Golf Club Atlas

GolfClubAtlas.com => Golf Course Architecture => Topic started by: Anthony Gholz on April 20, 2017, 02:15:13 PM

Title: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Anthony Gholz on April 20, 2017, 02:15:13 PM
    I admit I’ve been hooked on Ron Whitten’s lists for a long time.  Was Ron even around with GD’s first list in 1966?  So when my February 2017 issue arrived I was excited once again to see the latest list of America’s Top 100.  I read every word as to why AN has once again pushed PV out of the top spot, or was it vice versa?  And I’ll read it again in 2 years, and hopefully many more after that.  However, further down the list, I was unhappy to learn that Sea Island’s Seaside course was designed by Tom Fazio (1999).  That must be news to the resort, which advertises fine dining in their Colt & Alison Restaurant.
I was determined to immediately write to Ron to ask: what he was smoking.  Unfortunately real life got in the way and I procrastinated. 
Then earlier this week my hard copy of Golfweek’s April 2017 issue arrived, the one with the crouching Tiger ….. errr …..Sergio on the cover.   I ignored that abberation and went immediately to Mr. Klein’s “Best of” rankings.  As I said I’m a sucker for lists.  Much to my joy Mr. Alison’s name was listed, with his partner Colt, and definitely for the same Sea Island course that Ron listed.   But in the Modern category.  Huh?  This time the date was 2000, a minor deviation from Mr. Whitten’s list; maybe he used the date when DLIII struck the first blow.  Anyway, along with Charles H. Alison and Harry S. Colt were the names of Tom Fazio and Joe Lee, in that order.
 
Disclaimer:
Mr. Klein on these pages once accused me of being a single course expert.  I believe he’s in error in that judgment.  I’m definitely a two-course expert, Black River CC and Port Huron GC, both from my hometown of Port Huron, Michigan.  Because of the accident of history that put C&A’s NA headquarters in Detroit I’m also fairly familiar with the partners’ efforts in the Midwest and Ontario. 
However, I do get the point he was trying to make. He and Ron (and formerly TD) are the heads of brands that sell magazines and they have to deal with thousand of raters, course owners, subscribers, and yes those of us who are one (or two) course experts.  I don’t envy or want to be in their positions.  I find architectural history tough enough when dealing within a narrow range of the Golden Age.   I also respect them and turn to their pages, and books, often while doing my own research.
 
Background:
The leading light among Sea Island’s original founders was Detroiter Howard Coffin.  He was a member of every club worth it’s salt in the Detroit area in the teens and twenties including The CC of Detroit.  He was good friends with John Sweeney, a fellow CCD member, but more to the point Sweeney was an architecture buff.   He was instrumental in securing C&A’s services for the CCD’s first Grosse Pointe Farms course in 1911 and selecting Alison for the CCD’s new course in 1926.  He also founded and designed the Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe in 1919 with Walter Travis consulting.  Through Sweeney’s connections C and/or A designed, and mostly supervised, the construction of approximately ten courses in the area.
Therefore when Coffin needed an architect for his new resort he turned to his friend John Sweeney who recommended Travis, the grand old man of architecture at the time.   The emphasis was on old.  Travis started the Sea Island project in 1927 with construction of 9 holes completed in 1928.  Unfortunately the old man was dying and Coffin knew that.  His back up plan was Charles Alison who was active all through the 1920s in Detroit and especially at The CCD.  His new course at CCD was completed in 1927.  Coffin had already started “building” his 2nd nine holes with no plan.  The reason he could do that is he had to actually build the land with barges pumping ocean sand into the low lying marshes to the east of Travis’s course (Lido anyone?).  Alison was brought on while that operation was in progress and presumably had some say in where the sand was dumped.
In a series of drawings dating from 1928 through April of 1929 Alison designed 9 entirely new holes and totally revised Travis’s new 9-holes.  By that I mean the complete removal of chocolate drop mounds, new bunkering, and sometimes new greens in new locations.  If Fazio can claim Alison’s Seaside 9 has his, then Alison can certainly say he designed the new 18-hole course at Sea Island.  It was this 18 holes that served as SI’s calling card through 1959 when the resort added Wilson’s Retreat 9 and in 1973 Joe lee’s Marshside 9.  Mr. Fazio was brought in to “update” the Seaside Course in 1999 in preparation for the Tour’s arrival.  I have to believe DLIII was consulted on that effort.
 
