As a lifelong New York City resident, Rich McDonough takes great pride in the recent resurgence of the Big Apple’s public golf scene.
Donald Trump will open his Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point Park in 2015. Closer to his heart, the Marine Park Golf Course in Brooklyn continues its rebirth under Michael and Adam Giordano, the father-son ownership team that took over in 2009. The duo has launched a long-term master plan to enhance the original Robert Trent Jones Sr. design. A number of holes have already been altered, the clubhouse revamped and new practice facilities built.
McDonough, the club’s director of golf operations, calls Marine Park “the gem of New York City.” The 6,866-yard course will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014.
"On the scale of 1 to 10 (grading the changes), it is a 10,” McDonough said. “I’ve played at Marine Park through the years. It was so dilapidated from the lack of maintenance and care. People were accepting that nothing was going to change. Slowly but surely, the golf course came alive."
Marine Park was originally designed by architect Robert Trent Jones Sr.
With an improved emphasis on conditioning, Marine Park wants to become known as a tournament venue. In October, top area professionals and amateurs played in the inaugural Brooklyn Open Championship at Marine Park.
McDonough estimates roughly 30 percent of the renovation work by architect Stephen Kay is complete. Kay shaped berms and mounds on holes 1-5 and holes 11-14 to give the flat linksy layout better definition and character. The Manhattan skyline, including the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower, frames the backdrop.
"These berms have given each hole their own private feel," McDonough said. "They change the entire feel. Even with the wind, it changes those patterns. It’s quite unique."
Reworking bunkers and the construction of new tees will continue. An indoor training studio equipped with a TrackMan launch monitor and simulator will open upstairs in the clubhouse in January.
Marine Park looking at innovative pace of play solutions
The Giordanos are analyzing every detail of course operations to improve the customer experience and increase rounds. They’re looking into a shuttle service to bring in golfers from Manhattan. McDonough indicated Marine Park might experiment with off-peak tee times next year that charge for "time played" instead of the traditional nine or 18-hole model. The course routing makes shorter loops possible.
Consulting with Three45Golf Association Inc. brought in ideas to speed up play. Clocks spaced out to three key locations on the course keep players aware of their pace. Additional employee training and new signage provide constant reminders about the issue.
"We are looking forward to people playing faster and still getting a great golf experience," McDonough said. "We have difficult greens. We will make sure pin positions will not bog down play. We are being very proactive."