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Catching Up With Golf Digest’s Ron Whitten on Poppy Hills

Catching Up With Golf Digest’s Ron Whitten on Poppy Hills

Dec. 10, 2014

Poppy Hills, Scott Seward, Bruce Charlton, Robert Trent Jones II, RTJ IIGolf Digest honored Poppy Hills as its Best Renovation of 2014, with architecture editor Ron Whitten writing:

Originally built by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 1986 with enormous perched greens and massive containment mounds, it’s now a graceful, low-profile layout. “We popped the hills at Poppy Hills,” says Trent Jr. An added feature are sandy areas off the fairways, in the fashion of Pinehurst No. 2.

We caught up with Whitten to find out why he liked Poppy Hills so much, and here are some snippets from our conversation:

How different is the old Poppy Hills from the new Poppy Hills? Does it seem like the same architect built both versions?

It’s a credit to Trent Jones Jr. that he agreed to bulldoze away his original design in favor of something more contemporary.

The best golf architects are forever re-questioning and refining their designs over time. Donald Ross did it. Pete Dye is presently doing it (for instance, removing railroad ties from courses where he installed them 40 years ago). Trent Jr. has always been a liberal thinker in that regard.

Where does Poppy Hills rank among other courses that have been recently renovated?

I personally consider Poppy Hills to be the Best New Remodel that I saw in 2014 (and I’ve seen most of them), certainly the Most Improved Course among remodels.

Poppy Hills now seems like a brand-new course, which is what you strive for when remodeling an older course. You want it fresh and young and inviting.

Where does Poppy Hills now fit among the seven courses in Pebble Beach?

Championship golf wasn’t the goal at Poppy Hills, although it could be a great test for the AT&T.

I like what was done at Poppy Hills better than Pinehurst No. 2…

I think Poppy Hills has been elevated back to a must-play on the Monterey Peninsula, still behind Pebble Beach, but maybe ahead of Spyglass Hill and Links at Spanish Bay, among tourist golfers. Part of my reasoning is that it’s so fresh, both in its design and conditioning, and part of it is its price, a real bargain compared to others on the Peninsula.

It’s always fun to play a beautiful golf course. The turf conditions are ideal; it’s always more fun to have good lies and smooth putting surfaces. Poppy Hills represents a lot of the ideals that are returning fun to the game.

-Kevin Merfeld

Author: Kevin Merfeld

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