

April 28, 2008 2:02:27 PM PDT
After a golf course undergoes restoration, redesign, or renovation, the final result poses fundamental questions:

1.) Does the course remain faithful to the original?

2.) Is it better than before?

In the case of Peacock Gap, the answers would be 'yes' to both, but with provisos.

The new facility has an expanded driving range and practice putting area, but to make room for them, architect Forrest Richardson rerouted the front nine.

He shortened the 305-385 yard, par-4, 5th.

He turned dogleg right, par-4, 6th, into a 113-176 yard par-3 which plays straight across a lake. He turned the par-3, 7th, into a 213-297 yard par-4.

What used to be the testing, par-4, 8th, has become a forgettable, 394-475 yard, par-5.

And, the once-memorable, risk/reward, par-5, 9th, has become a short par-4, at 295-352 yards.

The original par-71 parklands course, designed by William F. 'Billy' Bell in the late 1950's, played flat and dull by modern standards. Where the old Peacock Gap did not offer much in the way of design variety, shot values, conditioning, aesthetics, and lasting impressions, Richardson's new version improves in all categories. It generates more interest, but feels forced in some places. He used unorthodox, but classic design features in attempting to add character, humor, and idiosyncrasy to Peacock Gap.

Now, chocolate drops and pot bunkers appear, unnaturally, on otherwise flat fairways. Greens have mounds, dimples, ruffles, and ridges, like giant potato chips. If the rest of the fairways matched them for movement, we would have liked the package better, but Richardson explained that the water table precluded such changes. "We felt the land should remain in the flat nature it always has been."

Some of Peacock Gap's experienced members are befuddled by Richardson's changes, but in fairness, he had to do something. We consider some his best refinements to be the more subtle ones, such as widening fairways, and moving some greens closer to water.

The par-4, 248-329 yard, par-4, 17th, is particularly good. Richardson's redesign challenges long hitters by forcing a lay-up, or daring them to go for it.

As part of this redesign, Peacock Gap has expensive, semi-private aspirations. The fees, on weekends, approach $100.

But, if one's purpose in designing a golf course is to make it a memorable and discussable, then Forrest Richardson has succeeded. People who play the new Peacock Gap love to argue about it. Just be prepared that such discussions may include an occasional and hearty deleted expletive.

If you want to better understand Richardson, buy his book, "Bunkers, Pits, and Other Hazards. It's a good read, particularly his footnotes. You can find that book at Amazon.com.


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