Raymond Hearn completed his four and one-half year renovation project at Flossmoor Country Club in spring, 2009.
FCC: How would you describe your style as a golf course architect?
Hearn: First of all, I would classify myself as a “lay of the land” architect, meaning I start by looking at what the particular piece of property offers me. If the project is a restoration, like Flossmoor Country Club, I look to see what the original design intent was. Is the original routing still intact? How are the green complexes (which I believe are the heart and soul of a great golf course)? I also believe in detailed design drawing coupled with many site visits. I had visited Flossmoor in excess of 50 times during the project’s lifecycle, from pre-planning, design, and construction. Field changes are always necessary. I liken them to the final paintbrush strokes on the canvas.
FCC: How many original designs and renovations/restorations have you completed to date?
Hearn: I have completed 32 new courses so far in my 23-year career and have worked on over 115 renovation/remodeling projects.
FCC: When considering classical or modern architects, who do you consider yourself most similar to?
Hearn: From the classical era, I think that I come closest to emulating Alister MacKenzie. As a true frugal Scotsman, he engrossed himself into each design, especially for his work in America. He was a minimalist who would work to find ways to incorporate his design onto the existing terrain. As far as modern architects go, I would have to say Tom Doak, as I consider him the modern day MacKenzie.
FCC: What was your first impression of FCC and what did you feel needed to be addressed first?
Hearn: I felt the incredible history and tradition of the club which had been preserved for over 100 years. I thought that the routing was good, the majority of which dated back to the original Tweedie design. I thought that the green complexes were outstanding. The most significant weakness of the course was the bunker design. I felt that going back to a Thomas-style golden age design would suit the course much better. I also wanted to bring back the risk/reward options that had been impacted by the advancing technology of today’s balls and clubs. In the end, these changes would give the course a strong visual upgrade.
FCC: What was the most challenging issue you faced during the project?
Hearn: I thought long and hard about how to integrate the pond into the redesign of hole number 8. The old design had an artificially raised green that looked like a field goal between the two ponds. I worked to make the hole lower profile and incorporated a risk/reward feature with the green’s location in proximity to the right pond. I also left a bump and run option on the left to keep the ground play available as can be found on all of the other holes on the course.
FCC: Were there other issues that needed to be considered for your design?
Hearn: As with many parkland courses, there were tree management issues that had to be addressed. There were locations on the course where tree canopies were having a detrimental impact on the courses agronomy. Many of the great long views on the course had been lost. Some fairway edges had been lost and many strategic options were gone. The only play option on some of the holes was to hit the ball directly down the center line of the fairway due to the tree canopies crowding out all of the other play angles. The tree removal program helped to address these issues in a significant way. I also feel that the reintroduction of the prairie grasses on the front nine on holes two, three and four helps to bring the course back closer to its roots.
FCC: Was the project completed as you envisioned and would you have done anything differently?
Hearn: I am very pleased with the final outcome. The necessary adjustments from the design plans were incorporated as field changes as the project went along. I worked closely with the club’s project committee all the way from concept to design to the fieldwork.
FCC: What other projects have you recently worked on?
Hearn: I am working in South Korea on Doomi CC and on Domaine de Lavagnac in France. In the U.S., Moonbrook CC in New Jersey is a current restoration project and I have begun working on a great sandy site in Biloxi, Mississippi where almost no earthwork other than the green complexes will be required.
FCC: Where does the Flossmoor project stand in the body of your work?
Hearn: It was definitely the plum project out of all of my renovation/restoration work, and as far as the course goes, it should stand on its own with the top courses in the country.
Interview by Greg M. Ohlendorf.