Old Elm Club - Before & After Imagery


Links Magazine editor, George Peper cites Old Elm in his "Where I've Played Lately"  in the Fall 2013 issue, remarking, "Where Chicago's elite enjoy an H.S. Colt course that's largely unchanged and always in immaculate condition."  Dear George: We're all pleased that you're happy that the course appears unchanged, since all of our work since 2010 has been geared to evoke that very sort of reaction.  What with the removal of trees, recapturing fairway and green areas and now finishing our work on the bunkering - Old Elm once again sports lines carrying Harry Colt's vision and has the elegant likeness of a pastoral, English countryside.

The following images are a but small suggestion of the improvements implemented at Old Elm, mainly in establishing a new character in the bunker faces, as Harry Colt intended them to have more of a rugged, "torn" appearance.  Our efforts were also centered on improving the placement and fit of the bunkers into the landscape, with seamless, natural tie-ins. The interesting and slightly unanticipated value of the torn edging produced bunkers that look much bolder and surprisingly deeper than before, without actually altering the floor depths - they look much deeper than they are - much to the pleasure of the members!


This image illustrates perfectly the sort of style conflicts we worked to rectify in the bunkers, along with improving their physical attributes - mainly the ability to drain!  Notice also the absence of sand and contrast (though the grass faces provide an effective shadow during low light hours).


The reconstructed bunkering here features much better tie-in grades and an overall better "fit" in the landscape.  Sand and edges are more visible and more dramatcially appealing and, as a result, better define the angled edges of the fairway and approach.  Raised floors helped us to improve the drainage as well.


A view from the left approach during the evening hours.  the shadows are nice, but get drowned out by the sun for most of the day - sand is not visible.  The noses and faces are certainly more of the Donald Ross school of bunkering... Nothing inherently wrong with that, but our overriding goal was to inject the details that Colt specified in his original plans - which were never fully implemented by Ross.


Not exactly the same angle, a bit further back in the left approach.  The bunkers are just more clearly defined and blended into their surrounds.  There is great defining contrast... and we built the left greenside bunker that Colt drew in his plan; never was built.

Old elm CLub - HOLE #9 - before

This short par four suffered from a lack of visibility; rather undramatic feature work and definition of strategy.  Notice the left fairway bunker is nearly invisible, yet is is intended to be the key framing feature for the turn of the hole, along with the flanking bunkers on the right.

OLD ELM CLUB - HOLE #9 - After

Result: Drama, definition and character restored; shot values and beauty enhanced.


A closer image of the inside dogleg before construction - what we could not see from the tee.  Note the tie-in on the left side and relation to the treeline.  The style was anything but Colt's. 


Immediately following the sod installation, see a finished, lower leading edge for visibility and depth, a much more sympathetic tie-in on the left side (shifted out of the treeline) and the prescribed edgework details.  Notice that the fairway runs directly into the bunker entry on the tee side.

Old elm CLub - HOLE #10 - Before

Simply put, the before image here appears rather dull and plain; undefined and void of apparent strategies.  Notice the skinny fairway width and the high right side on the right greenside bunkers; yet the ground runs away here.

OLD ELM CLUB - HOLE #10 - After

Our work yielded more integrated elements, defined angles & edges and greater drama & visibility.  The tie-ins are more naturally flowing with the lines of the existing landscape.  The fairway bunker was re-oriented and better fitted into the existing ground contours.  Notice also the expanded fairway width and the effect of scale.

Above, a single bunker replaces the two greenside bunkers on the right.  The mounded clutter on the right has been removed in favor of a more flowing tie-in.  The green collar rolls directly off into the bunker here - a bold detail.

OLD ELM CLUB - HOLE #11 - Before

The cross bunkering on this par four is ideally placed, but lacked characteristics and personality to evoke trepidation.  Notice the land bridge and also the hipped ends.

OLD ELM CLUB - HOLE #11 - After

We focused our efforts on a singular, continuous bunker with characteristics of a rolling, cresting wave.  Notice the tie-ins on the high and low ends.

A closer look at the cross bunker upon completion.  Notice the face detailing and the fairway run-in entry.

OLD ELM CLUB - HOLE #12 - BEfore

This short, 325 yard par four was perhaps the most benign, uninspiring hole on the course, lacking in strategy and impacting features (aside from the small, elevated green).

OLD ELM CLUB - HOLE #12 - After

We followed Colt's suggestion of integrating bold hummocks in the fairway to add intrigue and strategic shot options. The arrangement was refined slightly to fit more modern day shot lengths of the members. The bunker on the right side of the landing area was not original and was removed in favor of more gentle hummocks and uneven ground in the rough.

Below, image from the right rough with hummock forms replacing the fairway bunker. Also a clear shot of the green complex, with removal of the left bunker and a rebuild of the right bunker.  The green falls off on all sides with bentgrass extended down the slopes and out onto the flat floor of the surrounds.

OLD ELM CLUB - HOLE #15 - Before

A great little short par four with an elevated, island-like green - we looked to improve defintion and accessibility.  Here is the before shot of the green complex (right side).

OLD ELM CLUB - HOLE #15 - After

More dramatic bunkering, stronger defintion of the rectalinear geometry of the green and adherance to Colt's proposed style and configuration, but adapted to fit modern play and influence around the green.