The Present:
On a vacation trip to Savannah last year (2016) we spent four days at SI, both to play the Seaside course and eat at their wonderful C&A restaurant.  BTW Fake News was invented by Sea Island’s marketing department as they “found” the only photograph of C&A together, complete with drawings in hand ala Tillinghast.  Suitable for framing, I tell ya’.
In addition I had the pleasure of spending a couple hours with the resort’s now part time archivist, Mimi Rogers, reviewing their Alison first generation blueprints.  They are wonderfully maintained in an acid free box.  Unfortunately some of the drawings are missing, but with the help of the C&A restaurant’s GM I was able to spend a couple hours the next day reviewing their copies on the walls of the restaurant, sepia colored, to match the décor.  On the recommendation of Rogers, a few days later I was back in Savannah in the Georgia Historical Society’s Sea Island Company archive, donated when the Company was last sold, and they (mostly) got out of the historical business. 
In the GHS collection I found many dining room placemats and scorecards (1938 -1962) commemorating pro events on the property with the course(s) layout(s) at the time.  Also there were several stand alone scorecards including one from Jones in 1938 and Patty Berg from 1949.  These allow for following the hole lengths and par.  For the record Jones shot 67 and Berg 76.  Jones’ June 1, 1938 card had only one set of tees listed at 6541, while Berg’s March 30, 1949 card had 3 sets with no indication which tees she played.  The 1957 tournaments listed the same 6541 yardage.
The best finds at the GHS were two 8”X10” B&W aerial photographs from 1929, taken shortly after, or just as, the course was being finished.  The photos were taken from opposite ends of the new 18-hole course and together show it in great detail.  A GA who’s name you would find familiar and who has done work all over the world reviewed the photos to help determine the potential for grow-in so quickly from a March/April 1929 construction start to a late fall finished course.
I’ll save your total boredom of the process for another time, but I reviewed my copies of all the SI/GHS Alison drawings, photographs, and scorecards against each other and what I found in my library, and came to the conclusion that the contractor actually built the course almost exactly as Alison drew it, bunker for bunker and elimination of Travis choc drops, one for one.   In one photograph you can also clearly see the clubhouse and practice areas including a practice target green as well as a raised circular practice putting green totally surrounded by sand.  It looks totally as a Travis throwback vs the other “new” Alison greens on Travis’s original course.
 
Designer Names:
It has been covered in many separate GCA threads that Alison was entirely in charge of all work by the C&A firm on the North American continent from 1920 through 1931.  Colt did not come to NA after his last trip in 1914.  So courses by Alison during that time either should be named corporately as Colt & Alison or Colt, Alison, & Morrison after 1928, or be named for their stand alone designer: Capt. Charles Hugh Alison. 
NOTE: For you history buffs, I ignore the use of MacKenzie’s name in the firm title, technically from 1920 through 1927, as a non-starter.  Even Colt struck it out on the firm’s letterhead by the end of 1921.
 
Conclusion:
Today’s Seaside is still made up of 9 Alison playing corridors and at least 7 of 9, if not 8 of 9, green sites.  If as everyone down there says, Fazio rebuilt all the sand areas, bunkers and dunes, he certainly made use of the SI archives or else channeled Alison via osmosis.  Comparison of his bunkering to Alison’s is a;most one for one.  On the front side, which is on the site of the completely bulldozed Lee nine, fazio has also channeled Alison very nicely.  I would lay claim for Alison for two playing corridors on that side form his original revisions to Travis’s Plantation nine, specifically numbers 8 and 9.  So that makes 11 playing corridors blessed by Capt Alison.
For those of you who doubt that Fazio could be that faithful to an Old Guy architect, I give you #13 where the 3 bunkers on the sightline of the drive are either direct dupes or the same bunkers Alison put there 90 years ago.
Therefore I respectfully ask Mssrs: Whitten and Klein to consider using the following when referring to the Seaside course:
Colt & Alison 1929 and Fazio 1999 (I should actually substitute the corporate name of the Fazio firm)
Or
Alison 1929 and Fazio 1999 (as individuals)
Your thoughts?
Anthony (Two-course expert)
 
