The Solheim Cup Will Showcase Classic Inverness Club
With the 2021 Solheim Cup, golf fans will be treated to a classic Donald Ross course that frankly hasn’t been seen in many decades.
Inverness Club is a Donald Ross design that was built in 1919. It has hosted four US Opens (1920, 1931, 1957 and 1979), two PGA Championships (1986 and 1993), two US Senior Opens (2003 and 2011) and now the Solheim Cup.
As with many courses of that vintage, over the years, Inverness experienced both evolutionary and deliberate change. The evolutionary changes were typical: growth of trees, narrowing fairways due to cutting patterns, bunker erosion and so on. Deliberate changes to the Ross design were made by A.W. Tillinghast in the late 1920s, by Dick Wilson in 1957, and by George and Tom Fazio ahead of the 1979 US Open. Arthur Hills — a club member — also worked on Inverness over the years.
The Fazio’s work has — in retrospect — been widely criticized. Among other sins, that plan destroyed four of Ross’ holes in favor of Fazio designs. Critics note that they never quite fit.
And that’s why I write that the classic Donald Ross hasn’t been seen in decades. Ross could not have recognized the course as it was just a few short years ago.
In 2017, Inverness Club engaged Andrew Green to renovate and restore the course to its original Donald Ross intent.
Intent is a key word because Green did not simply put the Ross holes back. He replaced holes 3, 4 and 5 (Fazio creations) with new holes more in keeping with the Ross style. The routing was changed. Green also found additional yardage for the course on previously unused acreage. Classic bunkering was restored.
And trees were removed. Hundreds of trees. Pretty much all of the trees. I had not played Inverness before, but had walked it several times during the 2011 US Senior Open. I found the course largely unrecognizable.
Unrecognizable, but wonderful. Inverness is not, strictly speaking pure Donald Ross, but it feels like a pure Donald Ross. In that, it’s a lot like the Gil Hanse restoration of Oakland Hills South, the Gil Hanse restoration of Pinehurst No. 4, or the Coore and Crenshaw restoration of Pinehurst No. 2. I have similar feelings about the work Ray Hearn is doing on my home course of Washtenaw Golf Club, which is a 100 plus-year old Bert Way design (although I would not be in favor of getting rid of Washtenaw‘s parklands look.)
The new-old Inverness Club now plays at 7, 559 yards and par 71, with more yardage readily available. That’s more than enough for a men’s major — and certainly for the upcoming Solheim Cup.
Inverness Club has a very clever routing, with eight of the holes playing across a gulley created through erosion by a stream which runs through the front side of the property. Another stream and gulley comes into play on three other holes on the back side of the property.
Fairways are wide, but often tilting. Bunkers — at least the ones that I was in — are not steep-sided, but are fiendishly placed both in the fairways and around the greens.
My favorite hole was the short par 4 eighteenth. From a slightly elevated tee, it runs through the length of a small depression, finishing in one of the most complex greens complexes I have seen. For Solheim Cup matches that come down to the final hole, it will force players to make some very interesting decisions.
Whether in person, or on television golf fans — and particularly fans of golf architecture — are in for a visual treat while watching this week’s Solheim Cup. Inverness Club is a classic.
A course tour of Inverness Club follows. Please forgive the darkness of the photos. I was playing under very dark clouds — and often in a driving rain. The things I do for my readers …