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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tamarack Celebrates 85 Years

Tamarack CC Hole #1   photo courtesy of Frank Farina
What guy doesn't love backhoes and caterpillars and other earth-moving equipment? Combine that with an obsession with golf, and you've got to admire courses designed by Charles "Steamshovel" Banks. I've played several and enjoyed every breathtaking minute of them. Among the best is Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich, CT, which opened for play in 1929 and is one of only a handful of original Banks designs.

Tamarack is enjoying something of a renaissance since the completion of a Master Plan implemented by architect Brian Silva that improved and enhanced the golf course’s playing conditions without altering Banks’ original design intent.  Silva’s work included the enlargement of Tamarack’s putting green surfaces (they typically shrink as courses age, mowing patterns change subtly--if not from the depredations of well-meaning greens committees), the leveling and increase in size of all tees with the inclusion of new forward and championship back tees on certain holes, and a comprehensive bunker restoration program.  All existing fairway bunkers were rebuilt and 24 additional bunkers were installed, while a small number of greenside bunkers were rejuvenated.

Architect Banks learned his craft working with legendary designers Seth Raynor and C.B. MacDonald. His first project was the Yale Golf Course, which opened in 1926.  When Raynor died the same year, he left some 30 unfinished projects which Banks gradually completed over the next five years. He earned his nickname by using the newfangled (in his day) steamshovel to move massive amounts of earth to create elevated greens and deep greenside bunkers. Banks left an exquisite signature sandy footprint on Tamarack’s par-5 17th hole aptly named “Big Bertha.”

Also, in continuing the MacDonald/Raynor tradition of adapting famous European hole
designs into their projects, Tamarack boasts an incredible number of these recognizable holes, including  the stunning long “Biarritz” par-3 (the 12th); a “Redan” (the 7th); the “Eden” (the 3rd) and the “Short” (the 15th).  Other famous features found at Tamarack are a “Punchbowl” green (the 11th), a “Double Plateau” (the 13th), “Alps” (the 6th), “Moat” (the 9th) and a “Road Hole” (the 14th).

As one of eight golf clubs in Greenwich, Tamarack long has been viewed as the club that was content to underplay its pedigree and stature as one of the area’s finest examples of classic golf course architecture.   “While the moniker ‘hidden gem’ may sound somewhat pedestrian today, it is true that Tamarack has been just that,” says president Jeff Young.  “We have a rich history that actually dates back to 1909 at another site, and the club is proud to have hosted some important Met area tournaments.”

Tamarack gained local fame as co-host of the popular Ike Championship during its formative years from 1953 to 1962. The Ike was named in honor of former President Eisenhower, who personally approved the competition, and many of the top name amateurs of the day who were affiliated with Met area clubs competed for this prestigious title.  

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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