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Chautauqua Golf Club Master Plan Calls for Restoration of Original Donald Ross Vision

Chautauqua Institution’s Chautauqua Golf Club now has a master plan that offers a menu of suggestions for consideration as Institution leaders consider the future of this nationally recognized asset. The 36-hole club includes the Lake Course, which was designed by legendary Scottish golf course architect Donald J. Ross in the early 1920s, and the Hill Course, designed by Xen Hassenplug in the mid 1980s. 

 The plan was developed by Saline, Michigan, golf course architect Chris Wilczynski. Recommendations in the plan include returning Ross’ Lake Course to its original layout, as three holes from Ross’ original design were lost when the Hill Course was added. 

“The priority of the Lake Course master plan is to restore the Ross course,” Wilczynski said. “We had very detailed drawings of the Ross course but, when studied, it was clear that Ross’ individual hole designs had not been fully implemented. The original course didn’t fully represent his vision, so we tried to be true to that with our master planning recommendations.”

The recommendations for the Lake Course plan include adding tees to shorten the course, implementing Ross’ random and strategic bunkering, removing trees to enhance playability, aesthetics and course maintenance, and expanding the greens back to their original shape and design intent. The Hill course plan outlines simpler refinements.

“The Lake and Hill courses feel like two different golf courses because of the land that they sit within,” Wilczynski said. “The Lake Course is at a lower elevation closer to Chautauqua Lake while the Hill course sits at a higher elevation and offers panoramic views of dramatic topography in this region.”

“In the end, the Lake Course is so important to Chautauqua that we have recommended it for restoration. We did this in the spirit of what Donald Ross did,” Wilczynski said. 

Sebastian Baggiano, Chautauqua Institution executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the plan calls the Institution to embrace the distinctions of the courses, understanding what golfers today are seeking alongside the nonprofit organization’s mission.

“We are excited to have a plan that gives us a series of benchmarks and aspirations to work toward and also to frame a case for philanthropic support,” Baggiano said. “We think there will be great enthusiasm for the opportunities that the proposed changes will present for our members, visitors, and for the attraction of golfers who are looking for that distinctive Donald Ross experience in a unique and beautiful lakeside setting.”Wilczynski, who is a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, has developed and helped implement master plans at several notable courses around the country which host or have hosted professional tournaments.