It is often considered the course that inspired Augusta National. The sloping greens, demands on accuracy and huge elevation changes have been credited with giving Dr Alister MacKenzie the blueprint to design the world famous Masters venue.
Cavendish, sitting in the Peak District, has been hailed as one of the world’s great short courses. Now the product of MacKenzie’s handiwork – opened several years before he teamed up with Bobby Jones to transform a former nursery in Georgia – is being given a new lease of life through a multi-year masterplan produced by architect Jonathan Gaunt.
Running up to the Derbyshire club’s centenary in 2025, Gaunt will re-model existing bunkers on old MacKenzie styles, reinstate contours and shapes on greens – bringing back lost pin positions – and thin out woodlands to reinstate forgotten vistas across the course.
A club member, and part of the greens committee, Gaunt’s vision is the product of several years of gentle persuasion to look at a course that’s been largely untouched since its construction.
“Almost every green on the course is original MacKenzie and the majority are really fun,” he said. “That’s what is so good about the golf course.
“It’s 5,721 yards off the back tees and a par 68 with one par 5. The challenge of the course is in the greens and the way you approach them and where the pin is.
“I would like to think we can be sympathetic to the original design. Based on current demand and requirements, we are going to make the golf course that little bit more playable and try and give it a bit more longevity so, in 100 years from now at its bicentenary, it’s still going to be a great and fun golf course to play.”
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Cavendish’s links with Augusta National are more than merely skin deep. In a paper written four years ago, Gaunt pointed out a wide range of similarities, such as the closeness between the 5th and 14th greens with Augusta’s 9th and the comparison of elevated tee shots at the 4th and 9th with their equivalents at the 4th, 6th and famous 12th at the major venue.
Gaunt found the mirroring extended to contouring and the way the River Wye was used to frame Cavendish’s 10th and 11th holes – in a similar fashion to Rae’s Creek at 13.
He hopes his gentle development of Cavendish over the next few years will continue to keep the club punching above their weight in the decades to come.
Gaunt added: “There are parts of the golf course that are hidden. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, there was a major tree planting scheme and quite a few of the original features of the golf course were hidden underneath that.
“We’re carrying out a woodland management plan and opening up aspects of the course that were in play when it was a big grassland area. Holes that are now quite tree-lined will, in the future, become more open. That opens up certain views and vistas and as well as the impact of the wind.
“The course is in the Peak District and 300 metres above sea level. It can be pretty exposed to the wind and we’re going to be able to bring some of those characteristics back.
“MacKenzie was thinking very carefully about that. The routing of some of the holes is really clever and I get the feeling he spent a lot of time on site coming up with that routing. He picked some great positions for par 3s, for example.
“By opening up some of those views, you will be able to get glimpses of some of those features that have been lost – and that’s very exciting.”
Have you played Cavendish and noticed the Augusta National similarities? Let me know in the comments what you thought of it, or tweet me.
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