Straka deviates from Ross’ original design in one important way, however. He replaced an existing par 3 on the front nine with a new seventh hole that plays over an incredible dollop of terrain that stretches into the Intracoastal Waterway, creating a dramatic one-shot that plays downhill through salt water. . The land where the green is located was not available to Ross, but a spring house had been built along the water decades ago, and the point of land was built over time. The club did not own this nugget which sinks into the Intracoastal, but a long-term lease was concluded with the local authorities which gave Straka access to the new green site, which was reinforced by bulkheads.
It’s unclear whether Ross would have built such a green had the land been available to him, but there’s no doubt that this will be one of Florida’s finest waterfront holes.
“It’s interesting because if anyone were to have a criticism as we try to do a real restoration, it’s that we added a new hole and removed what we considered to be one of the worst holes. weakest on the golf course,” Straka said. . “Yeah, but then you look at the setting and what the hole is going to become, and those are tough decisions to make. But for any golfer who goes now and looks at this green, you’d be like, ‘Why don’t you not that?”
“But even then, that style has to match everything else. That’s why we’ve included the cop mound, or reverse bunkers if you will. We added them to this hole so that when you look at the scenery it will flow from hole to hole and even into the new hole. This plot of land, when he built this course, wasn’t even a plot of land. …Ross didn’t even get a chance to do anything with it. Would he or not? It’s a guess.
There is a frequent debate in golf involving renovations, where new holes and features are introduced to a course, as opposed to restorations in which the ideas of the original designer are more closely followed. There is a wide range of gray areas in between. Is Belleair’s new hole, as beautiful as it is, enough to move this away from a restoration project and closer to a renovation? And does it even really matter?
“Every architect and every writer, I think, defines it differently,” Straka said. “If you talk about doing a restoration, with Belleair as an example, do you restore it to 1915? Is it back to 1924 (before 1925 reopening)? Is it later than that? For us, we’re trying to make it look like 1924 again because Donald Ross made changes for specific reasons. …
“Almost every architect likes to play with a course or make improvements. If you think you got almost everything 100% figured out the first time, you are wrong. Even here he went out and watched how the golf course fluctuated and changed for almost 10 years (after his first job at Belleair), and he said, look, there are things I want to change. And he did. For us, we give it back to the 1924 period. We’re putting back as many features as we can find and discover, just trying to bring that essence back.
Ross would probably approve, and equally important, the members of Belleair certainly will.