Irvine, CA- Todd Eckenrode – Origins Golf Design has completed work on yet another iconic gem, the Orinda Country Club, tucked within in the hillsides of Orinda, a quaint town located in the San Francisco Bay Area. With sensitivity to its original design, Course Architect Todd Eckenrode, founder of Origins Golf Design, was charged with the task to improve this historic William Watson-designed course (circa 1924).
“Todd was the key ingredient we needed to align our needs and wants on this major project, and all with a clear vision and a defined scope of work, budget and plan,” said Orinda Country Club President Joe Fabian. “His research and keen eye helped define the possibilities we had in recapturing our 1924 vintage design, and frankly, the education we needed to go to the next step. Origin’s Master Plan provided us with the road map we needed.”
When Eckenrode first saw Orinda Country Club he was taken with the unique qualities of the site. He describes the venue as quite hilly in parts yet with a masterful routing-utilizing the slopes, hills, valleys and creeks in varied ways throughout. Lauterwasser Creek and San Pablo Creek both come into play on 11 of the 18 holes, yet integrated differently.
“Watson utilized the hills in a multitude of ways, as turtlebacks, banking side slopes, reversing slopes, and in a fine mix of both uphill and downhill play,” shared Eckenrode. “The aesthetics and strategy of play in this regard is ever-changing and offers wonderful variety. The canvas that we had to work with was inspiring with plenty of memorable holes from the wild reverse-boomerang green of the 5th to the drop-shot 8th, the drivable and funneling effect of No.10, the creekside 15th and the wild roller-coaster uphill No.18 set beneath the grand clubhouse above, these are holes unlike any I have ever come across prior.”
Eckenrode and his design team poured through the Club’s archives and came across images and data from the original construction, through the 1920’s, ’30’s and ’40’s. They were able to source a multitude of aerials from the early years as well. They also had the support of noted golf historian Tom Naccarato who located a substantial number of other early collections that proved quite valuable.
“One of the striking results of our research was the contrast in bunker styles spanning earlier years. The original design had rather benign, grass-faced bunkers. More distinctive bunkers with flashed sand faces, edgy grass lines, and varied fingers and rolls replaced these soon after. This ultimately was the style we embraced as a nod to the past.”
On this project, Origins Golf Design was fortunate to have two exceptional shapers, Brett Hochstein and George Waters, both Bay Area natives. In addition to their work on bunkers, green surrounds and approaches, green restorations and select new greens, they were assigned the task on holes No. 8, No.11 and No. 15 to restore them as close as a possible to the original historical images. According to Eckenrode, the result of their work was outstanding. Two talented golf course superintendent’s also played a huge role as well. Bob Lapic saw through the beginning of the renovation/restoration project before retirement, and Josh Smith came on board to oversee construction and take the helm from there.
“With Todd leading the way, our project stayed focused on all the right things, more shortgrass, more water savings with natives, impactful and thoughtful bunkers, fun recaptured hole locations, and quiet moments throughout the course,” said Golf Course Superintendent Josh Smith. “He continued to show just the right amount of restraint that a golden age-design like Orinda deserved. We went from a cluttered, tired and forced looking design, to a much more natural and visually pleasing golfing experience. We look forward to future improvements under his guidance.”
Besides six completely new greens, ten green enlargements or restorations, and a complete bunker renovation, other course improvements included completely renovated tees to a more natural shape, total re-construction of green surrounds and approaches (including full sand amendments), implementation of vast areas of fairway and short-cut surrounds, select drainage, tree removals and a new irrigation system.
“Whether it meant restoration, renovation or a combination of both, our design team was committed to improving each hole to its best possible measure,” said Eckenrode. “The membership is delighted with the result and from our standpoint, we feel we were able to turn the clock back a bit, and allow all who play to experience the glories of a classic, 1920’s designed gem.”
Eckenrode is rapidly becoming the go-to architect for work on golf courses originally designed during the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture. During the past two years Origins Golf design has experienced similar successful restorations and renovations on historic courses such as Brentwood CC (Los Angeles, CA), Virginia CC (Long Beach) and San Gabriel CC (San Gabriel, CA), as well as a transformational renovation at Quail Lodge GC (Carmel, CA).
About Todd Eckenrode – Origins Golf Design
Our goal at Todd Eckenrode – Origins Golf Design is to deliver a golf course of the highest quality that is reflective of our intense level of dedication, our beliefs in time-tested classical design, and our love for the game of golf. We believe that every golf course must have its own personality and identity, creating a sense of place that is unique. We work diligently to expose this underlying identity through our design, allowing it to shine through in the end. Our belief in crafting all features of the golf course in the field, from the ground up, brings a high level of detail to our design work and further distinguishes each course.
Contact Todd Eckenrode – Origins Golf Design
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18022 Cowan, Suite 200 | Irvine, CA 92614 U.S.A. | (949) 476.6878
Photos courtesy of Brett Hochstein.
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