David Williams Golf Design

“Lost” Colt Green Re-Built At Real Golf De Pedreña

Lost Colt Green Re-Built At Real Golf De Pedrena

DWGD has been consulting at Real Golf de Pedreña, near Santander in northern Spain, for the past 5 years, initially in the renovation of holes 3 and 5 in Spring 2012 with new tees, bunkers and greens throughout both holes.

A newspaper article from 1933 shows the dramatic 10th green with its two cavernous bunkers in the lower left portion of the photo – and the general lack of trees on the whole course!

A newspaper article from 1933 shows the dramatic 10th green with its two cavernous bunkers in the lower left portion of the photo – and the general lack of trees on the whole course!

Pedreña exhibits many of Colt’s endearing qualities, with, for example greens 8, 13 and 14  all sited dramatically on the skyline.   Many of the greens are centred in magnificent green complexes, allowing all players to still appreciate the ongoing excellence of Colt’s original designs.   Perhaps the greatest – and definitely the most dramatic – complex was that of the short par 3, 10th hole, a wide but shallow putting surface guarded by two cavernous bunkers to the front and three grassy hollows to the rear.    It certainly appears to be the “signature hole” – if they used that term –  shortly after the course was opened, often being used to illustrate articles about the course.

However, although players could still see the dramatic complex, for the last 40 years or so they have not been able to play it!   It was taken out of play in the mid 1970s when the Club gained additional land to extend both the par 4, 9th and par 4, 11th into par 5 holes, increasing the par to its current 70.    A new 9th green and new 11th tee were built together with a complete new longer par 3, 10th hole.   That new 10th hole became probably the most unfair and therefore least liked hole on the layout, being an uphill hole of approximately 180 metres, but to a small green falling off on three sides and tree lined on the other.

At David Williams Golf Design, we have been working at Pedreña for the past four or five years, re-building and renovating the course, with holes 3 and 5 having completely new tees, greens and bunkers a couple of years ago.

When we were informed by the Club that holes 9, 10 and 11 were programmed for reconstruction last winter, we felt strongly that something had to be done to the abandoned Colt 10th green which has stood forlornly in the carry of the 11th hole for the last 40 years.

Re-creating it in its current position would either mean the shortening of the 11th back to a par 4 (a feature obviously not wanted by the Club) or by moving the 11th tee producing a cross-over between holes 10 and 11, again an unwanted feature.

The solution adopted was to re-create the former 10th green complex virtually identically to the Colt original but re-positioned in the approach to the 1970s 10th green.   Fortunately, the existing land in that approach, an area approximately 60 metres x 40 metres and with a 5 to 6 metre left to right sideslope, mirrored almost precisely the land on which Colt laid out his original green complex.

The green was re-created to the original design, the only minor change being the continuation of the two capes, which divided the three grass hollows to the rear of the green, further onto the green than in the Colt original.   In that way, players hitting to the easier left hand (and unguarded) side have a more difficult putt when the flag is positioned on the right half of the putting surface.

For a week or so, both greens – the original (left) and the re-creation (right) – appeared side by side, until the original had to be removed to facilitate access to the new 11th tee complex.

For a week or so, both greens – the original (left) and the re-creation (right) – appeared side by side, until the original had to be removed to facilitate access to the new 11th tee complex.

There appeared to be some indecision among older members of the Club as to the position of the original tees, and therefore the angle at which the hole was originally played.   However, we made the decision to play it from the position of the 1970s tees, which gave the necessary diagonal to the hole and created the strategic ‘risk and reward’ character evident in Colt’s original.    The two frontal bunkers certainly catch the eye from the tee, and also protect the flag when it is positioned on the centre or the right hand side of the putting surface.

Construction was undertaken in September/October 2014 by Garden & Golf of Madrid, Spain, whose contract also included the reconstruction of all tees on the three holes as well as building 14 bunkers, many in their original positions, but many new or re-positioned to create a more strategic element to the two par 5 holes.    When the holes were extended in the 1970s, it appears that essentially they were just purely lengthened, and the 11th in particular – with a fairly hazard-free fairway and very wide entrance to the green – still gave the appearance of a long par 4 hole rather than a challenging short par 5.    New and enhanced bunkering has created better challenges on both holes, both now truly strategic ‘risk and reward’ tests.

Since re-opening in Spring 2015, the three holes have been widely praised by members and visitors alike, with the “new” 10th hole in particular being the focus of much of that praise, with many members stating that the renovation has changed the hole from being the worst hole on the course (in its 1970s version) to the best hole now in 2016.

The completed 10th green.

The completed 10th green.

When Colt designed the course in the 1920s, the site was wide open with very few trees.  In the intervening 80 or so years, the vast majority of holes have become tree lined, creating interesting golfing challenges, but often blocking up the open views across the Bay of Santander that had previously existed.   In parallel with the construction work, removal of many trees has been undertaken, opening up the holes but, equally importantly, opening up the dramatic views of the sea and mountains which surround the course.

The ongoing redesign work has re-created many of the challenges and in bringing back into play a lost Colt green, the challenge of the original course is renewed.