Rees Jones' Royal Oaks Design Offers Players Unique Golfing Challenge

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The signature of the design architect says it all.

A Rees Jones golf course means that it will challenge every one of your senses, and will do so every time you play Moncton's Royal Oaks Golf course, according to those who know the game of Golf.

Royal Oaks is a Rees Jones Signature 18 hole Golf Course and is built to U.S. Open standards. Rees Jones is regarded as one of the top 20 most influential people in the game of golf and acknowledged as one of the world's best course architects. A Harvard trained Graduate of University of Design, Jones has designed over 100 golf courses. He is often sought out by leading golf celebrities, recently no less a golf challenge lover than US President Clinton, to play a course that Jones has designed.

Moncton's new Royal Oaks Golf Course is a first in Canada for the acclaimed golfer, turned course designer. Jones, as a design signature uses the natural topography of acreage and converts it into a sculptured, challenging tour de force of geometry and trigonometry.

"A piece of flat land provides many more opportunities to build holes in different locations, because you're not restricted by the topography; varied terrain allows for amore natural, diverse look. However, at Royal Oaks, we created that natural topographic relief fill with bulldozers," says Jones.

"We knew we had to move a lot of dirt to create interest and character at Royal Oaks. The fact that Ron Goguen, as the owner and developer of the Royal Oaks, gave us the budget to build a very fine course. We just clicked on the concept of what Royal Oaks could become and we decided that this would be our first course in Canada," says Jones.

Jones had very specific goals for the design of the Moncton course.

"Our clients want a successful golf facility so we have to build something that will attract people to come back time and time again. That was their motive at Royal Oaks and I think that we have achieved that. However, Royal also wants to host a major golf event, so we created challenge and flexibility from the back tees."

The hallmark of a great course is established when you leave the last hole and can't wait to get back to play the course again and again. Each time the course presents a new challenge to be met and enhances the golfer experience. Royal Oaks has achieved this rarity in design and execution and is a joy for any level of skill to play.

The world of golf prominence of Rees Jones and his growing recognition as a challenging golf course designer and geographical architect has established Royal Oaks as a must play location. It has added another jewel to the attractions of living, playing and visiting Moncton.

Unlike the new generation of course designers, Rees Jones walks and studies the natural gifts from nature and re-creates the look and feel of the original Scottish heritage influencing his design. He builds consistency and surprises all within the same flow of the game resulting in 18 holes that play differently every time.

"I probably strive the most to build courses that will test professional golfers like Tiger Woods and still allow club members to enjoy it on a daily basis. Primarily this involves very careful tee placement", says Jones.

Jones says that he works hard at giving the golfer a concept as he stands over the ball.

" I want him to see the intended target and be able to visualize the shot. To achieve this, I elevate tees when possible, grade fairways, add bunkers, pockets and berms or mounds, and carefully craft greens. We use natural-appearing features to help to contain slightly errant shots and provide a variety of approach shots," says Jones. The management of Royal Oaks is happy with the results they are getting from the course and the response of players enjoying the full range of personal handicaps. The tee areas are as big as some football fields in length, evening out the play for all golfers allowing everyone to enjoy the same game at once.

Management says there have been reports of golfers all over the US and Canada, learning that a new Rees Jones course has been built in Moncton, Canada and despite not knowing exactly where Moncton is located, but declaring that they want to get here and play the course. (Note to all Travel-to-Play Duffers: Moncton is an easy five hour run up the coast by car from Bangor, Maine, offering a stable 40% plus advantage in currency exchange on everything you might purchase, including green fees. Daily Connecting Flights from Toronto, or Hamilton, - often at deeply discounted seat fares, - and from Montreal. )

In 1995, Golf World Magazine honoured Rees by selecting him as Architect of the Year. Jones has remodelled six courses prior to their being venues for the US Open and that work has earned him the nickname "The Open Doctor. In June 2002, the US Open Championship was played on a public golf course for the first time in the history of the U.S.G.A. Rees did major remodelling work for this course, the Black Course at Bethpage State Park, NY.

Jones says that he works with the land he is provided, but feels no constraint to re-arrange the topography to fit his vision of what he is trying to create for the player. He calls his approach multi-theme.