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Neil Regan on April 20, 2017, 02:35:13 PM
Anthony,


  Here is a thread from 2004 that might add to your research.
http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,7760.0.html (http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,7760.0.html)
Unfortunately, the posted pictures seem to have been vaporized.


I think not mentioned in that thread is the moving by Mr. Fazio of the green for Seaside #7, now #16.
And not much elaboration on the destruction of Seaside #5, now #14, replaced by a new thing.
Both very sad choices.


Paul Cowley knows an awful lot of the history.


Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Anthony Gholz on April 20, 2017, 09:27:40 PM
Thanks Neil.


I will look that up again as I may have missed something first time around.  I also have "spoken" with Paul as well.  I agree the new green on #7 allowed Fazio to slip the new frontside #8 green on the original Alison green site. But that tee shot across the long water is almost identical to the original (the "white" tee is almost on the original spot) and Fazio kept the right side large fairway bunker and a right green side bunker similar to A's. Of course F used the open land between 4,5 and 6 to swing the 5th and 6th fairways, allowing him to squeak in a "short" to make up 18 holes that somebody decided we needed.


I stick with all of Alison's green sites except 7 being used.  I need to look more closely at the "new" 5th (14th) green as it looks to be in the same place as the original albeit from a different (left) approach angle.  Alison's original must have been a more blind tee shot or the Fazio constructed a bigger dune now on the right side of the fairway.

Thanks again.
Anthony
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Jim Hoak on April 20, 2017, 10:22:59 PM
I am not a fan of most Fazio renovations, but I still see a lot of C&A in Seaside and I love the course.
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Neil Regan on April 20, 2017, 11:45:48 PM









I stick with all of Alison's green sites except 7 being used.  I need to look more closely at the "new" 5th (14th) green as it looks to be in the same place as the original albeit from a different (left) approach angle.  Alison's original must have been a more blind tee shot or the Fazio constructed a bigger dune now on the right side of the fairway.


Thanks again.
Anthony


Anthony,


  Regarding #5 (now #14): The old hole was entirely not blind. It was a short par 4, possibly drivable for the likes of Davis Love back in the day. The green was perched up on what is now the front of the tee box for the next hole. The enormous front bunker had high railroad ties. Golfers of all levels could have a wedge or 9 iron. Long hitters could try to get very close to the green on the left, with a much easier approach as you would be a bit higher than the low fairway to the right. Talk at dinner always included tales from that hole, because it was a very fun challenge for everybody.
  The new hole goes through what was thick woods on the high ridge that lined the left of the old hole. If your tee shot clears the ridge, your ball may bound into the marsh unseen. Or it may be lost but not in the hazard. If you do not clear the ridge, you might be blind for your second. The new green is set way back on the edge of the marsh. That shot might hit the green and bounce away into the marsh, or that shot might be lost in thick stuff near the green. You won't know, unless you have someone ahead to watch. The hole can be a rules nightmare.
  The back tee, built out into the marsh, into the wind will require a very low trajectory. Very possibly smack into very high marsh grass.


  The old hole was a great hole, utterly charming and the epitome of good simple golf and golf architecture.


 ---


   The tee shot on #7 (now #16) is the same as ever. There used to be a reason to try the carry: a much shorter approach with a better angle to a very small green. The new green is way closer now, and way bigger. If you bail out right off the tee, it might be a wedge or 9 iron to a very large target. No reason at all to risk the heroic tee ball.


