Rory McIlroy left battered, Tiger Woods left early and Phil Mickelson left criticizing. Rees Jones, the 'doctor' who gave the PGA Championship's Atlanta Athletic Club its bite has a reputation all his own.
Did the PGA Championship's bogey trains, watery kerplunks and more sand play than kindergarten recess leave you thirsting to play a Rees Jones design?
Every architect with a long career has their niche. For Jones, it's keeping elder golf courses relevant to 21st century tournament golf. He helped make Atlantic Athletic Club major-worthy by adding back tees and loads of bunkers that the big hitters couldn't hit past.
Rees Jones' design company portfolio boasts 7 U.S. Opens, 7 PGA Championships, 4 Ryder Cups, 2 Walker Cups and a Presidents Cup.
It's by far the most championship influence of any modern name. You could argue Pete Dye builds courses just as penal. But while Dye designs are oft used by the PGA and PGA Tour, including next year's PGA host, the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, he has virtually nothing to do with the U.S. Open. (at least the men's side, Blackwolf Run hosts the women's U.S. Open).
For Jones, most of these credits were enhancements to existing designs. In fact, Jones cites Pinehurst No. 2, a U.S. Open and Ryder Cup host as one of his projects. Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, the team who helped transform the course last year, may scoff at that notion. But Jones added back tee boxes to selected holes years ago.
A lot of Jones' tournament courses are private clubs, but there are a few you can play: Torrey Pines South is a San Diego muni that is expensive for non-residents, but probably his most scenic, 'destination' credit. Its coastal beauty, along with the high-profile Tiger-Rocco U.S. Open from 2008 gives it a bit more sexiness than Bradley-Dufner duel in southern humidity.
Also, Jones built the Redstone Tournament course from scratch. Host of the Shell Houston Open, the course is known on Tour as the warm-up to Augusta National with some of the year's finest playing conditions.
Or, you can seek out a round at Bethpage Black in New York City, where Jones helped restore the A.W. Tillinghast design to a test fit for the modern game.
But beyond where the pros play, there are some notable Rees Jones designs in the world of resort golf travel. Rio Secco Golf Club in Las Vegas is one of the area's better upscale, desert golf experiences. In northern Michigan, Black Lake Golf Club is an easy pick for the destination's Top 10. He's done quite a bit in North and South Carolina, with designs on Hilton Head Island (Oyster Reef Golf Club is the only public course) and around Myrtle Beach (Sea Trail and Arcadian Shores). On the Outer Banks, you can tee it up on The Currituck Club. Inland, while I'd have a hard time calling Pinehurst No. 2 a Rees Jones design, he designed Pinehurst No. 7 start-to-finish.
Jones' philosophy earns a lot of repeat business from the PGA Tour, USGA and PGA. But for resorts and Top 100 golf panels, they tend to steer more towards Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Tom Fazio and relative newcomers like Coore-Crenshaw and Tom Doak. Even Rees' brother, Robert Trent Jones Jr., has curried favor with resorts all over the world with a more player-friendly philosophy. In the profile we published last week on RTJ Jr. by Clive Agran, Rees' brother even called him 'sadistic.'
But a glimpse at Jones' roster of 'current projects' reveals he's plenty in demand. His firm has work at the moment both domestically and abroad, and the FedEx Cup will culminate at one of his projects at an original Donald Ross design, East Lake Golf Club.
Whether or not you book a tee time on a Rees Jones course in the future, we'll continue to see and hear a lot about him in the coming years' most important events.