The tree situation at Westmoor CC (we removed some 500 during our recent renovation) typifies the complicated anxieties attached to significant removal. Most acknowledge that courses this old (Westmoor’s original routing dates to the 1920s) were built on land that was originally treeless, or sparsely forested. Most agree that tree encroachment hinders play and steals sunlight/soil nutrients from turf. But still… removing those trees after 80 years in play remains politically delicate.
At Westmoor, all those anxieties were joined by one that surprised us: Members thought removing so many trees would make their slope rating go down — the secret fear of club members everywhere.
However, John Warren of the Wisconsin State Golf Association (WSGA) walked the course when it reopened and his findings surprised and delighted the Westmoor faithful: It went up! He explained that WSGA raters look at 10 different obstacles when rating a golf course, trees being just one of them. We had added considerable distance to the course, especially from the back tees. We also added considerable challenge in the landing areas and around greens with the new bunkering. Mainly we removed trees that didn’t affect the immediate strategy of the golf course.
We’re curious: How would tree removal and non-removal really affect the difficulty of your course?