----
   When comparing aerials, it is sometimes hard to get exact overlays. But, allowing for that, it is always good to keep in mind that what looks to be a small move on the large scale of an aerial can be an enormous change in the golf. A shifting of just one fairway width +- , as in Seaside #5, can turn a charming hole into a rules disaster. Moving a green as #7 was moved can turn an heroic hole into something else entirely.


----


  I will try to track down some old photos of #5. It breaks my heart still to know it is gone.


---



PS
 In addition to #5 and #7, I think that greens #1 and #9 were rebuilt about 75 yards away, and #8 was shifted right about a full width of the green.
  Also, all the putting surfaces were hugely enlarged and mostly bear little resemblance to the originals. The only one that occurs to me right now as very similar to pre-Fazio is #2. Just a guess, but I'd bet they went from circa 3500 square feet to 7,000 on average. They have much more internal contour now.
  And the greenside bunkering is very different. They now (almost?) all touch their greens. Many of the original had a significant gap with a dip between bunker and putting surface.
  So, the routing follows the same path. But the tees and greens are often in different locations.
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Anthony Gholz on April 22, 2017, 12:04:17 PM
Neil:


Excellent.  I will review the Alison drawings again against your comments above.  The only one that I take possibly with a grain of salt is the green bunker relationship.  I'll pull the original 8th.  I remember it as showing bunkers right at the green.


If you don't mind could you IM me with your e-mail?  I could more easily send a couple pics, etc.  If not I'll try to post them here, but that will take computer skills!


Anthony
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Anthony Gholz on April 23, 2017, 02:17:24 PM

From The Georgia Historical Society in Savannah 1929 Aerials (2) from their Sea Island Company Archive February 2016
Taken from opposite sides of the course.  The first pic shows 13 in the lower middle with four fairway bunkers.  The first split in two and the original 15th as it originally played as a shorter par-4.  This is the hole that Fazio swung left (down)
The second photo  shows the clubhouse and Travis's first hole to the right.  The practice area exactly as drawn by Alison.  The practice green, surrounded by sand, appears to be a Travis original
(http://i1383.photobucket.com/albums/ah285/agholz/Sea%20Is%201929%20Ga%20Hist%20Soc%2022416%20crop%20c_zpsp2v4hqat.jpg)

(http://i1383.photobucket.com/albums/ah285/agholz/Sea%20Island%201929%20c%20GA%20HIST%20SOC%2022416%20copy_zps6fpywtsv.jpg)
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Anthony Gholz on December 04, 2017, 03:17:08 PM
To All:


I just played the tape of the last two rounds of the PGA Tour event at Sea island.  They interviewed Davis Love as usual.  Among other things I heard him say that the owners wanted to put a swimming pool in behind the 10th tee, #1 of the original Seaside 9.  As part of that move they gave Davis the ok to rework the entire course.  Davis appeared to jump at that and knocked off a few things that needed doing including irrigation, etc. 


Anyone know what else is planned?


I still come down on the side that's says this is still an Alison course (the original Plantation 9 and the Seaside 9 not Fazio's new front nine), so of course I'm concerned about anymore routing changes and irrigation moves which easily cover for moving more greens and bunkers.  It looked as though the far bunker on 13 has been enlarged and brought further into the fairway line than even 2 years ago when I last played.


Hoping they (Mr. Love and the owners) know what a great piece of man-made land they have that can't be recreated today, including the touch of Alison's genius.


Anthony



Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Mike_Young on December 04, 2017, 04:53:14 PM
To All:

Hoping they (Mr. Love and the owners) know what a great piece of man-made land they have that can't be recreated today, including the touch of Alison's genius.
Anthony

Anthony,
I'm often confused with all the talk of the ODG genius stuff....can you specifically tell me what is meant by the "touch of Allison's genius"  and also why can "man-made land"  not be recreated today.  I'm serious...I would like to hear you opinion because I often am cynical about much of the hype.  BTW I do like Seaside...
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Anthony Gholz on December 05, 2017, 10:01:47 AM
Mike:


The "can't be done today" part simply is a product of the regulations for dealing anywhere near a wetland or navigable water source.  The Seaside nine was constructed, similar to the Lido course, from sand and mud brought up by dredges to create new land.  In Seaside's case quite a bit of land.  It was started when Travis was first hired so by the time Alison showed up the process was underway, but he got his 2 cents in for final land production. 


