From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:
I don’t normally think of Rees Jones when the subject of course restoration comes up, even though Rees insists he popularized the notion of restoration back when he prepared The Country Club for the 1988 U.S. Open. Rees usually redesigns courses in his own style (think of Lakewood in Maryland, Baton Rouge C.C. or the South Course at Carmel C.C. in Charlotte), which is understandable, because clubs hiring the legendary “Open Doctor” expect a stronger test of golf as a result of his labors.
But as he showed in 2017 at Medinah No. 2 and Golden Horseshoe Gold, he can pay tribute to an original architect when desired. But that wasn’t his objective in revamping Echo Lake Country Club in New Jersey, where he’s served as consulting architect since 2010.
Some critics were outraged when Rees and his design associate Steve Weisser changed the second hole from a short, drivable par 4 that played to a tabletop green into a par 5 by moving the green 300 yards to the west into the former third fairway. (To accommodate that, he turned the third into a par 3.) At least one critic considered the second to be one of Donald Ross’ great holes and a tribute to the lookalike second hole at Pine Valley.
It may or may not be a Donald Ross hole, but Echo Lake’s second predates Pine Valley by six years and that hillside of bunkers below the old second green, the ones that gave it a Pine Valley look, weren’t added until the 1990s by golf architect Ron Forse. Rees’ new par-5 second actually improves Echo Lake (it needed an uphill par 5), particularly with the downhill fourth now switched from a 490-yard par 5 to a 480-yard par 4.
Not much Donald Ross actually remained at Echo Lake even before Rees got involved. Robert White added six holes just after World War I (including the dogleg 16th, probably the best hole on the course), and Willard Wilkinson added three more (including the mammoth par-3 14th) in 1928. Rees has unified the design by creating what I consider Ross-like bunkers with molded grass faces throughout the 18.