Robert Trent Jones Golf Club Redesigner

Washington Monthly

ROBERT TRENT JONES GOLF CLUB on the shores of Lake Manassas has been around for less than a decade. But in that time it has become one of the most sought-after corporate memberships in the Washington area.

Named for its own illustrious architect, the course is nearly 7,300 yards of some of RTJ’s best work. It’s fitting that it was named after the man who helped professionalize the business of golf course architecture. His contributions are world famous. His inspirations helped talented newcomers continue to improve the business.

One of those is Kyle Phillips, the man who was asked to help rehab parts of his former boss’ namesake venue. “I got a call from the club because I had worked with both Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. for more than 16 years,” says Phillips, whose own company is based in Granite Bay, Calif. “The PGA Tour was involved with the project originally (through preparations for the Presidents Cup), and the club was interested in maintaining the architectural integrity of the course. They needed someone to do some upgrading while maintaining the look and feel of the original golf course.”

The major architectural activity took place on holes 14, 15, and 18 along with some work on No. 4 green and No. 9 tee. The No. 15 and No. 18 fairways were rebuilt from the landing areas to the greens, and the No. 9 tee was expanded and improved at the spots where members wanted to play. The most noticeable renovation, however, was made at the layout’s finishing hole.

“The old green sat up quite a ways above the lake,” says Phillips. “There was always a desire by the members to get the green nearer to the lake.

Both the PGA and the RTJ membership played big roles in the upgrades. The changes were geared for the long-term health of the venue and not just to accommodate the Presidents Cup every so often.

“Members of the PGA Tour had their issues and the club wanted to know how that theory would be applied, if it would fit in with the original design,” says Phillips. ” You have a very astute membership there. They take a lot of pride in their golf course, and rightly so.”

Although the bulk of Phillips’ golf course attention has been based in the western United States and in Europe (he is finishing a course six miles from St. Andrews), his Eastern resume includes work at Sugarloaf in Maine and Landsdowne near Leesburg, Va.

He has become particularly impressed with RTJ’s conditioning, which is in large part due to superintendent Glen Smickley’s constant doting.

“Every time I go there, winter, spring, summer or fall, the greens are always in great shape,” says Phillips, who likened the RTJ challenge to that of Spyglass Hill in his home state. “Even with the dramatic changes in climate, it stays well maintained. Glen must use magic dust on them or something.”

The 2000 Presidents Cup, a match-play format between the U. S. team and the International team, will be contested at RTJ Oct. 19-22.


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