The "genius" part is my personal view of the differences between the partners (C&A) and my belief that the bunkering and land form creation of Alison is typically bigger in scale and more in scale with the site than his partner's.  This is a matter for WIDE interpretation ;D  so I concede that my view may not be yours.  However,  I would argue that at Seaside the scale of the scallop bunkers definitely fits the big scale property of the ocean and lowland surrounds.   Fazio's "man-made" dunes are not totally at odds with that either, and go along with the whole notion that you're looking at a considerable area of man created land.


Anthony
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Mike_Young on December 05, 2017, 11:27:09 AM
Mike:


The "can't be done today" part simply is a product of the regulations for dealing anywhere near a wetland or navigable water source.  The Seaside nine was constructed, similar to the Lido course, from sand and mud brought up by dredges to create new land.  In Seaside's case quite a bit of land.  It was started when Travis was first hired so by the time Alison showed up the process was underway, but he got his 2 cents in for final land production. 


The "genius" part is my personal view of the differences between the partners (C&A) and my belief that the bunkering and land form creation of Alison is typically bigger in scale and more in scale with the site than his partner's.  This is a matter for WIDE interpretation ;D  so I concede that my view may not be yours.  However,  I would argue that at Seaside the scale of the scallop bunkers definitely fits the big scale property of the ocean and lowland surrounds.   Fazio's "man-made" dunes are not totally at odds with that either, and go along with the whole notion that you're looking at a considerable area of man created land.


Anthony

Anthony,
Thanks for the explanation.  I wasn't aware of the Seaside land situation.  However I had heard Allison worked at a larger scale..reminds me of the Indian Creek situation where approx 2 acres on the intercoastal became 300 in 2 years time.

Mike Y
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Ed Homsey on December 05, 2017, 12:43:05 PM
Anthony--This is a very minor point.  Our records indicate that Travis laid out the Plantation 9 at Sea Island in the Fall of 1926.  He had been working on the Great Dunes course at Jekyll, at the time.  Makes sense because by 1927, he was a very sick man and only with special arrangements, at end of June, was able to make a last visit to course construction at the CC of Troyl and then attend opening of his Equinox course in Manchester, VT in early July.  The book "This Happy Isle--The Story of Sea Island reports that construction began on the course on Jan. 11, 1927 and that it was ready for play in June 1927.

Appreciate and enjoyed your description of the development of golf at Sea Island.

Ed Homsey
Archivist
The Walter J. Travis Society
Title: Re: Sea Island's Seaside: Alison or Fazio? (or Colt, Lee, Travis, Jones, DLIII?)
Post by: Anthony Gholz on December 05, 2017, 04:36:40 PM
Ed:


Howard Coffin was the man behind the Sea Island development and he knew both Travis and Alison from his Detroit connections.  Lochmoor CC was a big time layout when it was built (7000+ yards)  and Coffin was a member at a number of Detroit clubs including The CCD where Alison was designing their new course in 1926-27.  Travis was the Grand Old Man of USA golf and golf architecture, but unfortunately he was sick and C&A, with Alison in charge of the Stateside effort from 1920 thru 1929, was clearly the future.


Travis' Plantation nine routing stayed when Alison came in, but all the chocolate mounds and most of the signature Travis' items were erased.  You can see all of this on the Alison drawings, which the SI Corp has copies of.  It may be the fastest disappearance of a name architect's signature design in history.  IMO I believe that 7 or 8 holes of the Plantation courses closest to the Seaside course are still Travis's routings.  And between what Fazio lefty of Alison's Seaside 9 and the Travis routings still in existence I think you could play 15 holes or so of the original Sea Island course that Mr. Jones liked so much. I'd like to hear your view on that.   


I wonder if there is a book on Howard Coffin.  He appears to have been a special design mind and person in his time.  Knew everyone.
Anthony