By his own admission his first major notoriety came when he reworked The Country Club of Brookline, Mass. for the 1988 U.S. Open.
While The Country Club is ultra private, the region boasts a number of superb Jones designs that the public can play, including the recently opened Lake of Isles Golf Club in North Stonington, Ct., Blackstone National Golf Club in Sutton, Mass., and the Pinehills Golf Club Jones Course in Plymouth, Mass. He also is responsible for both courses at the New Seabury Resort on Cape Cod and oversaw the complete renovation at Gleneagles Golf Course at the Equinox Resort in Manchester Village, Vt. in the early 1990’s. He has also worked on several other private courses in the region.
“I guess my favorite job in New England was The Country Club because that really catapulted my career,” says Jones, a graduate of both Yale and of the Harvard School of Design, although he still refers to himself as a “Yalie.”
“We moved all the bunkers, added tees, rebuilt bunkers, built new greens and really brought the course up to snuff for the 1988 Open.”
Jones oversees Rees Jones, Inc., which was founded in 1974 and is headquartered in Montclair, N.J. The company designs new courses and also redesigns and modernizes existing courses.
One of Jones’ more spectacular recent efforts are the resort and private courses at Lake Of Isles, owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Both courses have already won rave reviews for their superb routings beauty, and sensitivity to the natural environment, all trademarks of Jones’ courses.
“At Lake of Isles, like at Blackstone National, the routing was very important because there was so much rock we had to work around. The key thing to do on such land is locate the holes properly. We were able to blast some of the rock, but we didn’t have the ability to grade like we did at Pinehills. We had to go more with the contour of the land at Lake of Isles and Blackstone.”
Jones prides himself on designing golf courses that are fair, challenging, interesting to play and visually exciting. If you want visually exciting, Blackstone National, arguably one of New England’s most aesthetically pleasing layouts, won’t disappoint. The golfer has the feeling of playing in a wildlife preserve as the course ambles over woodlands and fields, with small streams coming into play and old stonewalls sitting along many the fairways.
“I think golfers enjoy being reasonably challenged,” Jones says. “Golf holes that unfold with a variety of shot options requiring intelligent management of the game make for a more interesting round. When making decisions about strategy, golfers must choose the degree of risk they are willing to take. We design risk/reward throughout our courses.”
A prime example of this philosophy is the 18th hole at Lake of Isles Resort Course. It plays 459 yards from the back markers and begins with a tee shot across a pond to a strip of a landing area. Golfers are enticed to bite off as much of the pond as they can in hopes of shortening the approach to this dogleg left hole. But an errant shot can easily find the wet stuff or a large bunker beyond the landing area.
Number nine at the Pinehills Jones Course is another example of risk/reward design. The hole is 574 yards from the tips and players can chop off a chunk of yardage by taking their tee shots over a large bunker on the right side of the fairway. That leaves the player with the option of going for the green in two on this par-five, but a pond guards the right side of the green.
Thankfully, Jones also believes a golf course should not be tricked up to play difficult.
“I don’t believe that playability should be sacrificed to showy features that penalize a shot that is only slightly errant. No one enjoys getting beaten up by the course in a round of golf.”
Jones is a great fan of the legendary Scottish courses, having played St. Andrews as a teenager. He was also influenced heavily by the early American masters of design.
“I am a purist who adheres to the fundamentals of good design,” Jones says. “We aim to provide innovation to the layouts we design, but not innovation for the sake of innovation.”
Jones also feels strong natural elements of the land on which a course is to be built should be embellished and those elements that are man-made should be designed to look natural. The designer said he is acutely aware of environmental issues at each site he works.
“I think the whole industry is going back to a more classic look in golf course design,” he adds.
Jones is currently involved with the building of The Golf Club at Cape Cod in Falmouth, Mass. The private course could be open as early as this fall.
“It’s an interesting site because it is a combination of sandy and rocky soil,” said Jones. “The routing will be through mature trees.” For more information about Rees Jones and Rees Jones, Inc. visit www.reesjonesinc.com.