While public golfers everywhere celebrate the restoration of fabled Bethpage Black to conditions deserving of a venerable classic, another restoration of equal historical import is finishing in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge in Parsippany, N.J.
George Bahto, an expert in the designs of Seth Raynors protg, Charles Banks, anticipates completing most work at The Knoll Clubs West Course, by this spring. When hes finished, not only will The Knoll showcase many holes made famous at Raynor and Macdonalds National Golf Links of America, but it can claim as spectacular and unlikely a return to glory as Bethpage Black.
Built in 1930 by thirty millionaires, the Great Depression devastated the club. What cost the founders $2,000,000 to build was sold only seven years later as a distressed property for $110,000. After changing hands several times, the club was finally bought by the Town of Parsippany.
Years of indifference had triggered decay. Some fairways moved over thirty yards from their originally planned corridors, changing the strategic requirements of the hole or removing them entirely. Bunkers, deemed out of play off the tee because of technological advances in equipment, were filled in. The course looked completely unrecognizable as the work of Charles Banks with one exception; nobody changed the greens. Their fiendishly intricate internal contours - worthy of mention beside mighty Winged Foot or Oakmont - remained unspoiled, a miracle that persevered during the long period of doldrums.
Bahto was an unlikely hero. Part hard-boiled, no nonsense, Navy airman, part pragmatic dry cleaning business owner, nothing outwardly indicates a gift for golf course architecture, but his passion for The Knoll spurred him to accurately restore the course to the specifications found in the oldest known aerial photos from the 1930s; there are no modifications or enhancements. We put it back as it was built Bahto says firmly. I guard the original design of these greens with my life.
The greens are a priceless part of the regions golf heritage. The Knoll showcases many designs found at both National and Shinnecock, including, for the par-3s, a Redan, a Short, a Biarritz and an Eden. There are also replicas of the Road Hole, a Double Plateau green with vicious swales and three tiers, and a Punchbowl, among others.
Its another miracle for Tri-State area public golfers agrees one NYC public player. Its nearly impossible for public golfers to play a Macdonald, Raynor or Banks course, so Bahtos providing a timeless gift to all New York golfers.
The Knoll Country Club - West Course
Knoll and Greenbank Roads
Architect - Charles Banks, restored by George Bahto
Cost - $67 weekdays, $86 weekends, includes mandatory cart
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 260 nationally ranked public golf courses in 39 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer, Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan.