USGA championships line up on Davis’ restoration projects

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By Ken MacLeod

The United States Golf Association has a long history with Oklahoma championships and golf architect Tripp Davis of Edmond has a long history with the USGA.

When the USGA returns to the state this summer with the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Southern Hills, it will mark the 22nd USGA Championship to be held in Oklahoma. Southern Hills is one course Davis has not made an imprint on since hanging out his shingle soon after helping Oklahoma win the 1989 NCAA Championship at Oak Tree Country Club.

However, the next two times the USGA is in the state are on courses with which Davis has done extensive work. And looking at future USGA championships, it’s remarkable how many are scheduled on courses where Davis has had an impact, particularly as one of the nation’s most sought after renovation and restoration specialists in the years since the golf course design business contracted sharply after the 2008 recession.

In 2025 the USGA Women’s Four-Ball Championship will be held May 10-14 at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. Davis completed a huge restoration of the Perry Maxwell design in 2019, one that included all new greens and design tweaks that enhanced the challenge for top players.

In 2027, the USGA will be back in Oklahoma with the Senior U.S. Open at Oak Tree National, another course where Davis has worked on greens, bunkers and other areas and one where he recently purchased a home off the tenth fairway.

But that’s just his state USGA connection. Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, a 1922 A.W. Tillinghast design that Davis restored in 2017, will host the 2024 U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championship and the U.S. Senior Amateur in 2027. The 2025 U.S. Girls Junior Championship will be on the Riverside Course at Atlanta Athletic Club where David recently completed a major restoration and the U.S. Amateur Championship will be there in 2030.

Tripp Davis

“We’ve been fortunate to work on a lot of courses the USGA has chosen for its championships,” Davis said. “To me it suggests that the work we’ve done has been well received and that my background as a player is showing up in the work we do. I think it goes to a design that allows the golf course to be set up for a challenge that will be different across four days of competition.”

Creating the flexibility to test the best players and leave a course fun for the average golfer is something Davis studies intently at each venue. His background as a top amateur and his study of distance and play habits of today’s pros and top players all pay off in trying to build that flexibility into each project.

“I believe that a good test of golf is one that’s balanced and not any one particular type of player is going to be favored on that golf course,” Davis said. “We want to value other things as much as length. If that means growing the rough up, firming the greens up, we want to have a golf course test a player’s game in a complete way and allow players to use their strength in a strategic way to be able to compete.”

Davis will welcome the golf ball rollback when it is implemented but until then finds the length and accuracy of today’s top players makes his job of challenging them a difficult task.

“I watched Taylor Moore hit balls the other day and it was a cool day,” Davis said. “Everything he hit was 315 carry and all straight. Back in the days of balata balls a slightly off-center hit would go farther off line because of the spin. In 1984 Dan Pohl led the PGA Tour in driving distance at 264 and the average drive was in the mid 250s. Now the average is 300 and every player is seeking distance. When I was 17, I hit my 7-iron in the 145 to 160 range depending on conditions. Now from the same tee at Oak Tree I can hit an 8-iron at age 56.

“If the ball rolls back and spins more, it gives us as architects the ability to position the course to make it a challenge using angles of fairways and greens.”

Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, Texas.

At Oak Hills, Davis worked with another former Sooner and member Abe Ancer to make certain the course would challenge the elite player. He said what he tried to do at both Oak Hills and Oklahoma City G&CC and all of his current projects was make the top players think.

Riverside Course at Atlanta Athletic Club.

“At both places we enhanced a lot of things that were already baked into the design with the idea of really trying to make you think and play the game,” Davis said. “On the Riverside Course at Atlanta Athletic Club we took a course that was penal in design but had plenty of length bud didn’t have any angles or options. We tried to make it more strategic so the more aggressive you play the smaller your margin of error is.”

Davis has another busy year of renovation and restoration work lined up. A chance to design a new course outside Fort Worth called Kelly Ranch for Escalante Golf collapsed recently, but he has a line on another new course that looks optimistic. He spent Wednesday this week touring property in Athens, Ga., with Bubba Watson and some other partners for a potential new private course that would include minimal housing.



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Ken MacLeod

Publisher Golf Oklahoma | Oklahoma's No. 1 Golf Source