BETHESDA -- Bethesda Country Club will present a differen look to the field when the Mazda LPGA Championship begins today.
Over the past 10 months, six of the 18 holes underwent renovation, along with the driving range, practice putting green and short-game practice area.
"It actually worked out better than we anticipated," Dean Graves, course superintendent, said recently.
"Architect Arthur Hills, who was called in for the project, worked with us on the changes, but said he did not want the character of the course changed. For the most part, we worked on tees, bunkering and reshaping tees. I'd call it a modernization, rather than a renovation of the course."
One of the changes has been adding a bunker in the landing area on the right side of No. 1. It has tightened the landing area, with the bunkering acting like a collection bunker as the fairway funnels in that direction.
The change will present the players with several options in playing the 366-yard hole, which now has the tee 40 yards forward of the old area and the green 30 yards back. The new design brings trees on the right more into play so that a player has several choices in club selection.
"That bunker is right where I drove it last year," said Trish Johnson, a two-time winner and the season's leading money-winner. "Otherwise, the course is absolutely perfect."
Graves said: "The biggest change is in the improvement of the greens. At No. 15, for instance, some judicious saw work opened the green to more sunlight with the result it has more grass than before and presents more possible pin positions.
Change is in the eye of the beholder, however.
"They changed six greens, and I like two of them," said Nancy Lopez, a three-time winner of the LPGA Championship. "The course has always been tough because of the greens. They aren't bad -- it's just the shape of them is a little different. I think some of the changes have made it a little easier."
Five changes were on back-nine holes, where greens were redesigned and rebuilt. They added 500 square feet to the putting surface at No. 10, nearly doubled the size of No. 11 green to 6,500 square feet, moved the 12th green to the left and altered the bunkering on Nos. 13 and 15.
"We had to do something because the greens had become so compacted," Graves said. "As a result, the quality of the turf was declining."
FACTS AND FIGURES
Where: Bethesda Country Club
When: Today through Sunday
Who: A field of 144 players, including defending champion Betsy King, three-time champion and Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez and LPGA Tour pro Tina Barrett of Baltimore.
Tickets: At the gate
Parking: Shuttles available from Marriott Headquarters on Democracy Boulevard and across the street from Walter Johnson High School on Rock Spring Drive.