Alameda Point’s Links to Scotland, The Bay, SF

Alameda Golf
By Ron Salsig

Ever since the idea to build a golf course out at the far northwest corner of the former Naval Air Station became viable, Kay Miller (who has been running the re-development effort out there) has had a picture specific type of golf course on the wall in her office.

The picture is of of the Old Course at St. Andrews , Scotland. The original “Links” golf course. The land that the new golf course at Alameda Point will be built on is perfect for a Links course.

A true Links course, like the home of golf in Scotland , is a relatively flat course built on sandy soil that connects or “links” the land with the ocean. The land the new golf course at Alameda Point will rest on is relatively flat and “links” to the waters of the bay. The city of San Francisco looks so close you might well say this land also “links” to the city.

With this in mind, it came as no surprise that the man selected to complete the first phase of development for our new golf course is the man who is currently designing and building a true Links course a few miles down the shoreline from that Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.

The Alameda committee of Miller, Dana Banke, Tony Corica, Leslie Zander and Elizabeth Johnson eschewed proposals from the likes of Robert Trent Jones II and Robert Muir Graves to award the $50,000 feasibility study contract to golf course architect Kyle Phillips on Feb. 20.

“I thought it had an excellent location,” Phillips said. “And the technical and environmental challenges interest me. This is a unique property for Alameda .”

Phillips has developed a reputation for finding solutions to difficult environmental and planning issues on a multitude of terrain while designing golf courses for more than 60 clients in over 20 countries. When he left the Robert Trent Jones II firm to hang his own shingle in July of last year, the first project he landed was a dream: To rebuild and re-design the old Kingsbarns Links seven miles down the coast from the Old Course at St. Andrews.

The Links at Kingsbarns was first played over nine holes before Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815. But the course was used for maneuvers in World War II and never restored. The Nov. 16, 1997 issue of the St. Andrews Sunday Post called the course, “perhaps the last pure Links to be built in Scotland .” Working with Phillips as a consultant will be Walter Woods, retired head greenskeeper of the Old Course.

When I first saw the property, “Phillips said, “I wondered how the guys at Pebble Beach felt when they first walked the site. It’s an incredible opportunity. Seven holes play directly down the shoreline and the rest have splendid views of the North Sea and distant Angus coastline. We started construction last fall and it will be done in the late summer.”

So we have a man who knows Links and does Links. But in Alameda there are two other problems which must be dealt with – environmental concerns (a habitat for the least tern) and whether dredgings from the Estuary will be a suitable base for the course.

Phillips scores high in experience in both areas of concern. He designed the Resort at Squaw Creek Golf Course in Squaw Valley , widely considered to be the most environmentally responsive course ever constructed, with two-thirds of the layout dedicated to wetlands. And in Aruba he designed and constructed a course with imported sand, much like the dredgings will be in Alameda.

“We have an opportunity to go in and create a golf course with this dredge material in Alameda ,” Phillips said. “Part of our investigation will be to look into the dredging, work with them, find out more about the material. How that material will work, to create a much better environment than exists there now – it’s a runway – to create a habitat for the least tern…these are the questions that intrigue me, the challenges that interest me.”

Phillips believes that the new golf course at Alameda Point can be a top-level golf experience.

“A lot of people would like to have a very high-end product, but they don’t have the site or the location,” he said. “But this is a very unique property in Alameda.”

Philllips lived in Fremont while he worked as a vice president and designer at Robert Trent Jones II. He moved to one of his proudest creations, Granite Bay GC near Roseville in the Sacramento area, to hang his own shingle. But no matter where Phillips lives, he is always on the go. The real money in golf course design is overseas. For instance, in May he begins construction on a course in Austria . His interest in the Alameda property is a compliment to that site.

“With the experience Kyle has had with some really big developments, we want that,” Golf Manager Dana Banke said. “He has a proven track record.”

Phillips should finish the feasibility study by June. He will also then have his foot in the door as the architect for the project.


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