Augusta golfers who love "The Patch" for its convenience and low prices might not be concerned about the city-owned golf course's place in Scottish-American golf history, but new operator Brian Hendry intends to change that.
The Aberdeen, Scotland, businessman whose firm, The Patch in Augusta LLC, recently won a contract to lease and operate the course starting in January, said he's found "wonderful Scottish history" going back three generations to the course's 1926 design by Scotsman David Ogilvie.
Ogilvie arrived in America in the late 1800s to play the U.S. Open, settling in Augusta as head pro at Augusta Country Club, where in 1909 he designed the original layout, later redesigned by Donald Ross, and remained head pro until 1945.
Ogilvie’s Augusta contributions did not stop there, however, and during the 1920s Ogilvie also designed Augusta Municipal Golf Course on land Hendry thinks Ogilvie chose for a new golf course, accessible to the public at a time interest in golf was growing.
“You need good elevations, and it’s a wonderful piece of land,” Hendry said. “I think he knew what he was doing and he picked the best possible land that was available for the golf course.”
And Hendry believes David Ogilvie Jr., born on the porch at Augusta Country Club, played in the first Masters Tournament.
Hendry will confirm the details and perhaps unearth more exciting facts in a visit this week with David Ogilvie III, a former PGA Pro of the Year and a member of the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.
“If we didn’t invent it, our people went out to teach the game,” said the Scotsman, who plans to redesign two Patch holes, incorporate tartans and install 36 granite tee markers that he purchased from Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. He will create a treacherous bunker reminiscent of the deep Aberdeen quarry Rubislaw, where granite used in construction of famous European landmarks was mined.
Hendry also will return to Augusta and visit The Patch, where he can’t begin making planned improvements until the lease begins but is finalizing necessary paperwork such as alcohol licenses, a golf cart lease and arrangements for a head pro, the course’s first in several years.
Some Augusta commissioners continue to question the terms of Hendry’s lease, particularly the low $1,000 monthly rent he’ll be paying, but others celebrate that the city no longer has to cover operating losses. Hendry said he will recoup any losses during the two weeks the course will be reserved for international Masters visitors.
“We’ve told our friends from Europe what we're doing, so they'll come and visit,” Hendry said.
Some players aren’t as keen on Hendry’s plans to incorporate Scottish elements at the course as they are concerned that rates will increase. Hendry has said he’ll offer annual memberships for $500 rather than the quarterly memberships Patch players are accustomed to paying.
But Kathryn McDonald, a Patch player who’s recently let her membership lapse, said she was open to checking out what to her sound like “neat” changes at the course.
“It’s convenient, and if it’s cheaper than the others, I would do that,” McDonald said.
There’s also no arrangement to continue Augusta’s wellness program at The Patch, which allows city employees to be reimbursed for walking rounds of golf there.
Robby Burns, a city human resources manager who plays about a round a week at The Patch under the wellness program, said if the plan doesn’t continue he’ll probably resort to playing other courses.