"I can make each hole more distinctive by using a mix of design elements that I call a "multi theme" approach. It is a very site-specific approach. We used the frame of the woods, for example, to create a parkland look on Royal Oaks holes 16 and 17, whereas holes 15 and 18 are more of a links style. Every hole is a new experience. Even holes 6,7,8, and 9 have a different look and the others have a different feel, but it comes from using the natural attributes of the land," says Jones.

Jones adds, "If the land gives you the design, great; if not, you must construct it using water, tress, dunes and moulding to create that multi-theme. The lake on holes 7,8,9 at Royal Oaks made those holes, whereas on holes 11,12, and 13 we used more topographic relief."

The creation of Royal Oaks was a combination of good engineering and just plain walking the course and seeing it in the context of the natural environment such as the sunset and where it occurs creating the shadowing on the ground. Jones says he pays careful attention to detail to create a great course like Royal Oaks.

For Jones the selection of the site is crucial as it serves as the canvas for the creation of the design. He explains how he built the final design of Royal Oaks.

"I consider myself as a "hands on" architect. We create the layout using topographic maps in engineering fashion. We walk or drive the site, often many times, to get the feel of it before we begin laying out the holes. Then we use a lot of sketches, and begin working the land to prepare the site. We make frequent visits to the site during construction often resulting in changes in the field, a sort of fine-tuning of design details," says Jones.

Jones sums up his design philosophy as a focus on fun. He adds, "You must optimize the site and make a great golf facility that fits it. If people can enjoy it on a continuing basis that's what it is all about.

There's much more to Royal Oaks than immediately springs to the eye, he oversaw the construction of the golfing entertainment centre, which includes a high end, manicured residential park bordering the fairways with dream homes, duplexes, condos and apartments.

Next to Royal Oaks is a 3,000 acre nature park offering cross country skiing, cross country biking, jogging & hiking trails, canoeing horse back riding and various other outdoor activities. Future plans for the project include a year around lodge facility and an additional 9 holes.

Beyond the carefully sculptured sand traps and relentlessly clipped greens is a high-tech infrastructure that would rival the hidden service tunnels and corridors of a Disneyworld Theme Park. Like an entertainment theme park, Royal's every visual surface is carefully linked and controlled by a computer managed maintenance information system. The system carefully controls the amount of moisture needed to keep the playing surface as close to perfect as is computer ability and humanly possible.

Every drop of moisture that falls within the giant green acre paradise is captured through a labyrinth of linked drainage tiles catchbasins and re-used as needed. Every sand trap and low lying area at the base of the many angular rises supporting the rolling sequence of the playing surfaces, within the 12 acre complex, feeds excess moisture to the drainage system. Excess moisture collects in ten surface ponds, which in turn are linked by a 13-* mile maze of complex piping systems to a giant underground storage cistern.

From this huge storage reservoir of 165 million gallons of recovered water, Royal Oak's staff, using a zoned area of aeration heads of 1,200 applicators, can then re-direct moisture where it is most needed in a timely manner.

They capture every drop of moisture, store it and then re-apply it exactly where our turf management team decides, based on a computer assisted analysis of surface dryness and grass health requiring water application.

In the same manner, the turf manager can have a stray plant or new weed stock plucked from its squatters position on a green and shipped in a courier pouch to a state-of-the-art plant laboratory for lifecycle analysis. The manager receives a suggested course of containment and elimination tactic by return email, all within hours of discovery.

Nothing it seems will get in the way of providing every golfer with the optimum conditions on the green, regardless of when they come to play at Royal Oaks.

If Royal Oaks is actually a golf sport entertainment theme park, then the supporting residential strategy provides adults with a permanent home on the green, where playing an unique and challenging course is just beyond their backyard patio and barbecue pit.

The residential lots available for dream home builders are placed along curving streets that spiral away from the central golf course as a centre Park, much like the street layout of ancient cities where streets lead to the central Park creating a natural community pathway. In the Royal Oak's community, Rees Jones' signature course is the central core attraction and the signal that a new residential lifestyle has come to Moncton.

Royal Oaks Estates is also a new upscale housing community with provision for 420 buildings lots & 300 condominiums. "Over 50% of the properties sold to date have been purchased by buyers coming from outside of Moncton who are attracted to the concept of having a golf park in their back yard and want to enjoy the unique convenience in their leisure time.

Click here for a picture tour of the Royal Oaks Golf Course.

October, 2000