Roslyn’s storied Engineers Country Club is calling a mulligan, engaging in a multiyear restoration that will bring the course back to its early-1900s roots. Leading the charge is Tripp Davis, a 20-plus year veteran of golf course design and architecture with his firm Tripp Davis and Associates. Davis has designed multiple golf courses from scratch – mostly in the Midwest near his Oklahoma headquarters – and been called in to renovate and restore other courses across the country, including a few on Long Island. He doesn’t just design them though; Davis has played in 15 USGA Championships, and was ranked among the top 40 U.S. amateur players from 2000 to 2004. And now he’s got his sights set squarely on Engineers Country Club, which has been named one of the country’s Top 100 Classic Courses by Golfweek Magazine.
How did you get involved with Engineers Country Club?
We were actually hired in 2000 to redo the 8th and 9th greens, as they had gotten pretty bad. The 8th green had no pin location. We had someone come in to do some locations and we were able to do an interesting green. That helped us develop a rapport with the club. Next, they needed us to do work with a bunker. We ended up doing a decent amount of bunker renovation – not restoration – adding sand and just fixing them up. Then we rebuilt the 6th green there followed by the 16th green in between 2008 and 2009. We finished that green and did a little bit of fairway bunker work, before convincing them to do a full master plan. We started on that in 2010 and just finished it last summer.
We did some renovation work, but there has never been a complete restoration of the golf course. It’s always been more of bits and pieces as needed. This will be comprehensive.
So what can we expect from the restored course once it’s completed?
The principal objective with Engineers is to restore it to where you feel the history there, which is going to include that original look and feel. The designers originally wanted it to be more of an ocean course, but it’s more of a park style now. There are going to be really big changes visually; it’s going to look completely different. We’re going to bring in a lot of the different, native grasses, restore bunkers to the original bunkering style and open up the views and vistas by removing trees. Visually, our intent is to change the way it feels to the player. We want it to look like it did in 1920.
Aside from the aesthetics, will it play any differently?
Most of the differences in how it plays are going to be subtle. We studied the old golf courses and put ourselves in the shoes of golfers back in the 1920s, saying ‘this was a good pin location back then, but not anymore, so let’s shape the edge of this green to complement where the pin will be. The biggest thing we’ll be able to see that’s different is the width of the fairways, because we’re going to make them wider.
What’s the timeline like for this project?
Our objective going forward is to start a fairly sizable bunker restoration plan that will take place over the next 18 months. The entire restoration should take the next three to four years to complete.
Is that going to impact play or force the country club to close?
We’ll work on two to three holes at a time, and put in temporary tees to the green wherever necessary. We’ll work our way around tees in a piecemeal approach. We’re also going to be redoing the irrigation system, so we may end up closing the course a little early in the season and opening a little later in the spring to accommodate that.
Lake Success is an old design. A third of it was cut off when they built the LIE. One of the problems was that they put an 18-inch pipe under the LIE, so the golf course flooded a lot. We came in and fixed it. That was more of an engineering project, whereas Meadow Brook was more about going back in and rebuilding the bunkers how [famed American golf architect] Dick Wilson originally designed them. Engineers is a full master plan restoration to bring it back to its full glory.
As an avid golfer who has played all over the country, what’s your take on the Long Island golf scene?
There aren’t too many places in the world that have so many great and varied courses. Piping Rock Club [in Locust Valley] is a great example of all the history there is on Long Island, mostly toward the North Shore. Then get you in onto the East End where you can find some of the best golf courses in the world. I don’t know too many places in the world where there’s a greater diversity. Between four and five of my favorites are on the East End.